It's been nearly three and a half years since Rihanna's Unapologetic, which is by far the longest spell The FADER 100 cover star gone in her decade long career. Over the past year, though, she's moved from dropping hints to dropping songs and shooting videos, so our hopes are high that we will get some new music from Rih—well, eventually. She hasn't confirmed much yet—the project's official title included—but there's been information on the project,which has generally been referenced with the hashtag #R8, trickling out regardless. Here's what we know as of now.
Thus far we've heard three full new songs from Rihanna this year, two of which are most likely bound for #R8: "FourFiveSeconds" and "Bitch Better Have My Money." ("American Oxygen" was commissioned by the NCAA for March Madness.) Additionally, Rih's been sharing bits and pieces of new songs on Instagram. There is, for example, this dark, unforgiving-sounding snippet:
In December, Rihanna also teased a lovey-dovey, guitar-driven song featuring Extreme guitarist and touring band member Nuno Bettencourt. Produced by Kanye collaborator Jeff Bhasker and written by songwriter John Glass, it's believed to be called "Kiss It Better"—and it sounds like it might feature a male vocalist too?
A snippet of what is believed to be a new Rihanna song that features a Florence & The Machine sample surfaced in the video for a Rih-fronted Dior campaign that launched in May 2015.
An upbeat and dubby song called "World Peace" (which, to our ears, sounds like an Unapologetic outtake) has also surfaced and went unaccounted for. What's more, Rihanna has purportedly registered songs titled "Burritos," "Drive Alone," "Ehh," "I Saw A Girl," "Intoxicated," "Overload," and "Transducer." So much to look forward to!
During the 2015 Grammys pre-show, Kanye West revealed that he's been tasked with executive-producing the album. Other producers and songwriters who have spoken about their various contributions or otherwise been been brought into the fray include: DJ Mustard, Kiesza, Nicky Romero, David Guetta, Rodney Jerkins, Ty Dolla $ign, Natalia Kills, Sia, Nicki Minaj, Esther Dean, Alicia Renee, Bibi Bourelly, Calvin Harris, Tinashe, Grimes, Ne-Yo, Florence Welch, Young Thug, Kanye West, and Timbaland. Chris Martin of Coldplay has also expressed interest in lending his hand, but having working with Rihanna once before, he knows how these things can go: "It's like trying to win American Idol. Getting a song on Rihanna's album. It's hard. Everybody wants to write songs for her."
After learning that a package of 10 new songs had allegedly been delivered to record execs in November 2014, DJ Skee gave his Dash Radio listeners a loose idea of what to expect from the album. "For overall sound," he assessed, "you can still expect the big ballad vocal songs accustomed to Rihanna, but I would say they're almost mixed with hard-hitting beats. A little edgier than typical Rihanna, if that makes any sense, similar to a Hudson Mohawke type style."
Alternatively, Mixpak founder Dre Skull told The FADER in May of 2015 that he had heard "firsthand and secondhand" that the album might be island tinged. "They've reached out to Popcaan, but I've talked to a number of people in Jamaica they've reached out to.
Here is how others have described what they have heard of the album: Sia told VH1 that Rihanna's manager "flipped" after hearing one of the songs she wrote; Ne-Yo has described the album as sounding "unlike anything else"; DJ Mustard has teased a ballad that he says he "really" likes.
But Rihanna has issued a stern warning:
So that said, direct from her mouth: in a march 2015 interview with MTV during a presser for her movie Home, Rihanna described the new album to be "really big" and explosive, but timeless, too. "I just wanted to focus on things that felt real, that felt soulful, that felt forever," she explained. "I wanted an album that I could perform in 15 years. Not any songs that were burnt out. I find that when I get on stage now, I don't want to perform a lot of my songs because they don't feel like me. So I want to make songs that are timeless."
In honor of her 27th birthday, Rihanna tweeted the above Frida Kahlo-esque portrait with a corresponding #R8 hashtag; the world was quick to speculate that the Pablo Roverski-shot photo might be a preview of the album's artwork. It has since been incorporated in the single art for "Bitch Better Have My Money"—which also employs Braille (albeit flattened and nonfunctional), another style tip Rihanna seems to be on this cycle.
In early February 2015, an acrostic style announcement heralding a joint Rihanna-Kanye West tour surfaced on the internet. Complex claimed it was legit and had come from a "reliable source." Meanwhile, KanyeToThe commenters scoured the Live Nation website and found a lone tour date as evidence: a July 25, 2015 show in Tallinn, Estonia. But, surprise surprise, July 25 came and went and we're pretty sure Rihanna has never been anywhere near Tallinn.
The Release Date:
"Very soon," Rihanna told Entertainment Tonight nearly a year ago now, in November 2014. But alas, then there was nothing. More recently, in an exclusive interview with NME magazine she said that "I have so many songs I love—and they're so different—that it's hard to actually put them all on the same album." She also added: "To me it's never done until it's done." The wait continues.
Update 9/28/2015 6 p.m.: This post was originally published on April 8, 2015 and has since been edited throughout.