If middle school was a microcosm for the music industry and today’s top artists akin to student stereotypes, Frank Ocean would somehow get away with never handing in his assignments. Justin Bieber would be the new kid everyone wishes would just go back to Canada already, and Taylor Swift would remind the math teacher that he forgot to assign the homework (Every. Single. Time).
Rihanna, however, is the tough, edgy chick just one wedgie away from expulsion. She doesn’t ‘do’ deadlines, the girl shops exclusively at Hot Topic, and her parents have probably set her bedtime to something crazy, like 11:30 p.m. on a school night.
Like a cool, eighth grade ringleader whose reputation only increases with each new demerit earned and every detention defiantly ditched, Rihanna has made a name for herself in the entertainment world as a woman who does things her own way. Having no qualms about consistently canceling concerts on the day of a performance, Rihanna certainly is, as the title of her seventh studio album title proudly proclaims, “Unapologetic.”
A signature diva act amplified by a blase singing voice that seems to say, “this is all insufferably boring for me,” Rihanna’s rebellious persona is all part of her appeal. It’s indispensable, actually. A talented artist with an impressive set of pipes is one thing, but a singer with those same qualities who seemingly exerts little to no effort to achieve such a successful career in music is much more impressive.
In the wake of her recent release Anti, Rihanna is revelling in an incredible amount of praise. Despite being decidedly different from the high-energy poppiness of her previous LPs, the atmospheric Anti is a welcome blend of reggae and synth-saturated R&B. Mixing more genres in Anti than she has in all of her first seven studio albums combined, Rihanna experiments with new styles that fans never expected her to even consider adopting.
This album, a love letter to marijuana and glitter at some times and an emotional shout into the void at others, is evocative of Miley Cyrus’ odd Dead Petz from 2015. It’s a risky venture into untrodden territory for the Barbadian singer, the eerie instrumentals and all-over-the-place percussion simply inconsistent with infamous hit songs of her prime. A far cry from what faithful fans expected of their pop/R&B princess, Anti seems to suggest that the singer’s new style is intended to be anti-old Rihanna.
In many ways, however, Rihanna is still the same artist as when she debuted in 2005 with Music of the Sun. Sure, she’s hacked off her hair a few times and acquired a considerable amount of tattoos since “Pon de Replay” first dominated radio stations and karaoke machines everywhere. Of course her lyrics have transformed from “Lemme see you move and rock it til the groove’s done” to aggressive expletives or suggestive content in “S&M.”
She’s still cool, she’s still bored, and she’s still one of the most-played artists on your iPhone. Deadlines? Yeah, right. Promises? Puh-lease. Rihanna is the baddest kid on the block, the toughest tween you’d ever have the misfortune of running into at recess. The funny thing is, she (and we) wouldn’t have it any other way.
Featured Image By Def Jam Records