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With ‘ANTI,’ We Finally Meet The Real Rihanna

Music
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for WESTBURY ROAD ENTERTAINMENT LLC.

#r8 is gr8

It’s been three years since Rihanna released her last album. And in those three years, pop’s resident Bad Gal mastered the art of teasing. She wrapped the world around her finger tighter than ever before, got it to buy the products she endorsed, made history in Dior, and put out a few polarizing songs that may have hinted at an album. But with each passing single and corresponding video, the likelihood of Rihanna’s eighth studio album ever happening slimmed. “Soon,” she told us. The buzz of producers dropping off the project and her being in and out of the studio didn’t help. ANTI was on its way to becoming the anti-album.

Rihanna will do what Rihanna will do, though. She stated back when “American Oxygen” came out that she “wanted songs that [she could] perform in 15 years.” The word “timeless” was thrown around in that MTV interview, and after listening to ANTI—like, the actual album—it’s safe to say she achieved that goal.

ANTI is not an album of “We Found Love” fist-pumpers. It’s a complex LP that dances across a variety of genres. There are the island vibes of “Work”; lite industrial of “Woo”; slow burn R&B of “Needed Me”; acoustic guitar laden “Love On The Brain”; rock-pop of “Higher.” Compared to Rihanna’s past projects, ANTI strips Rih of the heavy productions that, at times, got lost among the Top 40 tracks her contemporaries were releasing. ANTI is not an album of Top 40 singles—for now, at least. It’s a project that feels like, for the first time, Rihanna, the individual and Rihanna, the recording artist have aligned. Tracks like “Close To You,” a piano ballad that wraps the album, put the spotlight on Rihanna’s vocal abilities. Her patois is out to play here. She’s not forcing her voice to be anything it isn’t with this project. She is not forcing her sound to be anything but the sound she wants. Her lyrics are sharp, introspective, and personal. The days of pouring it up aren’t behind her, but they aren’t her main focus. She’s still cocky, but she’s matured that part of her personality. The spectacle of it has diminished and in its place is an independent woman thriving off her own success without condescending those around her. 

ANTI, as it turns out, is not the album many people wanted, but it’s the album Rihanna needed. The 13 songs that make up ANTI’s current iteration—a 16-track deep deluxe edition will be released later—mark a shift for Rihanna creatively. This is Rihanna unfiltered, at her most confident, and most in control. It’s not about pleasing the charts anymore. It’s about doing things her way. This is the reintroduction to Rihanna. Say hello.

Rihanna is currently giving away free downloads of ANTI (and 60 day trials of Tidal) here.

Cardi B, Avril Lavigne, and so much more

Every weekend, we bring you #SOUNDCHECK—your destination for the best of the best new music that hit the web over the course of the week. Because you should always be prepared when someone passes you that AUX cord. This week's round features 21 of our favorite emerging and established artists including Cardi B, Avril Lavigne, Tacocat, and so many more. Turn up, tune in, and tune out.

"Please Me" - Cardi B and Bruno Mars
"Please Me" will pair perfectly with all of the Valentine's Day candy you just bought on clearance. Trust me, there couldn't be a more perfect time to listen to this ultra-'90s R&B track.

Head Above Water - Avril Lavigne
I'm honestly jealous of whomever Avril is singing about on "Goddess."

Tacocat - Grains of Salt [OFFICIAL VIDEO] www.youtube.com

"Grains of Salt" - Tacocat
When I realized Tacocat was back, I literally turned around at my desk and yelled. It's a miracle.

"Can I Talk" - Caleb Steph
Caleb Steph's debut single proves that he's ready for the spotlight.

Betty - Betty Who
"You better recognize/ That you're wasting all my time" from "The One" is my new favorite response to every "photographer" on Tinder.

"Butterfly" - Kehlani
The only thing more beautiful than this cover art is Kehlani's voice.

SASAMI - Free (feat. Devendra Banhart) (Official Video) www.youtube.com

"Free" - SASAMI feat. Devendra Banhart
I would have never predicted a SASAMI and Devendra Banhart collaboration, but I am 100 percent not complaining.

Rex Orange County - New House www.youtube.com

"New House" - Rex Orange County
Alex O'Connor never fails to impress me with his soulful bedroom pop, and "New House" is no exception.

YouTube www.youtube.com

"Cuz I Love You" - Lizzo
Distorted guitar paired with Lizzo's belting vocals? Chills, literally. She did that!

"Heads Gonna Roll" - Jenny Lewis
Like if Stevie Nicks' voice met Father John Misty's lyrics.

"Get Well" - Donna Missal
Donna Missal tells me everything I needed to hear about breakups on "Get Well."

"Patient" - Monica Martin
Sultry and sweet.

"Whorey Heart" - TeaMarr
TeaMarrr's bouncy new song is an excellent roast of the kind of fuckboi we all know and hate.

"Ice Me Out (Remix)" - Kash Doll
Kash Doll shows that she knows her way around a beat on "Ice Me Out."

"Lips of Lips" - Tiffany Young
Definitely catch me driving around with my windows down this summer blaring "Lips on Lips."