Rihanna clearly hasn’t spent all her time “day drinking” lately. There was a method behind the madness of seeing her in seemingly carefree mode as she downed shots with Seth Meyers last week on late-night TV. She was in full promotion mode — but for the Fenty fashion line, a new designer label she’s launching with the French luxury company LVMH, in a follow-up to her wildly popular and inclusive makeup brand Fenty Beauty. Obviously it was not solely the singing side of her career that got her named by Forbes as the richest female musician in the world, boasting a $600 million net worth.
But how far off is the day when she’s promoting an album, not clothing and accessories? Not so very far, from the sound of things, at least not compared to the three years that fans have already waited since her previous album, 2016’s “Anti.” The 31 year-old Barbados-born multi-hyphenate has suggested that she’s close to done, if not all finished, in the recording studio. She’s kept details under wraps, but here’s what we know about the new album that Queen Ri-Ri might launch any month now, if not any minute.
She’s vowed it will be before the end of the year:
In December 2018, she tweeted that her new album would be released in 2019:
🚨 #R9 alert: Rihanna confirmed on Instagram that her new album is dropping in 2019 🚨 pic.twitter.com/oSPfEqbhA9— Rihanna News (@TeamOfRihanna) December 22, 2018
She was in the studio at least six months ago, and premiered some of the recordings for one of her BFFs three and a half months ago:
In January, she shared a video with her Instagram followers of her working in the studio, and in March the singer posted a photo of her best friend and project manager Jennifer Rosales’ baby in the studio with the caption: “thank you @jennnrosalesand @the_aa for blessing my day a lil mo.” Reposting the same photo to her own Instagram, Rosales wrote: “When tia @badgalriri gives you the first listen 😎. #newmusic“
🚨 #R9: Rihanna shared a video of her working in the studio 🚨 pic.twitter.com/TEf4wfxgfc— Rihanna News (@TeamOfRihanna) January 7, 2019
Let there be reggae:
An extensive interview with the New York Times’ T Magazine for a cover story in May was mostly dedicated to her fashion output, but the interviewer did ask a few questions about the new album, which found Rihanna a bit more tight-lipped than she was about makeup and design. Asked bluntly “Is it true you are doing a reggae album?,” she answered, “Yeah.” Reggae is a strong influence on many hip-hop and R&B artists nowadays, with Rihanna having more of a right to claim it than most, but if that simple one-word answer really does augur for a less diluted form of the genre on a forthcoming effort, that would be major. This promise had come up before, in a June 2018 Vogue cover story that flatly declared “She plans to make a reggae album” and got into her love for the late Bob Marley as well as a current “influence” and possible collaborator, producer Supa Dups.
She might be taking a cue from fans and just adopting “R9” as an album title:
Rihanna told the Times that she hadn’t yet settled on an an album title, at the time of their interview. “I don’t know yet,” she said about the name. “So far it’s just been ‘R9,’ thanks to the Navy. I’m about to call it that probably, ’cause they have haunted me with this ‘R9, R9, when is R9 coming out?’ How will I accept another name after that’s been burned into my skull?”
We don’t know who, if any, the “features” will be, but she’s already shot down some rumored superstar cameos:
In the same New York Times article, Rihanna denied rumors that Gaga and Drake would be featured on her newest album. Regarding a Gaga collab, she said, “It’s not in the books right now, but I’m not against it” — ascribing those rumors to the simple fact that Gaga followed her on Instagram. There’s more precedent for a Drake cameo, but that doesn’t make it any more likely for “R9” — she’s been there and done that. “Not anytime soon, I don’t see it happening,” she said about Drake. “Not on this album, that’s for sure.”
Fans probably shouldn’t be on the edge of their seats for a surprise album drop just yet:
It makes sense that Rihanna would want to put at least a little distance between promoting her new fashion line and promoting new music. But a better reason for waiting a few months might be because it’s not completely finished yet. In a just published interview with Sarah Paulson in Interview magazine, Rihanna talked about “the reason why an album isn’t being spat out like it used to. I used to be in the studio, only the studio, for three months straight, and an album would come out. Now, it’s like a carousel. I do fashion one day, lingerie the next, beauty the next, then music the next. It’s like having a bunch of kids and you need to take care of them all.” Paulson asked her “how much longer we have to wait.” The answer: “It really does suck that it can’t just come out, because I’m working on a really fun one right now. I’m really happy with a lot of the material we have so far, but I am not going to put it out until it’s complete. It makes no sense to rush it, but I want it out. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m like, ‘Even if I don’t have the time to shoot videos, I’m going to put an album out.'” Paulson, being our kind of interviewer, asked her flatly for a second time: How long? “I wish I knew. I have blocked off a solid period of time for the studio next month,” Rihanna said. “That sounds like a long time,” the actress responded. But Interview magazine didn’t specify what month the interview was conducted.
A single could be imminent, even if the album isn’t:
Rihanna showed up at the BET Awards to present a lifetime achievement award to Mary J. Blige. Two top Def Jam radio promotion execs, Nicki Faraq and Noah Sheer, both posted a photo of themselves posting with the star with the hashtag caption “#NopeNotTelling” and a “shhhh” emoji. Presumably they are not “not telling” because there’s nothing to tell.