‘Anti’: different sound, same game

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Shrouded in rumors and controversy throughout the three years leading up to its release, “Anti” is the greatest Rihanna album that almost never happened.

Aptly titled, what she delivered to both fans and casual listeners was the closest thing to an un-Rihanna album she could muster – if they overlook the fact that they’re experiencing what could be the pop superstar in her truest form.

Listeners are met at the start of the album with a heavy beat and Rihanna’s booming-Caribbean tinged voice asking, “Why will you never let me grow?”

While “Consideration,” the opening track, misleads the direction of the album’s sound, it sets up a very clear thesis for the project: this is a new era for the singer – a darker, more honest and self-reflective era where both she and her sound will do a lot of growing.

There are no “S&M”s, no “Disturbia”s and no “Rockstar 101”s. Instead, she trades the club bangers and pop-chart singles audiences have come to expect from the singer for down-tempo R&B tracks and ballads.

Enlisting help from SZA, “Consideration” serves as one of two collaborations to make the final cut.

Left over from the original direction of the album, “Kiss It Better,” the closest thing to a “Rihanna song” on the album, sounds like it could be a B-Side track from one of her previous albums.

Allegedly slated to be the first single off the album, if producer/songwriter Glass John had his way, “Kiss” took a backseat to “Work,” the only straight commercial track, which was released just hours before the album dropped in its entirety.

Despite the project’s best track being a cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” in which the singer simply sings over Impala’s original track, Rihanna comes into her new sound in songs like “Desperado,” a beat-driven Western trip to a trap.

“Superpower,” the worst track on Beyonce’s self-titled album, gets a facelift with “Love on the Brain” and acts as one of “Anti”s strongest tracks, emphasizing the singer’s growth into powerhouse R&B ballads and proving to her audience that she doesn’t need Stargate or Max Martin to be Rihanna.