Exclaim!'s Top 15 Soul and R&B Albums Best of 2016



5. Rihanna
ANTI
(Universal)
 
With the release of chart-toppers "Bitch Better Have My Money" and "Work" right before ANTI's highly anticipated drop, many expected the album to be another predicable, hit-heavy pop album. What came instead was a refreshingly understated R&B record that further cemented Rihanna's place both as a superstar and an artist.
 
Alongside radio-friendly anthems like "Kiss It Better" were quieter, more vulnerable tracks that sent this album to an unexpected realm. Opening with "Consideration," featuring fellow badass female SZA, Rihanna let her patois-inflected vocals shine; tracks like "Needed Me," "Love on the Brain" and Tame Impala cover "Same Ol' Mistakes" defined the album's conflicting themes of self-assurance and loneliness.
 
Undeniably sexy, expertly produced and thematically cohesive, the excellent ANTI is Rihanna at her best.
Courtney Baird-Lew