Rihanna’s Anti (Deluxe) album
Written by DeRa Brinson
This Sonic Breakdown will revolve around Rihanna’s Anti (Deluxe) album. This is the first Rihanna album I have listened to of my own volition; my other audio experiences with her music have been as I was riding with female friends or girlfriends who were listening to her albums or the radio. I will follow the same format, giving a breakdown of each track followed by a conclusion on the album as a whole.
The album begins with a more simple sounding production that compliments Rihanna’s and SZA’s voices. The song pushes female independence and self-reliance, giving some indication of bucking the male-dominated constraints. It is a nice tone-setter for the album. This song had to grow on me; upon first listen I wasn’t to fond of it, but now it has moved toward the top of my favorite songs.
The instrumentation is dramatically more complex than the previous song. The structure of the instrumentation is elegant and sort of fits the flow of the album as a pseudo-intermission or interlude due to its length. Rihanna describes an unhealthy relationship that is full of passion that goes unchecked without balance or substance. The chord changes and interweaving of said chords shows real attention to detail with adroit musical compositional knowledge. This is one of the tracks that highlights the evolution and growth that Rihanna shows as an artist.
“Kiss It Better”
A more traditional Rihanna song that is a melting pot of R&B, contemporary, and rock with some island spiciness. This is one of my favorite tracks because it has that Prince-like guitar sound with a level of smoothness that is associated with him. This song supports the theme of the previous track of trying to make a tumultuous relationship work.
A made-for-radio track, very similar in feel to “What’s My Name,” her previous hit with Drake. As in “What’s My Name,” Rihanna’s accent is heavier, giving the track a more exotic feel. The content gets repetitive, and that adds to the dance-hall feel. Drake uses a Thank Me Later type of flow with a decent verse, but it’s nothing special. Drake and Rihanna sound good together, but I wish that they elevated more from their previous works together instead of sticking to the same formula.
A darker vibe is propelled by the heavy bass line and soft aggression from Rihanna. This gives the impression that the relationship is now past the point of being salvaged, causing a dilemma for Rihanna. That dilemma of knowing she needs to move on from the relationship but doesn’t want to be alone. This was my favorite song from the entire album on first listen and still remains as one of the top songs.
The production is reminiscent of Vic Mensa’s “U Mad” with the drawn-out scale of the bass. This song has some energy even though the production is slow and spaced out, adding to the gravity. The alteration to Rihanna’s tone gives balance to the instrumentation, adding to the texture of the song. This is the denial song, when you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re over the relationship, but you’re not completely over it yet. Rihanna is trying to convince herself that she doesn’t love her ex anymore but knows and understands that she still does, making it frustrating, which explains the aggression in which she states it.
A smoother R&B beat that Rihanna navigates through, picking and choosing when to use softer tones to complement the production. She is getting closer to accepting the end of the relationship. She is also reminding everyone of her value to him and the dynamics of the relationship of dependence.
“Yeah, I Said It”
A softer tone creates a lighter, smooth texture. The piano is soft and surrounded by many sounds, enveloping the complex production that is allowed to breathe. Rihanna is expressing her sexual preferences to leave no room for ambiguity that ensures she reaches her climax. This speaks to the level of confidence she has and openness in regards to her sexuality. This is an extremely attractive quality in a woman, knowing and effectively communicating her needs in the bedroom.
“Same Ol’ Mistakes”
This is an infectious melody that has RiRi’s voice floating over it, creating an indie R&B atmosphere. Even with this light production, many dynamics can be felt, allowing for the cinematic, larger-than-life feel. The beat change about halfway through the song propels the indie vibe even further. The way the track progresses is pretty outstanding, providing so many levels and dynamics. All of this means this longer song never gets boring or uninteresting.
A softer, more intimate atmosphere is evoked by the acoustic guitar and the maracas. With this stripped-down production, Rihanna’s voice is exposed to some degree. This isn’t a bad song because she doesn’t go outside of her range, but it isn’t quite as sharp as I would want. This is one of my least favorite tracks.
“Love on the Brain”
An Otis Redding “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay” aura is absorbed here and fits the raspiness in Rihanna’s voice. It is a good song that invokes the golden age of R&B feeling that is rare to find nowadays.
This song follows in suit with the previous, providing a more classical R&B sound. Rihanna taps into her inner Etta James on this song, Rihanna is nowhere near as proficient a singer as Etta James, but she does capture that emotion.
“Close to You”
This song showcases Rihanna’s voice and is presented as a slow ballad with a scaled-down production revolving around the piano. There is a very light string section toward the end that pulls you in and makes the song even more intimate than initially felt. That string section allows for the instruments to become more complex in a subtle manner, maybe leading into the more complex track that follows.
The instrumentation on this song is amazing but complicated in its arrangement. This song should be on the soundtrack for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman because it does have a dark feeling with a purpose. The levels and dynamics change frequently, making this short track come to life. Rihanna’s voice is used as another layer of the production, providing the cinematic sound that makes it fitting for that movie.
A club-banger track that is reminiscent of Rihanna’s previous album songs like “Bitch Better Have My Money.”
“Sex with Me”
A smooth groove that makes you want to sway with the melody. Rihanna’s bajan accent blends in with this instrumentation but has a sharp quality that makes it stand out enough to allow for the sensual emotion to be felt. This is a very sexually empowering song even though the words over the production and her approach makes it feel more covert. This covert sexuality is accomplished by getting lost in the melody. A very nice way to end this musical experience of an album.
This album has so many different textures and has a sophistication in most areas while providing nostalgia in a modern way in other areas. Overall this is a great audible experience for someone that moderately fell out of love with R&B due to the lack of creativity and originality. The flow of the album is stunning, from the atmosphere created to the content. Each track continually builds off the previous track. It just seems like Rihanna has grasped how to manage her voice better than I have heard prior, and that is matched with great songwriters and producers. The album transcends being just an R&B album to a work of audible art, from the high level of musical understanding to producing the high level of sounds. It’s exciting to see the growth of this artist, which I remember from one of her first singles, “Umbrella,” to where she is now. Rihanna, keep doing what you’re doing and we will continue to listen, especially if it is of this quality.
The next Sonic Breakdown will break down Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.