It’s been over three years since Rihanna put out Anti, her most ambitious work to date. The triple-Platinum LP — which spawned the singer’s 14th Hot 100-topper, “Work” featuring Drake — garnered a whopping 750 million streams on Spotify, helping make Rihanna the most-streamed female artist of 2016. Since then, the Barbadian superstar has been busy amassing an empire while on a musical hiatus.
At 31 years young, the savvy businesswoman’s Fenty Beauty, Savage x Fenty and Fenty Maison launches continue to take the beauty and fashion industries by storm. In addition, the beauty mogul starred in Ocean’s 8 alongside an all-star cast, including Sandra Bullock and Mindy Kaling. Months later, the artist born Robyn Fenty cemented her icon status when the street she grew up on was renamed after her. And to top it off, Rihanna is now the world’s wealthiest female musician.
So when RiRi posted a muted clip of herself back in November working in the studio on what seemed to be new music, the Navy went into a frenzy — and understandably so. Then, a mysterious project titled Angel under the alias “Fenty Fantasia” surfaced on iTunes, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Consisting of demos and unreleased tracks, Angel peaked at No. 67 on the Worldwide iTunes Album Chart before it was deleted from the service.
Last December, Rihanna confirmed that new music is coming in 2019. “Music was my gateway drug to every other wonderful creative opportunity that I’ve explored. And I’m grateful for that,” she wrote to her loyal fans on Instagram the day after Anti’s third anniversary. “But music is, and always will be, my first connection to your spirit.” But in June, Rihanna put the kibosh on the idea of a new album dropping soon. “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,” she told Interview.
It’ll be exciting to hear what the forever-unapologetic icon has been cooking up in the studio these past few years. Here are five things we hope to hear from Rihanna’s forthcoming album.
Return to reggae/dancehall roots
When the world was introduced to Rihanna, the Bajan beauty was marketed as a pop-reggae artist thanks to her debut single, “Pon de Replay,” which brilliantly showcased her Caribbean roots. Her debut (Music of the Sun) and sophomore LP (A Girl Like Me) contain some now-forgotten about gems. “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want”? “Kisses Don’t Lie”? “Dem Haters”? “Break It Off”? More of that, please. But to Rih’s credit, she’s never abandoned the dancehall riddims that made her a household name — “Rude Boy” and “What’s My Name?” being two of the many obvious examples.
The details of R9 are still scarce, but Rihanna told Vogue and T Magazine that she plans to record a reggae album. Another encouraging sign: Rolling Stone reported that R. City (Beyoncé’s “All Night”), Di Genius (Vybz Kartel, Sean Paul), and others have already submitted material for Rihanna’s long-awaited album. An anonymous source stated, “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 song with cupcaKKe
Rihanna’s sex symbol status has never been in question, especially with tracks like “Watch ‘n’ Learn” and “Sex with Me” in her arsenal. Provocative lyrics and music videos famously earned Rih her Bad Gal image, but you know what would take her DGAF openness to the next level? A collab with 21-year-old Chicago rapper cupcaKKe, whose unmatched confidence and sexually suggestive songs (e.g. “Deepthroat”) have already positioned her as a force to be reckoned with. Both ladies speak their truth, even if it makes listeners squirm in their seats a little, so getting these two in the studio together just might break the Internet — and you know it’ll definitely constitute as NSFW.
More politically driven songs
Peaking at No. 78 on the Hot 100, Rihanna’s “American Oxygen” deserved better. The patriotic tune received some favorable reviews, but mostly went under the radar because it was a major departure from Rihanna’s previous singles (e.g. “Bitch Better Have My Money”).
As a proud immigrant who has achieved massive success stateside, lyrics such as “We sweat for a nickel and a dime/ Turn it into an empire,” are a glimpse into Rih’s incredible journey — which began 14 years ago when the then-teenager left Barbados to further her music career. “When I left Barbados, I didn’t look back,” she revealed to Entertainment Weekly back in 2007. “I wanted to do what I had to do, even [if] it meant moving to America.”
Rihanna’s one of the most influential celebrities of our generation, so hearing the bonafide pop star address bigger themes through music is long overdue. Furthermore, Bob Marley, who also reportedly influenced Rihanna’s Ocean’s 8 dreadlocks, has been cited as one of her all-time favorite artists. So it makes sense for her to take a page straight from Marley’s book, tackling immigration and gun violence — two issues she’s passionate about. In today’s political climate, we especially need Bad Gal RiRi to drop more socially conscious tracks.
A visual album
Rihanna’s performance as Kofi in Childish Gambino’s Guava Island came as a surprise, as she doesn’t sing at all in the film — but it illustrated why the singer deserves to create a short film of her own. “Disturbia,” “Man Down,” “We Found Love” and “Needed Me” are among Rihanna’s most stunning and memorable visuals thanks to their unforgettable storylines and jaw-dropping plot twists.
Since Rih already has a reggae album in the works, it’d be dope if she created a body of work that celebrates Caribbean culture. During her 2016 MTV Video Vanguard Award acceptance speech, Rihanna stated, “This is the first Vanguard to land anywhere close to my country.” Like Bob Marley, Rih’s success is a major inspiration for all Caribbean people — and to see that pride displayed in the form of a visual album could be special.
Another big ballad
Slow-burners aren’t necessarily associated with Rihanna, but they’re becoming a very reliable lane for her on recent albums — which is why the Navy deserves another torch song a la “Stay” or “Love on the Brain.” Not many entertainers of Rihanna’s ilk possess the range needed to transition seamlessly from, say, the naughty “S&M” to “Take a Bow” or “Hate That I Love You” without seeming too pat or contrived.
Rihanna’s just as convincing when she’s calling the shots in “Shut Up and Drive” as she is when she belts out, “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/ But that’s all right, because I like the way it hurts” in the chart-topping hit, “Love the Way You Lie.” Tracks like “Diamonds,” “FourFiveSeconds,” and even the lesser-known “Cold Case Love” (from Rated R) felt like growth at the time they were released. Of course, “Pour It Up”-style records will always get the party started, but Rihanna’s ballads are powerful and sincere enough to strike a chord with even the most casual fan — a testament to the singer’s incredible depth.