Rihanna New Album: Will We Finally Get it in 2021?
Music & Sports Editor
One question has been plaguing Rihanna for what feels like forever: where’s the new album? As fans eagerly await her to drop new music, here’s what we know.
Rihanna has an extensive body of work – eight studio albums, two remix albums, a handful of EPs, and countless singles – but by the way fans react whenever she does anything, you’d think she’s been holding out. Ms. Robyn Rihanna Fenty can’t post a picture on Instagram, enjoy herself while watching a DJ’s live stream, or practically do anything without someone popping up and demanding that she releases a new album. It’s almost as bad as fans begging for Adele’s new record.
However, 2021 marks the longest period that fans have gone without a new Rihanna record. Her last full-length was 2016’s Anti, a triple-Platinum album best known for its chart-topping single – and one of her frequent collabs with Drake — “Work.” Anti followed 2012’s Unapologetic, which contained arguably Rihanna’s biggest song, “Diamonds.” Until 2021, the four years between Anti and Unapologetic were the longest gap fans endured between Rihanna projects, as she used to put out albums at a much more frequent pace.
Rihanna at the Made in America Festival in 2016 (Shutterstock
Her debut studio album, 2005’s Music of the Sun, was quickly followed up by A Girl Like Me in 2006. Girl Gone Bad (2007), Rated R (2009), and Loud (2010) closed out the decade, meaning that Rihanna released five albums in as many years. Talk That Talk arrived in 2011, with Unapologetic arriving a year later. While other artists risk oversaturating the market with such a prolific output, Rihanna maintained a steady level of commercial and critical success. Outside of her debut release, all of her albums have gone Platinum numerous times, and her lowest score on Metacritic is 61.
So, there is an audience just waiting to give Rihanna all their money, but from the way she responded to a fan at the start of 2021, she might be good. “New year’s resolution: apply the pressure,” she captioned a Jan. 1 IG post featuring her in a metallic outfit. “Resolution should be releasing the album,” a snarky fan added in the comments, which prompted Rihanna to respond with, “This comment is sooo 2019. Grow up.”
When Will Rihana’s New Album Be Released?
Rihanna in concert in Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy, in 2016 (Shutterstock)
As of May 2021, we don’t know when Rihanna’s album will drop, and honestly, it’s best to stop asking.
“If one of y’all motherf-ckers ask me about the album one more time when I’m trying to save the world, unlike y’all president….on sight,” she said during an April 202 Instagram Live chat, likely referencing then-president Donald Trump, and how she had pledged to donate a $5 million to global coronavirus relief via her Clara Lionel Foundation. However, she did give fans some positive news almost a year after this rant.
After Anti spent a record-breaking five years on the Billboard 200 chart – making her the first Black artist to achieve such a goal – she posted an Instagram video to celebrate. Like clockwork, fans said she should “celebrated [Anti] by releasing a song.” “I think I should,” she said. “Just 1 tho lol.” This was, obviously, just a troll from Rihanna.
In July 2020, while doing a promotional tour for Fenty Beauty, Rihanna explained why it’s been taking so long to finish her ninth studio album. “I can’t wait to put something out that I’m really proud of and excited about,” she said in an interview with Access Online. “It probably is gonna be sooner than my fans think, but I’m just gonna leave that alone because I got enough stress, questions, and, ‘R9, when’s the album coming.’ They don’t leave me alone. I haven’t neglected them. Music is still my baby.”
During the conversation, she also explained that when she was first making Anti, a “paparazzi caught me going into the studio and after that, they thought my album was coming out that week,” she said. “So, Anti to them, took forever… so anytime you give them a little, but of information that I’m working on music, they expect it to come now because, in the past, it’s worked like that. n the past, I’d shoot out an album in three months, but now, I don’t have the luxury of doing that because I have this other baby [her Savage x Fenty lingerie line].”
However, as of May 2021, we don’t have a definite release date.
What Is Rihanna’s New Album Called?
