Wednesday night, bad gal Rihanna decided to bless us with the release of her eighth studio album, Anti. After a brief accidental upload to Tidal and leak in the evening, the album was officially released around midnight; it can be streamed or downloaded for free (legally!) on Tidal. But is it any good? Fans have waited almost four years for a new Rihanna album. We—two self-professed Rihanna stans of able body and sharp mind—decided to listen to the album together, and try to decide if it's worth the wait. Here are our feelings, track-by-track:
Kelsey: I gotta admit, I was psyched to see SZA on this first track.
Tahirah: This is such an unexpected collaboration. But I love the grit of Rihanna's voice against SZA's softness.
Kelsey: Completely agree! There are two genre names I hear get associated with SZA: witch house and chillwave. Both are ridiculous names, but they really fit on this song—and also on THIS WHOLE ALBUM.
Tahirah: This is Rihanna's first attempt to make the kind of music I think she likes to listen to when she's high. “James Joint” also sounds like The Internet. I'm like surprised that Syd from The Internet didn't have anything to do with this—but James Fauntleroy did, so that makes sense.
Kelsey: You’re so right: This sounds like Rihanna recreating what she listens to when she’s on her couch with a joint. And this song is SO SHORT. One minute long—and it flies by.
Tahirah: I only wish it were longer.
Tahirah: I think “Kiss It Better” is a stand out. "Man, fuck your pride"—I love that line.
Kelsey: “Kiss it Better” might be my favorite song on this album. I can’t be sure yet, but I like those layered vocals. Rihanna’s voice is so much better on this album.
Tahirah: This is where she first starts to show us her new and improved vocals. She sounds older to me—she's been doing this for a while now and she's got this, she can make a pop song and do it really well. Plus, these are some serious "Purple Rain" vibes.
Kelsey: It’s funny. This track feels very long after “Consideration” and “James Joint”, but it’s only 4 minutes, which is pretty average for a pop song. Those first tracks are just so short.
Tahirah: Most of my favorite songs on this album are too short.
Kelsey: This song has infected my brain. I am under the "Work" spell. I still don’t have a CLUE what she’s saying besides “nobody text me in a crisis," which I want tattooed on my lower back.
Tahirah: I've already listened to this song at least 50 times, and I am currently winding again. I love when Rihanna gives dancehall vibes. I could take a whole album of this. The sound is a lot closer to her first two albums. And I love that she's the heartbreaker in this song.
Kelsey: It’s so groovy—UNTIL we get to the Drake verse, which puts me to sleep.
Tahirah: And I just want to start it over and listen to Rihanna again. I love when they harmonize though. Drake + Rihanna = Good.
Kelsey: When this video drops? It might ACTUALLY kill the internet.
Tahirah: I might actually die. So check on me. I already want to listen to it again.
Tahirah: This is the epitome of a Rihanna song. She does dark, goth and creepy very well. I don't love this track though. It just sounds like it's from Rated R.
Kelsey: Guess what, Tahirah? I loved Rated R, and I am glad "Desperado" is here. It’s so gloomy and dark—and it makes me feel like I’m in the desert. It feels slippery, though. It’s hard to distinguish between the chorus and the verses so it took me a couple of listens to really enjoy.
Tahirah: Same, actually. After trying again I don't hate it, but, I'm not going to be like, let me listen to “Desperado” in my spare time.
Tahirah: Scott just says “Wooooo, Woooo” the whole time? He's very good at adlibs, but this doesn't work for me.
Kelsey: What a slap in the face of an opener from Rihanna—for a song with a rumored ex-lover: "I bet she could never make you cry/Cause the scars on your heart are still mine."
Tahirah: RIGHT. And he's over there singing, “woo woo woo woo.” Like a crying dog.
Kelsey: LMAO. You’re so right. It’s pretty ridiculous that Travis Scott is just wooing like a drunk college girl.
Tahirah: That said, It's a song I can bop to.
Kelsey: I think the syncopation is supposed to feel creepy, but it just feels disjointed.
Tahirah: Yeah, "Desperado" was way more creepy. It's like so much went into this song (The Weeknd, Travis Scott, The Dream) but then I feel nothing. And Rihanna’s voice gets lost in Travis Scott’s howling and the overbearing production—even though the lyrics are good.
Kelsey: "I don't even really care about you no more," Rihanna is singing, and that's also how I feel about this song.
Tahirah: Exactly how I feel. Travis Scott ruins this song for me.
Tahirah: THE LYRICS.
Kelsey: This is my favorite line on the whole album: "Didn't they tell you that I was a savage/ Fuck your white horse and a carriage." Amen, girl.
Tahirah: Again, my favorite Rihanna! The assertive heartbreaker. Don't ever try to save me, you needed me. This has to be about Drake.
Kelsey: It’s so GOOD, lyrically, and it should be—I just looked it up and this track took 10 WRITERS to create.
Tahirah: I also love this song. It's very chill.
Kelsey: This is a sex song. But it’s not like Rihanna’s previous sex songs, like “Cockiness.” This is sweet sexy. Intimate sexy.
Tahirah: I love that’s she’s giving her man orders in this sultry, sweet voice. I can imagine Rihanna in bed with a joint asking some guy to fetch her water after sex. But again: It’s too short.
Tahirah: It's cool that she did a Tame Impala cover, but I don't know if I need this. The Tame Impala one was already so good. When she covered the XX it was different, she actually added her own spin on it. Why cover a song that came out last year?
Kelsey: I imagine that Rihanna fell in love with this song and was like, I WANT IT. But, it also shows that she hasn't just been sitting on this album. The Tame Impala album Currents came out in July 2015—so she must have recorded this fairly recently. But why is this track 6 minutes long? We’re at the 3 minute mark now, and I’m over it.
