Not even 30 with a little over a decade in the game, Rihanna isn’t just the youngest solo star to log 13 chart-toppers on the Billboard Hot 100, but she’s also an eight time Grammy winner with more than 54 million albums and 210 million singles sold. For the better part of that winning streak, she’s shot straight for the center of the pop, R&B and hip-hop charts, though none of those factors seemed to be considered when sculpting her eighth long player “Anti.”
However, Rihanna was actually at her most musically interesting with additional “Anti” material, which included the dub-leaning “Consideration,” the Drake collaboration “Work” and the subdued electro glow of “Needed Me.”
Like the title implies, the Barbadian singer/songwriter/fashion innovator isn’t vying for any prizes, but simply exploring a creative soul that’s often taken a back seat to trends. The result is an ambitious, noncommercial blend of low key soul, reggae inspirations, jazzy slow jams, atmospheric beats and mounds of experimental miscellaneous, all of which served as the centerpiece of an artfully understated show at the United Center.
Although she’s never been a powerhouse vocalist, the entertainer has grown in confidence since stopping by the same building three years ago and displayed those strides when she emerged from a soundboard platform for the emotional (if not entirely pitch perfect) ballads “Stay” and “Love The Way You Lie (Part II).” From there, Rihanna grooved with the chilled out sensuality of the new “Sex With Me” as she paraded around an overhead runaway that transported her to a pure white stage filled with a fleet of dancers and massive band.
Once she arrived, upbeat club bangers such as “Umbrella,” “We Found Love” and “Rude Boy” naturally garnered the most explosive reactions throughout the 90 minute night, though each benefited from more mature rhythmic rearrangements without ever compromising anyone’s desire to dance. However, Rihanna was actually at her most musically interesting with additional “Anti” material, which included the dub-leaning “Consideration,” the Drake collaboration “Work” and the subdued electro glow of “Needed Me.”
Visually speaking, 2012’s “Diamonds” made the most impact when gallons of bubbles cascaded down a backdrop and the masses proudly beamed their cell phone lights, sparking the most personable moment of gratitude from the formerly distant superstar. Ending with a triple ballad block was anticlimactic in comparison, but at least “Love On The Brain” was a timeless nod to the golden era of soul along the revivalist lines of Adele or Amy Winehouse, signaling yet another unexpected twist in Rihanna’s welcome reinvention renaissance.