Rihanna shakes up the music industry with a surprise release
One word has changed the music industry for the rest of the year: work. On Jan. 27, Rihanna stopped the world with the release of “Work,” the first and only single of her most-awaited album; Anti. Originally set to release on the same day of Adele’s third studio album; Anti was once again put on hold, with rumors of production problems. In its early days; Anti was expected to be under the production of Kanye West and newcomer Travis Scott; however, as the album’s release date continued to be pushed back, it was clear that neither would work. The release of the first single “Work,” would push the buzz to new heights, as the world reacted in pure bliss. Drake gives the track a sense of familiarity that is echoed in fan-favorite collaborations like “Take Care” and “What’s My Name.” A Bajan accent takes over the track, as dance hall takes a more electronic sound. Seen as a radio hit. It echoes a more sexually driven Rihanna, as she discusses her lust for her current lover. While Drake serves as one of two collaborations on this lengthy album cut, the track is refreshingly fun when compared to one of the most aggressive albums of her career. Serving as executive producer, she created an arsenal of heavy hitting songs that resemble more of a rock’n’roll, contrary to the GrammyAward-winning pop anthems that orchestrated her rise to fame.
The hip-hop beat and the electronic synthesizers coalesce at the start of “Consideration.” Singer-songwriter SZA lends her whimsical melody to the beat-heavy track. Unlike many of her sexually fueled accounts, here Rihanna sings about her idea of success and her evolution as an artist. She has managed to take full creative control of her work, thanks to her leaving Def Jam for Roc Nation in 2014. Under Jay-Z’s label, she would manage to build a subsidiary label, Westbury Road. With this level of flexibility, she makes it all her own, making it clear with boundary-pushing singles like “FourFiveSeconds” and “Bitch Better Have My Money.” However, she is well-aware that does not change much. “Will you ever let me?/Will you ever respect me?/No,” she sings in the chorus.
As she begins her second verse, Rihanna begins to criticize the very industry she dominates. She antagonizes the very artist with whom she associates herself, with a hard and what can be seen as a controversial verse. She continues announcing her ideas of the industry as a veteran, “Heard you’re trying to sell your soul/baby word on the street, you running low lately.” Her analysis of the industry is refreshing, lacking the praise that is often found in today’s mainstream hip-hop.
In a rare and raw song, Rihanna brings listeners back down to the ground with “Close To You.” Among the heartbreak, she manages to find someone to love once again. However, her message can only be sent from a distance. With discourse from the night before, she starts her ballad with a realization. She sings, “You’re pulling our connection/expecting me to let you go/But I won’t.” She begins to talk about protecting her love. Her caring personality soars, as she shares her need for this to work. Although she is still fighting for this love, she knows that the choice is no longer hers.
However, that love can instantly get cocky as Rihanna becomes the confident eye of desire with “Needed Me.” Known as what some would consider a man-eater, she lets her latest victim know that “you needed me” with the help of DJ Mustard, as her voice echoes on the darkest track of the album. She takes the place of an arrogant male figure with the most memorable verse of the album and what can be seen as the most telling. “But baby, don’t get it twisted/you was just another Nigga on the hit list,” she raps with such a carelessness, easily making this an empowering anthem. Once again, Rihanna takes the place of the victimizer and not the victim, much like the album that would be credit for her change in attitude and the beginning of her evolution; Rated R. Breaking all the hopes of her latest admirer, she lets her wrath soar, “Didn’t they tell you I was a savage/Fuck ya white horse and ya carriage.” Clearly, happily ever after is not in her agenda and neither is her latest ex.
“Woo,” echoes the sounds of Travis Scott’s latest album, Rodeo, as he haunts the opening verse. Seen as one of the most influencing producers of the last decade, Hit Boy brings the same magic that made Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Ni**as In Paris” take over the world with the experimental song. At a first glance, the rock-like base line can seem to mimic Rihanna’s mocking lyrics; however, it could also be mentioned that her mocking easily turns into unresolved feelings of lust for her old flame.
Unlike her past albums, Rihanna has created an album that sounds more like a hip-hop album than a list of pop hits. With interludes like “James Joint,” “Goodnight Gotham” and “Higher,” which was created with No I.D., executive vice president of A&R for Def Jam, she has been able to use a new sound to tell her most vivid story yet. As she begins her North American Anti Tour this month, arriving at Madison Square Garden and the Barclay Center at the end of February, one can only hope that she has as much control over the tour as she does this album, because concert goers will not be disappointed.