Rihanna, Anti, album review: ‘Rihanna without the hits’

“I got to do things my own way darling,” announces Rihanna on the opening track of her long-awaited eighth album, Anti. So, are you ready for Rihanna’s experimental phase? She has been the plastic pop queen of the last decade, the malleable, sex-pot superstar whose role was to lend her potent vocals and sassy charisma to hits crafted by teams of top writers and producers.

This, for better or worse, is clearly the music Rihanna likes: leftfield, stoned and strange. It is Rihanna without hits. This strange album, released without warning over the internet for free, may well be a reflection of the fact that not even her own backers really expects this to be a commercial blockbuster. It is more an exercise in rebranding, transforming the hit girl into a serious artist. But it hasn’t won me over.

I think it will satisfy the appetite of fans and the curiosity of the internet for the moment but poses interesting questions about what happens next. Because being cool and credible is all very well. But what, really, is a pop star without hits? Rihanna might be about to find out.

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