A lot has happened since Rihanna, one of the most famous singers in the world, last released an album. Two presidencies, a global pandemic, the invention of TikTok and five new Taylor Swift albums all postdate 2016’s Anti, the Barbadian singer’s last full-length project before a seemingly eternal hiatus from music.
Rihanna’s return to the stage during Sunday’s Super Bowl half-time show – her first live performance since pitching in to help DJ Khaled on Wild Thoughts at the 2018 Grammys – does not guarantee new music. Even the singer has joked that R9 (the colloquial name for her next, ninth LP) may be lost to time. But it does herald a megawatt return to the music spotlight for one of pop’s most reliable hit-makers, who has for nearly seven years devoted her energy elsewhere.
Since the release of Anti, a moody, meandering album now considered a modern pop classic, Rihanna has been busy: becoming a billionaire, taking over the Met gala, filming a documentary that has also been on years-long delay (and waiting for her approval, according to director Peter Berg). She launched Fenty Beauty, her cosmetics line, and Savage x Fenty, her lingerie brand, whose annual diverse, body-positive fashion show has essentially consigned Victoria’s Secret’s version to the dustbin. In 2020, she became the first Black woman to head a luxury fashion house, Fenty Maison, for conglomerate LVMH, the company behind Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Celine and others. In May last year, she had her first child, a son, with her boyfriend, the rapper A$AP Rocky.
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Her loyal fandom, the Rihanna Navy, has by now turned “where’s the album?” into a meme, one in which the singer herself has joined. “Rihanna, you take all the time you want on that album, girl. Don’t let these fools on the internet pressure you into nothing!” said Jerrod Carmichael while hosting last month’s Golden Globes, which Rihanna attended after being nominated for one of two songs she has released since 2016: the ballads Lift Me Up and Born Again for the Black Panther: Waka.
The longer Rihanna has been away, the greater the anticipation for her return. The permutations for her set list are endless – it’s easy to forget now, but before Rihanna was famous for the most laidback approach to music in pop, she exemplified its relentless grind. She released seven albums in eight years between 2005 and 2012, broke the record for fastest female artist to reach 10 No 1 singles in 2011, and has logged 63 songs on the charts. She has the fourth-most No 1 songs in history with 14, trailing only Elvis, Mariah Carey and the Beatles. You could build a half-time show out of her output from 2009 to 2011 – Rated R, Loud and Talk That Talk – alone.
The high-profile performance also marks an about-face for the musician, who was among several high-profile artists to decline the once-coveted gig in 2018 and 2019, in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter protests, and who told Vogue in 2019 that she “just couldn’t be a sell-out”.
“I couldn’t be an enabler,” she said. “There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”
The same year, Jay Z’s Roc Nation, which has managed Rihanna since 2010 (Jay Z helped sign her as a 16-year-old to Def Jam records), signed a partnership with the NFL to advise on “culture- and cause-focused initiatives” and produce the Super Bowl half-time show, the most-viewed live television broadcast of each year.
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In other news – Former Kaizer Chiefs defender Willard Katsande is in serious Trouble
Zimbabwean-born footballer Willard Katsande is reportedly on the brink of losing his R2 million luxury Johannesburg house after he defaulted on his monthly installments.
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According to the publication, the Gauteng High Court granted SB Guarantee Company a default judgment to repossess the former Kaizer Chiefs player’s house earlier this month. Learn more