In the span of a year, Rihanna has released three singles, graced the covers of numerous magazines, introduced a sock line, put out a fragrance and announced a world tour. What she hasn’t done, though, is release an album.
Bordering on a full year now, the pop star has promised fans a new album, one of which we have seen the cover of and presumably sampled tracks from as well. But with two months to go before Rihanna officially hits the road for a tour named after said album, titled Anti, fans are wondering: where exactly is it?
The roll out started in January when Rihanna released the first single supposedly from her upcoming album, "FourFiveSeconds." The track caught many off guard with its minimalist, acoustic approach and collaborators Kanye West and Paul McCartney, but it was a dynamic way to kick off the year for Rihanna and West, both artists who were expected to release new albums in 2015.
West, too, has sporadically put out songs throughout the year — including "Only One," "Wolves" and "All Day" — but he recently admitted on Twitter that he is still working on his album Swish. West gave us a definitive update, something the public has not been as privy to with Rihanna’s album. Frank Ocean also angered some fans with the presumed announcement of an album that was supposed to be out in July but, in the last days of that month, the internet became increasingly hysterical. Alas, we don't have any new songs or album from him, either.
Rihanna took "FourFiveSeconds" and embarked on what appeared to be the typical promotional cycle. A music video was released for the track, which was confirmed to be on Rihanna’s upcoming album and not West’s, and she performed it at the Grammys in February. To the public, it looked like Rihanna was gearing up for a full album rollout. But it would be another two months until we'd get another update from her.
In March, she followed up "FourFiveSeconds" with a drastically different track, "Bitch Better Have My Money." The bold, assertive single was the polar opposite of her previous one, a stomping anthem where Rihanna demanded to get what she was owed — in this case, money that was stolen from her by a fraudulent accountant — and it drew just as much praise as the track before it. Another three months passed before its controversial music video was dropped, causing many to criticize it for its gratuitous violence and nudity, but Rihanna shrugged off any criticisms. In an interview with NME, she said that she was happy with the overwhelming reactions, adding in her defense: "at the end of the day the women won. The bitch was the man. So I’m confused. … This was not a woman empowerment video. I was making a piece of art."
In the time it took the "Bitch Better Have My Money" video to drop, Rihanna squeezed in a third single, "American Oxygen." Perhaps the least notable of the three, this track sits somewhere between "FourFiveSeconds" and "Bitch Better Have My Money," a mid-tempo ode to the American dream. There we had it: three diverse, exciting new tracks that would hopefully pave the way to a new album reflecting a more wide-ranging Rihanna who would proudly embrace her aggressive attitude as well as her more vulnerable side. Instead, that road has reached a dead end as we count down the last days of December.
But in a year when Rihanna was missing the anchor of an album to drive her brand forward, she was still able to stir up controversy, sell music and fan anticipation. While exhaustion may be setting in with some (numerous "Rihanna’s album is dropping soon!" articles have been published in the last few months), it must be said that this year-long suspense wasn’t a complete failure for Rihanna — at least for the time being.
Rumour has it that Rihanna is holding off on the release of Anti in order to avoid competition with Adele’s mammoth comeback, 25, but it’s tough to tell when the British singer’s residence at the top of the charts will simmer down. Also, if that is Rihanna’s benchmark, then she may as well release the album now as Adele's world records will prove tough to beat. But, of course, Rihanna is a multi-million record selling star in her own right and there is plenty of room in pop music for multiple female juggernauts. If anything, the presence of both stars at the top would be welcomed. Adele definitely wants this album, telling the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: "I’m the biggest RiRi fan, I love her, so I’m very excited for that record."
Adele brought this up on Fallon because she had just seen new commercials starring Rihanna, ones that are hinting more than ever that Anti is indeed on its way. In a $25 million partnership with Samsung, Rihanna has launched a new website called AntiDiary.com, an interactive space that allows you to unlock rooms and video clips using keys with the ultimate goal of promoting Anti (and maybe selling some phones). With six video snippets released now, rumours are ramping up about a potential release (again) as soon as this week. Will Anti be the last surprise release of 2015?
It’s hard to predict whether this long wait period will harm Anti’s album sales. Carly Rae Jepsen suffered from a similar problem in 2015 when her third album, Emotion, commercially flopped after her June release date got pushed to August. (The album did come out on its original release date in Japan, though, leading to many online leaks.) But Rihanna boasts a larger, more established fanbase. The issue isn’t a leak, or the fact that half the album is out to the public already — seven tracks from Jepsen’s 12-track album were already released by the time Emotion came out — but rather a collective fatigue, that by the time Anti does come out many people may have already closed their iTunes windows exasperated from months of waiting.
On the flip side, perhaps Rihanna isn’t waiting for the perfect moment to release her album — maybe her album isn’t done yet. In an interview with BBC Radio 2 last week, songwriter and pop star Sia revealed that Rihanna was still considering new songs for Anti. "The other night she came over and listened to half of 25 songs I played her because she’s still looking for songs for her new album," Sia said. "She took four but I don’t know if they’ll end up [on the album]."
This presents a far more intractable dilemma, and begs the bigger question: "So when will Rihanna finish Anti?" In an interview with Vanity Fair, Jay Z explained that Rihanna wanted her new album to be "perfect." This is an honest goal many artists have; we wouldn’t want Rihanna to put out anything she wasn’t proud of, after all. But if she hasn’t neared completion, why begin promoting it so soon? Was it a point of keeping up with the breakneck speed of internet culture, a sincere strategy to elongate the album's promotional cycle or does Rihanna simply not care?
In keeping with her rebellious attitude, it wouldn’t be surprising if it was the latter, but only RiRi holds the key to that answer.