Friday, January 29, 2016

Best New Album: Rihanna - 'ANTI'

To be quite honest, before 2015, I can't recall ever paying attention to Rihanna. Not because she wasn't talented or her celebrity wasn't something of a spectacle - but in a sea of Beyoncés and Nicki Minajs, her edge didn't seem obvious to me. Until last year.

Something of an obvious, well-marketed reinvention later - physically, sonically, emotionally - with the help of executive producer Kanye West, Rihanna began the hype rollout for ANTI, her eighth album and first in four years. The release of a left-fielder collaboration with Paul McCartney and Kanye and the year's pushiest anthem ("Bitch Better Have My Money") later, Rihanna felt newly formidable and impossible to ignore.

And then yesterday, with no warning or sign of the aforementioned hit singles, she leaked ANTI the bold 13-song (now 16, as of today's deluxe drop) collection that feels like three albums in one and bears almost no resemblance to the club-ready island jams she's slung for years. It's stoner R&B, sex-smathered reggae - hell, a Tame Impala cover - and huge, achingly soulful balladry that already feels like the beginning of a new era and challenge to all female artists to be better, stronger and more indulgent in their own tastes.

Regardless of your prior opinions of the pop star, this eclectic rebirth shows how serious she is about this next chapter in her career - somehow without taking herself too seriously. In its song-to-song unpredictability, ANTI is outstanding and all together proof that right now, the world is Rihanna's oyster.

Listen to some of my favourite ANTI tracks over on Spotify.

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