Rihanna Still Using Her Now “Experimental” Next Album to Mess With Our Heads


There was a time–a better, simpler time–when a Rihanna album came every year like clockwork. Between 2005 and 2012 she released seven studio albums, two remix LPs, and never left the airwaves for long. The three-plus years it took for her to put out ANTI paid off with one of the great pop records of the last decade, but since then the well has run dry as she’s turned her focus to dominating other business ventures the way she once did the Billboard charts.

So Rihanna’s ninth studio album, referred to usually as R9, is reaching a rarified status as one of the most anticipated projects in recent memory. Detox what? Chinese Democracy who? And even though she’s busy creating an (inclusive) empire in makeup and fashion to the tune of an alleged billion dollar net worth, she’s also been sure to drop a breadcrumb or two about what the next album will sound like.

The latest appeared in an interview this week during her Savage X Fenty Show: “You’re not gonna expect what you hear. Just put that in your mind. Whatever you know of Rihanna is not gonna be what you hear,” she said. “I’m really experimenting and music is like fashion, you should be able to play. I should be able to wear whatever I want and I treat music the same way.”

Well, that quote is a departure from the little we’ve heard about the album so far. The promise of “experimenting” even sounds a little bit like her boyfriend A$AP Rocky’s divisive third album Testing, which saw the New York rapper make bold inroads into unexpected sounds that didn’t always pay off.

Contrast that to one of the earliest and most tantalizing R9 tidbits from May 2018, when Rihanna told Vogue she wanted to make a reggae album, and the interviewer alluded to the possible influence of Supa Dups, a legendary Jamaican producer who worked on early Rihanna songs like Music of the Sun’s “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No),” as well as tracks by Kardinal Offishall and Drake on which she was featured. This was corroborated by Rolling Stone reporting from July that year, which claimed that in addition to Supa Dups, musicians like Kranium, R. City, and Ricky Blaze all contributed to R9.

“Every artist, every producer, every songwriter in Jamaica or of Jamaican descent has been working on [Rihanna’s album] and has little snippets of publishing or production credits on it,” a source told the magazine.

Rihanna seemingly confirmed the reggae vibe in another Vogue conversation a year later. “I like to look at it as a reggae-inspired or reggae-infused album,” Rihanna said. “It’s not gonna be typical of what you know as reggae. But you’re going to feel the elements in all of the tracks.” When the reporter asked about a release date, Rihanna responded that her “Navy–my scary fans,” were not going to be happy that the question was posed at all, though she was willing to razz them a bit.

Back in December 2019, Rihanna posted a video of a scruffy white dog going absolutely buckwild to House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” captioning it: “Update: me listening to R9 by myself and refusing to release it.” She isn’t being coy about how much fun she’s having twisting the knife, either.

In a February 2020 interview with Entertainment Tonight, she spoke about the perverse satisfaction she gets from teasing folks about the upcoming record. “I like to antagonize my fans a little bit. Well, they antagonize me, too! So, they get it right back,” she said. She was cryptic once more in a March 2020 British Vogue cover story, claiming that she was “very aggressively working on new music,” but declining to share much detail.





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