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Michelle BekhtelMay 24, 2024

STOCKTON- The 2024 school year is coming to an end, and with this short time left we must take time to recognize teachers that have chosen to...

A Genre-Defying Triumph of Artistry and Empowerment; A Review of Rihanna’s ‘ANTI’

Revolutionized pop or reinforced tradition?

STOCKTON – On January 28, 2016, Robyn Fenty, artistically known as Rihanna, released her eight studio album, ANTI.  Her most daring album yet with her switching out her usual EDM pop melodies and song structure for more timeless takes at pop music, which Fenty effortlessly fuses with genres such as hip-hop, alternative R&B, dancehall, and more.


When asked about her upcoming album in an interview with MTV News in March 2015, Fenty had the following to say “I wanted to make songs that I could perform in 15 years; I wanted to make an album that was timeless (Fenty, 2015). ” Fenty had stated for many years she yearned for a change in her creative direction as she felt that some of the biggest songs she had created and performed were no longer her taste and longed to be able to perform something she enjoyed singing.  This epiphany led to the creation of her album, ANTI, which was filled with songs a great distance outside of the box the rest of her albums were placed in, with songs like Woo and Same Ol’ Mistakes, genres that Fenty had never delved deep into before.


ANTI’s opener, Consideration featuring (at the time) up-and-coming R&B artist, SZA (Solana Imani Rowe), establishes a moody and introspective tone that a frequent listener of Rihanna pre-ANTI would never expect from the pop sensation.  As soon as the song begins, listeners are enveloped in a captivating blend of R&B and reggae influences, the song opens with a sharp drum beat, slowly introducing quiet yet airy synths and a dark bassline.  Both Fenty and Rowe’s voices perfectly complement each other adding a depth and dimension to the track, the float effortlessly on the minimal production which allows for the haunting melody and poignant lyrics to take the center stage.  Lyrically, the song can be seen as a manifesto of self-reflection, independence, and empowerment, with Fenty reflecting on her journey in the music industry and her refusal to conform to the person people expect her to be.  “I got to do things my own way, darlin’/Will you ever let me?/Will you ever respect me? No/Do things my own way, darlin’/You should just let me/Why you ain’t ever let me grow?” Fenty declares on the opening track, Consideration.


The second track, James Joint, serves a short interlude which showcases Fenty’s sultry vocals over a dreamy, psychedelic beat made up of bouncy keys and spacious synths.  The song itself is a dreamy and atmospheric piece that captures a moment of relaxation and indulgence.  It serves as a perfect transition into the next song on the album while adding its own individual touch to the album.  Lyrically, the song is about Fenty’s desire to be intimate with her hypothetical partner, James.  Just making scenes, here come the police/They know about your history/How you live and love like “f–k rules”?/Don’t care why, just know I love you” Fenty proclaims on the sultry James Joint.


Kiss It Better, track three on the album, is a standout track. The song is a sensual and captivating anthem of desire with Fenty showcasing her unparalleled vocal prowess and artistic evolution.  With the song’s undeniable catchiness and emotional depth, it is a testament to Fenty’s artistry and versatility, showcasing her ability to seamlessly blend genres and push boundaries with her art.  From the moment the song begins, listeners are drawn in by the haunting melodic line and electrifying guitar riffs, setting the stage for a powerful and emotionally charged listening experience.  The song’s lyrics explore themes of desire, passion, and long, as Fenty pleads for any kind of affection and connection with her lover, with her conveying a sense of vulnerability and intensity through her vocal approach.  “I’ve been waitin’ up all night/Baby tell me what’s wrong?/You’re gonna make it right, make it all night long,” Fenty admits on the soaring Kiss It Better.


