However you slice it, the release of Rihanna’s Anti album has procured more mystery than merit. Less than a week old, the album has already caused quite the controversy, and continues to do so.
It was one thing, when the conflicting reports circulated around the idea of Anti even arriving, and now that it's here, the fraction in question is, why aren’t the figures adding up? Now that doesn’t necessarily mean the album came up short of enthused fan-feedback, but it does find itself in the middle of a re-calibrated concept of what does and doesn’t count as success.
With a yawning three year stretch since Apologetic, breaking the singer’s consecutive run of an album a year since Music Of The Sun in 2005, this makes the first time in her career Rihanna has jumped back from the promotional treadmill of music, and focused on the outside varying tangents of creativity. From co-curating the DreamWorks Home soundtrack to transitioning into a full-time high-fashion model, Rih perhaps, is immersing herself into artistic projects that can stand to withhold the test of her music.
Yet, Anti is an album she has been alluding to for months on end. So now that it’s readily available, just how popular is it? To judge by the proclamations of Tidal, which held solemn release rights, it is an outright smash. Despite Anti suddenly appearing on the streaming service two days early, which Tidal blamed as a “system error,” the sponsorship deal with Samsung and Rihanna’s opt to make it available for a free download, led the Recording Industry Association of America to immediately certify Anti as a platinum release. Tidal further said that it had sold 484, 833 downloads of the album, in addition to those given away as part of the Samsung promotion, and that the album was streamed 5.6 million times on its service.
But aside from the reported big numbers, Anti opened at No. 27 on the Billboard chart this week, ranking it as Rihanna’s lowest opening chart position. Nielsen reported that the album sold fewer than 1,000 copies in the United States, with 4.2 million streams and 126,000 sales of individual tracks, accounted for since last Thursday.
So, if numbers don’t lie, how does this all add up?
Well for starters, the album was released late Thursday, after Samsung’s exclusive giveaway period ended, only allowing the album a few hours to rack up sales for the week. Also, Billboard’s chart policies disqualify albums that are part of gratis promotions, so the Samsung giveaways were not applied.
But what about the rest of the sales that Tidal claimed?
Possibly, that figure could have been inflated by sales made outside of the United States, with regards to Tidal operating in 44 countries excluding the U.S. Or maybe it was another “system error.” Plus it is important to remember that Anti still isn’t available on CD or any physical format for that matter. Either way, Rihanna’s eighth studio album did not have the blockbuster chart opening she is accustomed to.
Defining Anti as a success or anything less of, depends on the lens, or the ears rather, in which you choose to absorb it. And that variable will only tell part of its story. At this early stage in it’s release cycle, one could argue that it sits somewhere between a free download and an indecisive purchase. The point is, however, there is probable cause to why Anti is registering as a run-of-the-mill project, oppose to her acclaimed catalog ranking.
Only time, touring and total reach will suggest an accurate charting perspective, with combining sales as a systematic tell all.