Anti, Rihanna’s eighth album is still not here, anticipation is at boiling point and her world-tour dates are selling out. But just what has RiRi been doing in the three years since the release of Unapologetic? And, should she be in any hurry?
WHEN Bajan teenager Rihanna (real name Robyn Rihanna Fenty) first hit the American charts in 2005, she was singing fizzy R&B; her long wavy hair, cosmic smile and boot-cut jeans channelling a straightforward Noughties pretty-girl look (complete with smattering of gold sequins and shoulder-grazing hoops. We all had them…) Jay Z, then president of Def Jam, picked up the 17-year-old’s “Pon de Replay” demo tape and signed her at 3am, worried that if he waited any longer he might risk the star slipping through his hands. This was before the Chris Brown controversy, the Vogue covers, lucrative perfume deals, and the “omelette” dress, which took Chinese couturier, Guo Pei, two years to make especially for that surreal Met Ball entrance.
I’m living the life of my dreams
The one-time army cadet has both created and filled a gap in the market for a powerfully glamorous but punkish black female singer to rival Drake’s bad-guy edge and Beyoncé’s sex appeal, out of what was initially a stifling mass-market image. Now, at 27 (it’s easy to forget how young RiRi is), she is the boss, having founded her own imprint, Westbury Road Entertainment, earlier this year. Not only is she the most downloaded female musician of all time, she’s also dabbled in fashion – adding Puma, River Island and, most recently, Stance (a dressy sock brand) to the fashion-designing section of her sizeable CV. Then there is the Dior campaign. This year the singer became the first black spokeswoman for the French fashion house. The message? Do not underestimate the power of this face to reach every kind of woman.
“I’m living the life of my dreams,” she told Oprah in 2012. Why, then, the recent career break? Like Adele, she has taken a hiatus from recording a full album (the long-awaited Anti album was meant to have been released in the last week of November, according to her website). Firstly, she hasn’t really actually had any time off. For a long time now Rihanna hasn’t just been about the music, rather she is cultivating a super-brand that earns money while she sleeps, not just when her tracks are played, downloaded or performed. That money isn’t just going in her pocket. 2015 has been a big year for the Clara Lionel Foundation, the charity Rihanna founded to aid disadvantaged communities, but she’s been heavily involved in charity work since her late teens. Her schedule has also involved tours – she’s been playing older material that we still can’t get enough of alongside the teaser single, Bitch Better Have My Money, released in March – so it’s not as if the past three years since Unapologetic have been a sabbatical. (She also found the time to sue Topshop for using a paparazzi shot of her in a public place on a T-shirt, flexing the muscles of brand Rihanna against the global high-street giant.)
THE combined effect of all this is inadvertently the best album promo ever, but she still doesn’t seem to be in any rush to release that eagerly anticipated eighth album, even forgoing the profitable Christmas market. Rumour is she is still hunting for songs for the record, popping by Sia’s house to listen to the artist’s latest material (she penned RiRi’s mega-hit, Diamonds). Doesn’t she want to keep the pace going at its current furious speed? Nope. Instead of track listings there have been extended Caribbean holidays and fashion week parties: Amid the much talked-about album delays barely a week goes by when we don’t get to see Rihanna busy being RiRi (usually in seriously oversized clothes in New York). The buzz-cuts, late-night tattoo-parlour visits (she has ink that could now fill tapestries), and, ahem, an alleged appreciation of marijuana (remember the private charter plane?) are all part of a show that we don’t need to book tickets to.
Snapchat has kicked personal appearances off RiRi’s agenda. She is clever enough to know the celebrity sofa interview does not cut it any more. Instead her fans get to watch her make pasta, apply blue lipstick or hang out with best friend, Melissa Forde. This is a woman who made her unashamedly tough female stance in the aftermath of the media storm surrounding a physically abusive relationship with ex Chris Brown into a bankable “carnal pop” music proposition the world over. The European tour tickets have sold out without the music (she comes to Britain in June this summer), the rush to get to the top isn’t on any more. The reality is that she doesn’t need to release albums to keep us hooked. Even if it took another 12 months for Anti to land, we’d wait along with everyone else, wired in to the24/7 universe that is Rihanna.
Courtesy of vogue.co.uk by: Julia Hobbs