Tahirah: This should have been an interlude and then she could have given more minutes to “James Joint.”
Kelsey: Her entire album is 43 minutes long, and THIS SONG is 6 minutes long. So 13% of the album is a Tame Impala cover.
Tahirah: A song that isn't even new! A song that came out in 2015.
Kelsey: WAIT CAN WE PAUSE? I GOTTA PEE.
Tahirah: Yes, I mean, we still have 3 minutes left. So… You won't miss anything.
Kelsey: I am back and this song is still going.
Tahirah: Still. Not. Over.
Kelsey: Well, I am certainly over it.
Tahirah: I'll feel like a brand new person when this song ends… Free.
Kelsey: The beginning sounds like Bieber track—those weird tiny voices.
Tahirah: She's giving me indie band vibes.
Kelsey: YES. The drum claps and the gentle, soothing voice.
Tahirah: I feel sad. But I don't know why… Probably these sad-ass lyrics.
Kelsey: I’m not sure I want this emotion from Rihanna. I know that’s not fair to her as an artist, but I would trade this song for a banger in a heartbeat.
Tahirah: For another "Work." For "Work Part 2."
Kelsey: The back half of this album definitely FEELS longer than the front half.
Tahirah: Longer and more dreadful. Literally never ending.
Kelsey: WHAT IS THIS SONG?
Tahirah: I love raspy Rihanna. Rihanna was like, “I've been working on my vocals and bitches here is the song where I show you.”
Kelsey: If you played this for me a month ago and said, “guess the artist," never in a million years would I have guessed Rihanna. Those vocal lessons were worth every single penny.
Tahirah: She sounds GREAT. The "woo"—she's feeling it, almost like people in church. This reminds me of when Beyoncé covered that Etta James song, "I’d Rather Be Blind." It’s Riri’s take on a '60s soul song.
Kelsey: There's an old-school gospel feel to it. I know this is a little heretical, but it sounds like a Joss Stone song to me.
Tahirah: YES. The rasp. I love how much emotion is in her voice. This is the first time I've heard that from Rihanna.
Kelsey: I am hoping that this song will overtake that stupid Ed Sheeran song to become the Wedding Song of 2016.
Kelsey: I am here for this song. AND it was written by Bibi Bourelley, who did “Bitch Better Have My Money.”
Tahirah: It sounds like "Love on the Brain." I wish they weren't so similar in production, but I love her voice here. She sounds like she's making a drunken phone call to get back the love of her life. There's so much grit.
Kelsey: This is certainly more #onbrand than "Love on the Brain." It’s a little edgier. And I want to drunk-sing this at the end of the night with all of my best friends.
Tahirah: YES. Taking shots of whiskey. And crying over a boy that I miss. But, again: These interludes are all too short! Why is that song already over?
Tahirah: I could have done without this.
Kelsey: Yeah I’m not into "Close to You." This album should have closed with "Higher" on repeat 6 times instead.
Tahirah: I feel somber, but because I want it to be over. This song does not make me believe Rihanna wants to be close to anyone. I don't believe her.
Kelsey: The sentimentality with the piano and the tortured lyrics just sounds so forged and apathetic. Do you want to be close to me, Rihanna? Do you?
Tahirah: I can't believe this is how the album ends.
Kelsey: RUMOR has it there will be a deluxe album on January 29th with three more tracks—I hope that's true because this just does not fit as an ending.
Tahirah: Are those three tracks: "BBHMM", "FourFiveSeconds", and "American Oxygen"? Because I’ll be so annoyed.
Kelsey: No, Rap Genius has them listed as “Goodnight Gotham,” “Pose,” and “Sex With Me." God, is "Close To You" over yet?
[note: the bonus tracks dropped on Tidal on Friday, January 29th. They are really not good and do not fix the ending of this album. But you can listen to them here.]
Kelsey: Okay we’re done. We did it. Let’s talk our favorite songs. I think my top 4 are 1) "Work" 2) "Higher" 3) "Kiss it Better" 4) "Desperado"
Tahirah: I love: 1) "Work" 2) "Kiss It Better" 3) "Needed Me" 4) "Consideration" 5) "Yeah, I Said It." I also love "Higher" and "James Joint." I basically like this album, but the songs I hate really take a toll on my opinion—I don’t understand why they are here.
Kelsey: This does feel like a definite departure from her earlier work. She wrote more of the songs. She obviously tried to create a narrative with these songs. And unlike her previous albums, the narrative is “emotions” instead of “party."
Tahirah: I like that this explores a different and deeper side of her—that could be because she wrote so much more. It feels more personal. But, I kind of need another SZA and Rihanna song. Imagine if this song had 9 songs and not 13.
Kelsey: What would we cut? Let’s do it. I’d cut: “Woo,” “Close To You,” and “Same Ol’ Mistakes.” What else could go?
Tahirah: All those plus “Never Ending.”
Tahirah: The four year gap did helped me realize how I really felt about Rihanna as a musician, and that is: I don't really love everything she does. This album wasn’t what I was expecting, so on the first listen my answer was no, it wasn't worth the wait. After listening four times? There are some gems. Moments where Rihanna is so emotional and you can feel it in her voice, and moments where she's even more sexy because she’s so chill about it. Plus, we got to HEAR what Rihanna has been doing for the past four years—honing her vocals. Her vocals on “Higher”? Worth the wait alone.
Kelsey: I would have liked this album more if it had come earlier. But I wanted 4 years worth of straight bangers—this kind of blindsided me. But then again, Rihanna dropped this album in the middle of winter. And it just feels right: Emotional, difficult, and sometimes really sexy. I think I would wait for it again.
Listen to Anti on Tidal here.
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.
Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.