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Rihanna’s new album, ANTi, is exhausting and then it gets empowering. When I heard it for the first time, I was mortified. I’m used to Rihanna producing extremely rhythmic, fast paced and energetic music. But when I heard this album for the first time, on a Friday morning at 6 a.m., I was appalled. How can a pop star release something so slow and weird? It me want to fall asleep. But then I listened to it again, and I liked it slightly more.
The album is like a rose garden, when you first hear it, you see this balled up bulb. But as time goes on and the more you look at it, the more it unravels and eventually you are left with a beautiful vibrant red flower. The next listens shows it as even more vibrant, as colorful as the album cover itself, which features a child holding a balloon, his eyes covered by a golden crown, in front of a red background inscribed with a poem in Braille.
Every song is its own unique creation, but my favorite creation has to be “Higher.” Rihanna’s voice is the star of this song. The background music sprouts with violins, and the strings give you a sense of culture and a sense of nostalgia. Rihanna’s voice sounds like it has been torn, shredded, and put together. It sounds amazing. The song is a call to all those with their hearts broken. Rihanna sings, “This Whiskey Got Me Feelin Pretty” and then continues to set a scene where you can just picture a nasty breakup and then all that pain being directed to this song.
One of my least liked songs was “Same Ol’ Mistakes.” It was borrowed for a band, and I just don’t feel good with it. Rihanna’s voice to me is powerful, emotional, and intelligent, but this sounds like café music. It’s very slow and very backgroundish. It is just so flat. There is no emotion attached to it, and it just floats mid album. Honestly, by this point, I have listened to her entire album 26 times, and I could say that I wanted to skip through this song every time.
Overall, Rihanna’s new album might not be a commercial success like her previous work, but I realized a long time ago that just because something is not going to be a commercial success doesn’t mean that it is going to be bad. Take Artpop, for example, by Lady Gaga. I think that it is one of the best albums I have ever heard. It has a lot of intellectuality and thought behind it, yet it is not commercially successful. Rihanna’s album is similar. It is not as weird as Artpop, but it is a completely different album from the ones she has released before. It is one of my favorites as well, and its songs, with one exception, are all uniquely meaningful.
The way you know an album is good, is if it gets stuck in your head, and if the words have value behind them. An example is that when I was working, I desperately craved to listen to “Love on the Brain.” I want to listen to that even when washing dishes in the back. Like the album, it’s a strange pairing that brings on good feelings.
Listen to It Here: (Warning: Might be inappropriate for some audiences)