By Courtney E. Smith
Rihanna’s last album, Unapologetic, came out in November 2012. Considering she hasn’t gone a year without releasing new music since 2007, it’s like we’re in some kind of terrible Rihanna draught. It would be a major surprise not to get a new Rihanna album in 2014—and MTV is already calling it a “most anticipated pop album of the year.” We tried to anticipate RiRi’s every move and predict what paths she might take for her 8th studio album.
The “Roc Nation Is The New Motown” Route
We already have reason to believe this is the road Rihanna is heading down, considering she just dropped a new single with fellow Roc Nation management artist Shakira (which is sure to be added on to any new Rihanna album) and since Roc Nation label & management signee DJ Mustard said he’s been working on a new album with her.
Collabs we’d like to see from that pool of artists include: another banger with Calvin Harris (we’re not over “We Found Love” yet), J. Cole on a verse, Meek Mill on a verse, a Haim remix and some kind of crazy, sexy, over-the-top Kylie Minogue track. And we’re looking at potential production partners in the Roc Nation stable like Switch (Major Lazer, Beyoncé, M.I.A.); Kuk Harrell, a longtime RiRi vocal producer (Justin Bieber, Usher, Mary J. Blige); and No I.D. (Kanye West’s production mentor, Common, Jay Z).
It’s a lot like that Motown model, where Berry Gordy had his in-house stable of songwriters, producers and artists and they all worked together to make the biggest soul hits imaginable. Minus the part where Gordy kept most of the money.
Using Extreme Sex, But With The Idea of Normalizing Female Sexuality Route
Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking Rihanna is going to pop out an album full of ballads. If her Instagram account taught us nothing in 2013, it was that Rihanna does not give an F. Or a PH, in her case. She’s bringing us monster club hits. An interesting conversation popped up around the release of her self-directed “Pour It Up” video after the clip’s original director, Vincent Haycock, took his name off the project. It was reviewed as being sort of not great and overly sexualized, but hold the presses: What if we’re in for much, much more of that from Rihanna because she’s trying to normalize the conversation around female sexuality?
It’s one Rihanna is ripe to lead. From chanting “cake, cake, cake, cake” to going topless on her album cover to the strip club in “Pour It Up” — she keeps pushing it one further, even when you think she’s already at the edge of how far an artist can go with their own sexuality. If Lena Dunham normalizes different body types of Girls, wouldn’t it be a nice surprise if Rihanna has been, all this time, very consciously normalizing the idea that women can desire sex/desire to be sexual beings?
The Surprise Release Route
If Rihanna’s camp made a pro/con list about doing this, it would read kind of like this.
PRO: Apparently it juices your sales and Rihanna needs a killer first sales-week.
CON: Too Beyoncé.
That Rihanna only landed her first No. 1 SoundScan sales week with Unapologetic (her 7th album) is kind of stunning, given her ubiquitous presence as a pop star. There’s no way Team Rihanna won’t be absolutely killing themselves to make that happen again.
At the same time, Rihanna has been getting those Bey comparisons since the moment she came on the scene. Correction: those unwanted Bey comparisons. If she does it, she’s in for a skewering. Unless someone else copies it first and then it’s just a marketing plan, not a Beyoncé thing.
The Straight Reggae Route
She’s from Barbados, she Instagrams about weed a lot and she’s apparently able to hold her own smoking with Snoop Dogg. A roots of reggae album would be such a massive change in style for Rihanna that it’s unlikely. But it’s not impossible to think she might put together a reggae themed album.
Rihanna experimented with the style on Rated R’s “Rude Boy” and Talk That Talk’s “You Da One.” Throw some Switch on it and Rihanna could get her reggae on all day without switching up her image too much.
The Watch The Throne 2 Route
That would be a surprise, huh? But not really.
They’re gonna do a second WTT album anyway. Kanye West + Rihanna on “All of the Lights” was awesome. “Run This Town” was even more awesome, an epic that has entered the pop culture cannon with a place of reverence forever. So why not add some Bonnie to the Clyde and Clyde show and put a girl on WTT2. Make that girl Rihanna. Let her say the dirty parts and do more than featured vocals. It’ll be awesome.