|Westbury Road · Roc Nation | discogs.com|
Anti was ranked tenth in my Top Ten Albums I Wrote About in 2016
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In the seemingly decades-long gap since her last album, Rihanna has evidently sought and found the inspiration so lacking in her prior discography. Despite having churned out seven albums over eight years (admittedly no small feat) there are perhaps a dozen genuine pop diamonds sprinkled through interminable hours of awful dancefloor chaff. Anti breathes new life into this heretofore unchanged pattern by cranking every dial up to eleven. The synthesisers are so synthy, the drum machines so bangy, the trash so trashy that the whole thing collapses under its own colossal weight, disappearing into itself in kaleidoscopic whorls and paroxysms of wry self-parody. It has sunk so low that it has breached new and dazzling heights of postmodernism. Rihanna has thrown the tattered remains of good taste to the wind, and in doing so has created the richest, most insightful work of her career.
Rihanna's voice will always be a harsh, grating instrument that recalls exactly the wrong kind of siren — precisely the vehicle to deliver the striking reappraisal of her erstwhile traditional approach to English-language phonology. Ms Fenty has delved into the dustiest corners of the vowel chart, employing various nasal qualities previously observed only in Portuguese and Navajo, soldering together obscure elements into new and exciting diphthongs. On several tracks she dispenses with consonants altogether, allowing the spotlight to fall on these novel and nigh-incomprehensible creations. This album, nay, this oeuvre is a testament to the expressivity of the human voice; proof that in the right aggressively-manicured hands, bleats and ululations may transcend mere speech.
It's all there in the title. Anti bucks expectations. Anti defies definition. Anti twists, inverts, flips and twists all over again. Shucking the mantle of the identical, monolithic throngs of starlets, Riri has truly come into her own. She is a towering monument to postmodernism, capped with a shining beacon of hope not only for pop, not only for Music, but for Art itself.