Track 4, Work, featuring Toronto-born rapper Drake (Aubrey Graham), is an infectious dancehall-infused pop song which dominated the airwaves and playlists upon its release.  From its catchy beat to its undeniably irresistible melody, “Work” is a certified hit that showcases Fenty’s ever present ability to create music that resonates with audiences on a worldwide scale.  Much like the instrumentation so far, the song thrives off of its minimalistic beat with prominent bass line and syncopated rhythm that drives the track forward with undeniable energy layered with subtle synth accents and percussive elements that create a lush sonic landscape.  Fenty and Graham both work together to create a lyrical story in which they depict a couple enjoying each other’s company and expressing their affection through spending time together.  “Beg you something, please/Baby, don’t you leave/Don’t leave me stuck here in the streets, uh-huh/If I get another chance to/I will never, no, never neglect you” Fenty pleads on the playful Work.


The fifth track, Desperado plays off of the haunting melodic lines established by preliminary tracks such as Consideration and Kiss It Better, as well as the storytelling elements from songs like Work.  The track exudes an air of danger and rebellion creating a dark and atmospheric vibe, drawing listeners in with its hypnotic rhythm and captivating vocals.  Musically, Desperado features a sparse and atmospheric production, with a driving beat and hypnotic guitar riff that creates a sense of tension and suspense, with the instrumentation building to a crescendo throughout the song, keeping the listener actively engaged from start to finish.  The song explores themes of codependency and how you can be so infatuated with the idea of someone that it could cause you to act in irrational ways in order to be with them.  “If you want, we can be runaways/Running from any sight of love/Yeah, yeah, there ain’t nothin’/There ain’t nothin’ here for me/There ain’t nothin’ here for me anymore/But I don’t wanna be alone” Fenty declares to her lover on the atmospheric Desperado.


Woo featuring Houston rapper, Travis Scott (Jacques Bermon Webster II) rides on the coattails of the previous songs and the overall atmosphere of the album with tense, haunting and sparse instrumentals.  From the moment the song begins you are immersed in a world of intrigue, with Fenty’s confident vocals commanding attention coupled with Webster’s robotic ad-libs creating an almost hypnotic vibe which is both captivating and intoxicating.  The song opens with dissonant electric guitar sounds and pulsating drum beats creating an anxious feeling for the duration of the song.  Lyrically the song taps into elements of temptation and indulgence, in the song Fenty and Webster paint a vivid picture of a hedonistic lifestyle, where they revel in the thrill of living on the edge embracing their wildside, even if that means hiding their true feelings or lashing out on others. “I’ve been thinking ’bout you late at night/I’ve been thinking only of you/Ain’t nothing else to really talk about/Boy show me what you want to do/These days you’ve been feeling lonely/Yeah I’ve been feeling lonely too” Fenty sings bewitchingly on Woo.


Track 7, Needed Me, is an anthem of empowerment which sees Fenty asserting her independence and strength over a mesmerizing trap beat which was a sound on the rise in late 2015 to early 2016.  Fenty’s vocals are powerful and commanding, leaning heavily into the themes of the song. Lyrically, the song is a declaration of empowerment in which Fenty reclaimed her power by refusing to be mistreated or undervalued by her lover.  The song’s lyrics are both defiant and  introspective, exploring themes of self-worth and resilience in the face of heartbreak.  “You needed me/Ooh, you needed me/To feel a little more, and give a little less/Know you hate to confess/But baby ooh, you needed me” Fenty asserts on Needed Me.


The eight track on ANTI, Yeah, I Said It, is a short interlude that looms over the album with a seductive groove and intimate sound, the song is a slow-burning R&B ballad that showcases the sensuality of Fenty’s vocal ability.  The minimalist production allows her vocals to take center stage, drawing listeners in with its raw emotion and vulnerability.  Lyrically the song taps back into the themes of desire, which is depicted in this song with the way Fenty proclaims her desires to her partner.  “And I think I kinda like ya/Up against the wall, we don’t need a title” Fenty proclaims of the sensual Yeah, I Said It.


