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Rihanna’s ANTI turns chaos into beauty

After more than three years of waiting, a strange series of video diaries and a disparate trio of pre-album singles — the folky “FourFiveSeconds,” the politically charged “American Oxygen” and the trap-heavy “Bitch Better Have My Money”—“ANTI,” the eighth album from Barbadian pop star Rihanna, finally dropped (leaked?) last Wednesday night on the streaming

service TIDAL.

The album is already certified platinum thanks to a partnership with smartphone giant Samsung, much like Jay Z’s precedent shattering deal for “Magna Carta Holy Grail” two years ago (Jay Z also happens to be her manager at Roc Nation). A physical release is scheduled for Feb. 5 via Roc Nation Records and the album is available digitally on online music stores like iTunes and Amazon now.

“ANTI” is a dramatic departure from the dance and EDM sound of her past albums in favor of futuristic R&B and soul. None of the first three singles made the final cut, but the scattered variety of sounds is still evident on “ANTI,” with the three singles testing out a bunch of different styles to see what sticks.

Rihanna has always been a singles artist and so the absence of any obvious hits (maybe the Drake-assisted “Work” which was released as a single hours before the release of the album) is noticeable. Instead, “ANTI” experiments with a lot of different sounds with production from the likes of Boi-1da, DJ Mustard, Hit-Boi, Timbaland and No I.D.

On the fire track,  featuring SZA, “Consideration” Rhianna sings “I got to do things my own way darling” and on “ANTI” that’s exactly what she does.

“Kiss It Better” is a power ballad that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Robyn album.

“Work” is a slice of reggae/dancehall perfection with a killer verse from Drake that should find new life this summer as the weather warms up.

“Desperado” is dark and noisy and “Woo” sounds like a B-side from Travi$ Scott’s “Rodeo.” “Same Ol’ Mistakes” is a frickin’ Tame Impala cover. “Love on the Brain” and “Higher” feature some of the strongest vocal work of her career and the album closes on a

jazzy piano ballad “Close to You.”

It should be a mess, but instead “ANTI” is the strongest artistic expression of Rihanna’s career. It’s clear that this is the album Rihanna wanted to make and even in the absence of a clear artistic vision, “ANTI” is a bold, daring statement from an artist that is unapologetically operating on her own terms.

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