Where the original doesn’t have the same bite:
And where the live take still misses the pump:
All the right hooks. Needs a major shouter.
Yet if the Wikipedia entry as of December 11 is any indication, whadda I know:
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic picked it as a highlight from the album, noting that “her voice is hoarse and ravaged, yet she’s also controlled and precise, knowing how to hone these imperfections so her performance echoes classic soul while feeling fresh.” Julianne Escobedo Shepherd of Billboard deemed it “a doo-wop powerhouse sung in a Prince-adjacent falsetto — and is proof Rihanna’s been working with some primo vocal coaches.” Idolator’s Bianca Gracie was also complimentary of her vocals, writing that the “rough-edged, soulful ballad finds Rih at her vocal best.” Patrick Ryan of USA Today called the song an “easy highlight,” noting the “cozy doo-wop nostalgia.” Emily Mackay of NME noted the doo-wop groove, deeming Rihanna’s vocals as a “powerhouse vocal performance.” Jordan Bassett of the same publication called it “totally brilliant, with the singer showcasing the kind of vocals we’ve not heard from her before.” Safy-Hallan Farah of Spin was also favorable with her singing, while James Grabay of the same magazine named it an “effortlessly time-traveling track.”
Chris Gerard of PopMatters noted it for being “one of the more interesting tracks on the album,” addressing her “Macy Gray-like drawl during the verses.” Corbin Reiff of The A.V. Club highlighted “the deep soulful tones” found on the track, and was favorable with her voice being “the undeniable focal point” of the track. Nolan Feeney of Time declared that “Love on the Brain” and “Higher” “offer the most stirring vocal performances of her career.” Jessica McKinney of Vibe agreed, being positive about the “soulful performance that showcases her own range.” Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph defined it as a “standard, mid-tempo retro soul anthem” that “in the context of Anti , it sounds like a work of pop genius.” Calling it “hypnotic,” Eric Renner Brown of Entertainment Weekly remarked that on the track “she delivers some of her finest vocal moments yet.” Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe picked it as “essential”, stating: “As she implores ‘Don’t you stop loving me,’ her performance has a grit, sweat, and weariness to it that’s unusual and humanizing.”
Still prefer the Kelly Clarkson cover.