The Rise of a Rebel

Rihanna’s road to creative control

Rihanna+at+her+artwork+reveal+for+ANTI+on+Oct.+7%2C+2015+in+Los+Angeles.

CHRISTOPHER POLK/GETTY IMAGES FOR WESTBURY ROAD ENTERTAINMENT LLC

Rihanna at her artwork reveal for ANTI on Oct. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles.

Singer and songwriter Rihanna had established herself early on as a “pop princess,” with several Billboard number one hits, such as “Disturbia,” “Umbrella,” and “Take a Bow.” The “Diamonds” singer had been releasing  an album every year since 2005, but took a four-year hiatus after Unapologetic in 2012.

With the January release of ANTI, her eighth studio album, Rihanna is breaking her own mold. In the opening song “Consideration” featuring up-and-coming singer SZA, Rihanna sings “I got to do things my own way darling.” The album marks a new beginning for Rihanna, in which she ventures from the pop background fans know and love her for, toward a more unconventional sound.

The album features three guest artists: the as mentioned SZA, who complements Rihanna’s voice remarkably, as well as Drake and Travi$ Scott, who assists with a series of “woos” on the rightly named “Woo”. The cleanness of the limit of features gives listeners a much more intimate and focused experience on the theme of reincarnation that can be found throughout the album.

A few shorter-than-usual songs are sprinkled, which happen to be some of the most experimental tracks on ANTI. “Desperado”, referring to outlaws in the Wild West, has Old Western influences and could easily accompany the antiquity and simultaneous modernness of a Tarantino film. “James Joint,” which clocks in at one minute and twelve seconds, relies solely on the chords of a bass guitar for the instrumentation, with Rihanna singing in an exhausted, mellow tone about her want to escape with her lover.

Along with Jeff Bhasker, one of the creative minds behind Kanye West, Pink, and Mark Ronson’s  “Uptown Funk”, Rihanna takes on the position of executive producer herself to directly input her distinct, alternative R&B sounds.

There seems to be something different about Rihanna’s voice in and of itself. For one, it seems as though her technique has improved. Rihanna has never been widely considered as the best vocalist, but on the album’s ballads, particularly “Love on The Brain,” she hits several high notes and executes sequences in a way she has not done before. It could be due to her newfound comfortability. Aside from pitches, her passion is notably on display—and it’s intense.

Despite the unorthodoxy of some of her songs, Rihanna usually has at least one song on each of her albums that touches back to her Bajan roots, using genres like reggae and ska. Here, that title belongs to the bubbly, extremely catchy “Work” featuring Drake, which upon the first listen can be slightly irritating, but will likely grow on its listener.

Whether you are a veteran Rihanna fan or new to her music, the “Bajan beauty” seems to have an innate ability to make each album better than the last. Unapologetic, which earned her her first number one spot on the Billboard 200, was filled with pop, hip-hop and Caribbean influences and each song was worth singing and dancing to.

ANTI is no different.