Consider the collaborative singles of Drake and Rihanna as the trilogy of desire, hurt, and self-actualization that they are. The spectrum of their mind-meeting reaches back to 2010's "What's My Name?"—that Thank Me Later-era radio candy whose literal "square root of 69" joke belied its total high school innocence. A year later, "Take Care" glistened with something very different—real pain. At the center of Drake's masterpiece, that minimal four-four club track held onto the scars of the 1959 Bobby Bland blues ballad at its core (as reinterpreted by Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx). It was a young song with an old, knowing soul. A lot can change in six years, and to be a fan has been to watch Drake and Rihanna grow into pop protagonists more self-possessed, both meaner, more acutely themselves.
"Work," the new Drizzy-RiRi single, is no doubt the best bit of ANTI since "Bitch Better Have My Money" became one of 2015's toughest vessels of self-empowerment. You could imagine Boi-1da traveling to Rihanna's sunstruck Caribbean home to make this beat. Her voice has a glossy wordlessness to it, but this is for sure some of her most subtle, expressive, and coolly thrilling shout-singing. Emotionally unmoored as ever, Drake's first verse of 2016 finds him in motivational speaker mode: "When I see potential/ I just gotta see it through," he sings, "If you had a twin/ I would still choose you" (as if anyone could compare). Simple as it is, Ri's "Work work work work #work!" hook is wise. It shows she knows her considerable worth.