Where is Anti? Rihanna’s eighth studio album — which, until last week, was just a nameless rumor — was one of 2013’s most anticipated releases. And one of 2014’s. And, after “Bitch Better Have My Money,” “American Oxygen,” and “FourFiveSeconds” stormed the airwaves this spring, the album seemed poised to dominate summer. The sunny days have come and gone, but Anti remains shrouded in secrecy.
Modern artists take long breaks all the time, and Rihanna’s 35-month gap since 2012’s Unapologetic isn’t terribly lengthy by industry standards: Beyoncé took 30 months between 4 and her self-titled masterpiece. Kanye West waited 31 months between My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus. But between her 2005 debut and Unapologetic, the only year she didn’t put out an album was 2008 — which, fairly or not, has influenced how skeptics perceive her artistic draught.
Rihanna began hinting in earnest at new music about a year ago, tweeting from the studio, hashtagging Instagram posts “#R8,” and telling fans that the record is “going to be great.” But a recent press blitz, including cover stories and interviews in Vanity Fair and T: The New York Times Style Magazine, suggests that relief is on its way. Here’s what we know about the record so far.
We could expect Anti in November.
Rihanna released her previous four albums in consecutive years — 2009 to 2012 — and always in mid-to-late November. Rated R, Loud, Talk That Talk, and Unapologetic all hit shelves between November 16 and November 23, making it likely that, should she choose to release Anti this fall, it’ll likely end up as the soundtrack to your Thanksgiving festivities.
But she’s (probably) still working on the album.
Rihanna’s artistry reminds many of West’s — and, if she really is releasing Anti this fall, she might be adopting his habit of last-minute revisions. “Almost every night, when you’re asleep, Rihanna is in the studio,” Miranda July wrote in T earlier this week. “She was headed there after our meeting … at that very moment the sound engineer was waiting for her.” Lisa Robinson seconded that in Vanity Fair, where she wrote, “As we spoke, she was still working on [Anti].” When exactly these interviews took place remains unclear, but it’s hard not to see shades of the eleventh-hour Yeezus sessions.
It could be her most political work to date.
Compared to “FourFiveSeconds” and “Bitch Better Have My Money,” which hit No. 4 and 15 on the Hot 100 respectively, RiRi’s other Anti single, “American Oxygen,” had a relatively paltry performance, only hitting No. 78. But don’t toss it off. The song tackles topics including the September 11 terrorist attacks and immigration. Rihanna — who’s outspoken on social media about the #BlackLivesMatter movement — reportedly wanted to perform at protests in Baltimore following the April death of Freddie Gray. Those sentiments extend to Anti‘s album cover, which she unveiled in Los Angeles last week. The artwork is a portrait of Rihanna as a child, with a crown obscuring her eyes, blood red paint covering her upper body, and a poem written in Braille across the image. “This is my favorite album cover I’ve ever done,” she said of the artwork, which is the first to not feature a contemporary photograph of her. “Sometimes the ones who have sight are the blindest.”
This is likely the closest we’ll get to a Kanye West album in 2015.
West told Ryan Seacrest at the Grammys in February that he’s executive producing Rihanna’s new album. Coupled with his recent comments that he’s “not sure” when he’ll release his rumored record SWISH, it seems that West’s primary contribution to music this year might be from behind the boards. Not that that’s a problem: He broke into the industry as a producer and his progressive sonic influence defines “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “FourFiveSeconds” — and makes those songs great.
You’ll hear about the album from her first.
Last November, Rihanna tweeted, “ANY news about #R8 will be delivered directly from me!” So far that’s included some enticing snippets beyond her official singles: Some riffy guitar and clips of a track called “Higher” shared via Instagram, and the stoned interlude “James Joint” that she posted on her website in honor of this year’s 4/20.
Anti will be worth the wait.
“She wants it to be perfect,” Jay Z told Vanity Fair when explaining the wait. The dude knows a thing or two about quality.