I should never have agreed to do this.
Seconds after making the written commitment that I, Gregory Isaac Gottfried, would be reviewing Rihanna’s new album “Anti,” I started to worry.
“What do I know about Rihanna?” I asked myself as I got dinner.
“You should have just let someone else claim it,” I thought, entering the elevator.
“No one cares what you think about this album,” I admitted to myself, staring out the window wistfully while regretting this decision.
And then I listened to “Anti” again and remembered why I was so adamant on signing up for it.
The album is really good.
The record begins with some bass that Meghan Trainor would be all about. It’s abrasive, up-in-your-face and every beat seems just a smidge off. This is purposeful. You’re supposed to be uncomfortable. Then Rihanna starts to sing.
“I came fluttering in from Neverland / Time can never stop me, no, no, no, no / I know you’ve tried to”
The opening beat’s uncompromising nature makes sense after just the first few lyrics.
Rihanna very easily could have distorted her style to make it onto the airwaves. She’s gone pop before with songs like “Umbrella,” “Don’t Stop the Music” and “Take a Bow.” These are all fine songs, but don’t seem to resonate in the way that the songs on “Anti” do.
Rather, these songs are more personal. I don’t actually know who Rihanna is. This may surprise you, but I’ve never actually met her. With that said, if this isn’t a solid representation of the artist, she’s a hell of an actor.
Every song in the first half of the album echoes in peculiar ways. “Consideration” is unrepentant and a bit pissed off. “Desperado” speaks about re-finding oneself. “Woo” has a nostalgic sentiment. But then, in a blink of an eye, the album completely changes.
From the seventh to 13th songs, “Anti” becomes an album about lost love.
Rihanna’s struggle with love and the idea of it continues to be the fulcrum of the second act of the record, culminating in my favorite song of 2016 thus far, “Higher.”
Clocking in at just two minutes, “Higher” is somehow more powerful than any other track put out this year. Rihanna expresses her need for companionship in such a soulful and destructive way that it is physically painful to get through the song.
“This whiskey got me feelin’ pretty / So pardon if I’m impolite,” Rihanna sings. “I just really need your ass with me / I’m sorry ‘bout the other night.”
Purposefully slurring her words but still hitting notes that would make a dog howl at the moon, “Higher” is powerful, sweet, moving and heartbreaking all at the same time.
From start to finish, “Anti” is a startling album. Every beat has the Tom Haverford “banger” seal of approval, with a voice from Rihanna that has never sounded so pure and authoritative.
I’m not “Anti” this album.
I’m all in.