Same Ol’ Mistakes, the ninth track, is a cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” this track sees Fenty putting her own spin on the psychedelic rock hit.  With its hypnotic beat and dreamy atmosphere, the song takes listeners on a mesmerizing journey that is both familiar and fresh.  Lyrically, the song expresses a desire for change and a willingness to break free from the constraints of her past.  However she also grapples with feelings of uncertainty and doubt, questioning whether she is truly capable of breaking free from her old habits.  “Feel like a brand new person (But you make the same old mistakes)/I don’t care I’m in love (Stop before it’s too late)/Feel like a brand new person (But you make the same old mistakes)/So how do I know that it’s right?(You don’t have what it takes)/(Stop before it’s too late)” Fenty drones on Same Ol’ Mistakes.


Track 10, Never Ending, is a captivating ballad that showcases her emotive vocals and heartfelt lyrics.  The heartfelt lyrics and emotive delivery make it a standout track on the album, tugging at the heartstrings of listeners.  The song’s dreamy melody, accompanied by a subt;e instrumentation, creates an intimate atmosphere, drawing listeners into its emotional journey.  Fenty’s delivery is raw and soulful, converting a sense of vulnerability and longing.  The lyrics explore themes of love, resilience, and the complexities of relationships.  “This feeling always gets away/Wishing I could hold on longer/Why does it have to feel so strange/To be in love again, be in love again, be in love again?” Fenty sings longingly on Never Ending.


The eleventh track, Love on the Brain, is a soulful ballad that channels the classic sound of Motown with its lush instrumentation and powerhouse vocals from Fenty. Her raw emotion and vulnerability shine through as she delivers one of the album’s most captivating performances.  The song’s retro-inspired sound, with its lush orchestration and infectious melody, harkens back to class doo-wop and Motown influences, while maintaining a modern edge that incompasses the album.  Fenty’s impassioned delivery perfectly captures the intense and often tumultuous nature of love, as she sings about the highs and lows of a passionate relationship.  “Baby, you got me like, I, woo, I/Don’t you stop loving me (Loving me)/Don’t quit loving me (Loving me)/Just start loving me, oh (Loving me)” Fenty pleads passionately on Love on the Brain.


Higher, the penultimate track, is a mesmerizing and intoxicating ballad that showcases the singer’s unparalleled vocal prowess and emotional depth. The song’s stripped down production, with its haunting piano accompaniment and sparse instrumentation, allows Eihanna’s voice to take center stage and deliver a raw and soulful performance.  The song’s lyrics are poignant and evocative, painting a vivid picture of longing and desire.  “And I know I could be more creative/And come up with poetic lines/But I’m turnt up upstairs and I love you/Is the only thing that’s in my mind” Fenty sings woefully on Higher.


The album’s closer, Close to You, closes the book on the album’s theme of haunting production with the song being a hauntingly beautiful ballad that showcases Fenty’s emotive vocals and heartfelt lyrics.  The song’s minimalist production, characterized by gentle piano chords and subtle instrumentation, creates an intimate and atmospheric backdrop for Fenty’s tender performance.  The lyrics explore themes of loneliness and the ache of unfulfilled love.  Fenty’s delivery is raw and soulful, conveying a sense of raw emotion and authenticity.  “I know you don’t need my protection/But I’m in love, can’t blame me for checking/I love in your direction, hoping that the message goes/Somewhere close to you” Fenty admits on the closer of the album, Close to You.


In conclusion, Fenty’s album ANTI stands as a testament to her artistic evolution and boundless creativity.  With its diverse range of tracks spanning several genres from R&B to reggae to ballads, ANTI showcases Fenty’s versatility as a musician and her willingness to push boundaries.  With its raw emotion, introspective lyrics, and captivating melodies, ANTI is a masterpiece that solidifies Fenty’s status as one of the most influential and innovative artists of her generation.


Favorite Song(s) – Consideration, Kiss It Better, Work, Desperado, Woo, Yeah, I Said It, Same Ol’ Mistakes, Love on the Brain


Least Favorite Song(s) – Close To You


Album Rating – 9/10

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About the Contributor
Dennis Hopkins
Dennis Hopkins, Staff Writer
Dennis Hopkins is a senior at Lincoln High School and this is his second semester in the Journalism class. In his free time he enjoys creative/narrative writing and listening to music. He writes often about music and voices his opinions on the album.

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