Rihanna performs as part of the We Can Survive concert in 2015 (Shutterstock)
“So, so far it’s just been R9, thanks to the Navy,” Rihanna said in an interview with The New York Times, referencing her followers’ fandom name. “I’m about to call it [“R9”] 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?
Fans thought that she announced the album’s title in 2019. “to all my friends/family/coworkers who I have yet to get back to in the past months…please forgive me,” she captioned a November 2019 Instagram post. This year has been quite an overwhelming one, and I’m working on that ish called Balance. brb.” Rihanna likely meant she was working on the “work-life balance,” but fans, hungry for any scrap of information about the project, instantly started asking, “Is her new album called Balance?”
What’s Rihanna’s New Record Going To Sound Like?
Rihanna plays to a sold-out show in Tel Aviv in 2013 (Shutterstock)
Reggae – or a similar facsimile. Rihanna confirmed, in a 2019 interview with Vogue, that she was putting out a Reggae-flavored project. “I like to look at it as a reggae-inspired or reggae-infused album,” she 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.”
“Reggae always feels right to me. It’s in my blood,” the Barbadian singer said. “It doesn’t matter how far or long removed I am from that culture, or my environment that I grew up in; it never leaves. It’s always the same high. Even though I’ve explored other genres of music, it was time to go back to something that I haven’t really homed in on completely for a body of work.”
Fans got a preview of what the album is not going to sound like, courtesy of singer Skylar Grey. During a September 2020 IG Live session, dubbed a “Reject Party,” Skylar played the music that she wrote for other artists that were, ultimately, rejected. This was when Rihanna was supposedly doing some kind of reggae album,” she said during the video. “I don’t know if she’s still making a reggae album or what. But this is the song we did for it. I don’t have the whole song.” In the snippet, Skylar is heard singing the words “no pressure,” which would connect this track to the phrase Rihanna used in her Jan. 1/New Year’s Resolution post.
Who Will Feature On Rihanna’s New Album?
Rihanna in concert in Cape Town Stadium, South Africa in 2015 (Shutterstock)
In the years following Anti’s release, Rihanna has appeared on N.E.R.D.’s “Lemon” in 2017, teamed with Future for his song “Selfish,” joined Bryson Tiller for DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts,” jumped on Kendrick Lamar’s “Loyalty,” and – most recently – teamed with PARTYNEXTDOOR for “Believe It.” It’s possible that Kendrick, PND, and Bryson could lend their vocals to R9. At this point, it’s uncertain.
“I’m going to be in the studio. I’m so excited, actually. I can’t say who I’m working with, but it’s somebody I’ve been wanting to work with him for a long time,” she told The Cut in 2020. “Okay, I’ll tell you. [It’s] Pharrell [Williams].”
RiRi also said who wasn’t going to be on the album: her longtime collaborator and on-again/off-again fling, Drake. When The New York Times asked if she was going to collaborate with him again, she said, “Not anytime soon, I don’t see it happening. Not on this album, that’s for sure.” She also shot down rumors of Lady Gaga being on the album (“It’s not in the books right now, but I’m not against it.”)
What Songs Are Going To Be On Rihanna’s New Album?
Like everything else with the album, as of May 2021, we don’t know. Rihanna did shed some light on the vibes she hopes these new songs will bring.
“Now it’s more what do I feel, personally? What do I want to put out as an artist? How do I want to play it with my art?” she said in an October 2020 interview with the Associated Press. “How do I want to interpret that, reimagine that? Because it’s been so structured before. You do pop, you do this genre, you do that, you do radio, you do who’s following you and your fans. But now, it’s just like – what makes me happy? I just want to have fun with music.”
“Everything is so heavy,” she continued. “The world that we live in, a lot is overwhelming—every single day. And music, I’m using that as my outlet. I just want to have fun with that.”
“He that can have patience can have what he will,” goes a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Meaning, if you want R9, you got to wait for it. It’s coming – likely this year – and as another maligned proverb goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”