Months after her Super Bowl LVII performance, Rihanna’s fans still have one major question: “where’s the album?” 2023 marks seven years since Ri’s last album, Anti, and her devoted followers have been less-than-patiently waiting for her to release a follow-up. The biggest beacon of hope came after the Super Bowl when she spoke with Vogue UK about the album arriving before 2023 is over. “I want it to be this year,” she told the publication. “Like, honestly, it’d be ridiculous if it’s not this year. But I just want to have fun. I just want to make music and make videos. And I need the right background music with the visuals. I can’t just go shoot a video of me talking.”
The demand for Rihanna’s next album has been so loud and so constant that when she spoke with the Associated Press in late 2022 about the Super Bowl gig, she made sure to clarify that an album release wasn’t imminent. “Super Bowl is one thing. New music is another thing. Do you hear that, fans?” she said.
Additionally, Rihanna also welcomed her second baby Riot Rose with her boyfriend A$AP Rocky in August 2023. So, she’s clearly had a lot on her plate with being a new parent to two baby boys.
But fans did get new music before 2022 was over. Rihanna ended a six-year sonic drought with “Lift Me Up,” the lead single from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. The Tems/Ryan Coogler/Ludwig Goransson/Rihanna-penned marked her first solo single since “Love On The Brain.”
Ri has an extensive body of work – eight studio albums, two remix albums, a handful of EPs, and countless singles – but how 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 reveal a baby bump without someone popping up to demand #R9.
While there still aren’t many details about her ninth album, an insider recently hinted at the possibility of a stadium tour to take place in 2024 and 2025, but Rihana has not yet publicly announced any tour dates. Naturally, with a new album on the horizon, fans are also hoping to catch her live.
Anti was a triple-platinum album best known for its chart-topping single – and one of her frequent collabs with Drake — “Work.” It’s also the album Rihanna considers “my best album to this day,” as she told Vogue in their May 2022 issue.
“When you come off of an album like Anti…” she also told Vogue in 2023. “In hindsight, it really is my most brilliant album. I say that because in the moment, I didn’t realize it. But it always felt like the most cohesive album I’ve ever made. When you break it down and you realize this album goes from ‘Work’ to ‘Kiss It Better’ to ‘Needed Me’ to ‘Love on the Brain’ to ‘Sex with Me’ to ‘Desperado.’ And somehow it all fits and not for a second did you glitch?”
“But there’s this pressure that I put on myself. That if it’s not better than that then it is not even worth it,” she says. “It is toxic. … It’s not the right way to look at music because music is an outlet and a space to create, and you can create whatever. It doesn’t have to even be on any scale. It just has to be something that feels good. It could just be a song that I like. It literally could be that simple.”
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’s projects, as she used to put out albums at a much more frequent pace.
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 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 how she responded to a fan at the start of 2021, she might be good. “New year’s resolution: apply the pressure,” she captioned a January 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.”
What Was ‘Lift Me Up’ About?
While Rihanna’s super quick tease of “Lift Me Up” gave little away in terms of style and sound, the song is a tribute to the movie’s late star Chadwick Boseman, per Variety. It was written by Rihanna, Tems, Ludwig Göransson, and director Ryan Coogler.
“After speaking with Ryan and hearing his direction for the film and the song, I wanted to write something that portrays a warm embrace from all the people that I’ve lost in my life. I tried to imagine what it would feel like if I could sing to them now and express how much I miss them,” Tems said in a statement. “Rihanna has been an inspiration to me so hearing her convey this song is a great honor.”
When Will Rihanna’s New Album Be Released?
As of October 2023, we still don’t know when Rihanna’s album will drop, and honestly, it’s best to stop asking.
“If one of y’all motherf**kers 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 2020 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 “celebrate [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 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 Hollywood. “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. In 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].”
In November 2022, Rihanna spoke with the AP about her upcoming Super Bowl appearance and Savage x Fenty show. She shut down the idea that her appearance at the 2023 Halftime Show meant an album was on its way. “That’s not true. Super Bowl is one thing. New music is another thing. Do you hear that, fans?” she told the AP with a laugh. “The second that I announced this, I said, ‘Oh, my God, they’re going to think my album is coming. I need to get to work.’”
During that Vouge UK interview in 2023, Rihanna also spoke about how the hype and pressure had made a creative block. “So I realized that if I keep waiting until this [new album] feels right and perfect and better, maybe it’s going to keep taking forever and maybe it’ll never come out and no, I’m not down to that,” she said. “So I want to play. And by play, I mean I have my ideas in my head, but I can’t say them out loud yet.”
What Is Rihanna’s New Album Called?
“So, so far, it’s just been R9, thanks to the Navy,” Rihanna said in a 2019 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?”
Will Rihanna Tour Behind Her New Album?
While nothing has been announced yet, it is a common practice for artists to tour behind their latest album release. For 2023, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift had the tours of the summer with their Renaissance and “Eras” tours, respectively. Even though Taylor has announced that she’ll be continuing her tour into 2024, Rihanna fans are prepared for the “Umbrella” singer to have the tour of the summer once she makes her return.
While nothing has officially been announced, a source revealed that Rihanna plans to tour in 2024 and 2025 according to a report from Entertainment Tonight. The insider said that she has plans for new music and a world tour to follow. While fans got a taste of Rihanna returning to a live performance with her Super Bowl performance, it will be her first tour since 2016’s Anti tour.
What’s Rihanna’s New Record Going to Sound Like?
R9 will be much different than her past music, according to the superstar herself. While on the carpet for her third Savage X Fenty show on Sept. 21, Rihanna teased a bit about how her new music will be much different than her previous releases. “You’re not going to expect what you hear. Just put that in your mind,” she told AP Entertainment. “Whatever you know of Rihanna is not going to be what you hear. I’m really experimenting,” she added. “Music is like fashion. You should be able to play. I should be able to wear whatever I want. I treat music the same way. So I’m having fun, and it’s going to be completely different.”
In early 2022, Rihanna also told Vogue that despite her pregnancy dominating most of her life (and calendar), making music was still much a part of her life. “I’m looking at my next project completely differently from the way I had wanted to put it out before. I think this way suits me better, a lot better,” she told the publication. “It’s authentic, it’ll be fun for me, and it takes a lot of the pressure off.”
Rihanna said 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 she wrote for other artists that 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.
In 2023, when speaking to Vogue UK, Rihanna explained that she never stopped recording, even when she focused on her family and fashion empire. She has plenty of songs that she’s fallen in and out of love with – but don’t expect her to release these recordings. She described listening to them as “almost like trying to dress like you used to dress. It’s like, ‘Ew, no. I would never wear those again.’ Your taste changes, your vibe changes.”
So, while there have been rumblings of a heavily-reggae influenced album, it might be something completely different.
Who Will Feature on Rihanna’s New Album?
In the years following Anti’s release, Rihanna 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, we don’t know. Rihanna 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 that if you want R9, you have to wait for it. It’s coming eventually — even Rihanna is getting impatient — and as another maligned proverb goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”