How’d we rate Rihanna’s lead ‘ANTi’ single?


The BreatheHeavy editors individually review Rihanna’s “Work.”

We may be a force collectively, but each of us on Team BreatheHeavy critique and perceive music differently. We decided to jot down our personal take on the song separately and hand it over for you to agree with or not.

After making our way through virtual door after door after door, Rihanna’s new single “Work” arrived on Wednesday morning, and it’s been hit with lukewarm feedback. As the latest piece from the Rih and Drake trilogy, the island-themed cut should have found an area to slow grind in the middle of Talk That Talk. Is it immediate? Nope. Is it innovative? Far from it. How about catchy? Sure. But we mean that in a “Yeah, I gueesss you can leave that on” kind of way. Still, maybe that’s what Rihanna and co. were going for this time around. Simple and safe. Here’s to hoping that the rest of ANTI is a bit more, erm, progressive.

Rihanna’s fourth lead single from her forthcoming eight album, ‘ANTi’, is not an overwhelming success. “WORK” is arguably the weakest of the tracks that we’ve heard so far from the record, it features a meandering beat, a poorly thought out Drake collaboration and almost entirely indistinguishable lyrics. Realistically, it’s a perfectly inoffensive tune, but coming from the woman who gave us “Diamonds”, “We Found Love” and “Umbrella”? It doesn’t make the grade.

Work attempts to bring Rihanna back to her signature roots of island pop mixed with irresistible earworm hooks. However, much like the tedious creation of eighth album Anti, something went wrong in the creative process. The song sounds like a chaotic mash of several demos all trying to work together at once. An unremarkable vocal performance sees Rihanna literally slurring her words in parts. By the time Drake shows up to lazily lend a verse, it feels like a producer simply listed previous elements of successful Rihanna songs – repetition, urban beats, a rapper – and felt throwing them together would result in an easy lead single. It’s a shame Rihanna seemed plagued with problems everywhere she turns. While she was close to burning out in 2012 after releasing seven albums in seven years, it seems her extended break from music actually did more harm than good, it appears to have killed her creative streak entirely.

There’s no way around it: Work is definitely a disappointment. After an incredibly lengthy campaign leading up to the release of the long-awaited ANTi, Rihanna dropped a laid-back, Caribbean-infused track that sounds more like a filler track than a lead single. RiRi teamed up with Drake once again, but alas failed to reproduce the effortless catchiness of “Whats My Name” nor a unique and unforgettable beat like the one heard on “Take Care”. Thankfully, Work does get better with multiple listens. It’s the type of song I can imagine myself bopping to while driving and had it not been a lead single, I think I might like it a lot more. Unfortunately, it seems RiRi suffered from way too much hype and the nearly impossible task of living up to it.

Unlike the previous three (non-)singles, I enjoyed “Work” from the very first listen. Bringing yet another different sound, Rihanna takes it to the Caribbean on the dancehall-R&B song: everything from the beat to her delivery are inspired by the songs she grew up with, so it’s no surprise that it works so effortlessly. It sounds like the most natural Rihanna single in recent years, not as validation-seeking as “FourFiveSeconds” or genre-hopping as “BBHMM” – she’s just having fun. Drake’s verse compliments the song but also wasn’t necessary, in my opinion, however their chemistry is as strong as it was on their previous collabs. Those expecting a large-scale dance number similar to “We Found Love” or a jump-on-the-tropical-house-bandwagon-for-a-hit might be disappointed, but I’m glad Rihanna’s making the music she would dance to in the club – and the results are all the better for it.

When I envision a lead single from Rihanna, especially one as anticipated as this, I expect a ***** popping club banger. An anthem. A song where me and my girls can slink to the floor in pretend slow motion and gyrate our hips, eyes smizing, lips pursed. ANTi‘s first official cut, the Drake-assisted breezy bopper titled “Work” is anything but. On first listen, I wasn’t entirely sure I heard any English aside from the incessant repetition of “work work work work work work.” Drizzy’s understated feature doesn’t overshadow Rihanna, but unfortunately the stigma surrounding the album outshined the song from the get-go. After “American Oxygen” and “FourFiveSeconds,” I should have expected this.

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