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  • Release date: 28 January 2016
  • Label: Roc Nation, Def Jam Records,Universal Music Group, SRP records

The longest gap between releases in Rihanna’s career, three full years since 2012’s Unapologetic, proved to be just what she needed to deliver a rich full-length statement. Rihanna has transitioned to being an album artist after dominating the singles charts for more than a decade.

Rihanna’s jaw-dropping vocal talents are the album’s biggest revelation because Anti’s tracks are less flashy than her previous music’s. She conveyed layers of soul on her one-off track “FourFiveSeconds,” released a year ago, in a raw, raspy voice that her previous decade of work had only hinted at. She delivers on that promise in this song, singing forcefully and with a denser emotional complexity than she has before shown. When she sings “This whisky got me feelin’ pretty” over a dingy strings sample from producer No ID on the bluesy late-album gem “Higher,” she could be crooning in a smoky post-war jazz bar.

Rihanna serves up a one-two punch of left-field choices in the album’s second half, giving doo-wop a modern spin with ease on “Love on the Brain” and ­finding a new hypnotic pull in a Tame Impala song on “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” Anti‘s most shocking track. It’s a faithful take on Australian psych-pop mastermind Kevin Parker’s 2015 tune, but Rihanna’s mellow vocals make it worlds more inviting and compelling.

In the end, Anti’s sound is more than just a fresh outfit for a singer who has experimented with everything from flirtatious teen-pop to angry trap over the course of the past ten years or so. This record makes us reevaluate the categories we’ve always assigned to Rihanna. Is she the club queen or a singer of breakup songs? Does she have more refined pop senses than hip-hop ones? The answer given here is all of the aforementioned and more. It feels like Rihanna is finally in control of her own sound and redefining pop on her own terms after years of being a performer mostly defined by her production. On the glitchy beat “Consideration,” the album’s first track, she states plainly: “I got to do things my own way,

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Rihanna’s Anti’s Tracklist

1. “Consideration” featuring SZA
2. “James Joint”
3. “Kiss It Better”
4. “Work” featuring Drake
5. “Desperado”
6. “Woo”
7. “Needed Me”
8. “Yeah, I Said It”
9. “Same Ol’ Mistakes”
10. “Never Ending”
11. “Love on the Brain”
12. “Higher”
13. “Close to You”