Rihanna in one of her Samsung-sponsored Anti Instagram teasers
Where is Rihanna’s patiently awaited Anti? It’s a question that we’ve been asking, hungrily, for well over a year now. Perhaps we’ll be made to wait so long that hunger turns to hanger and everyone gives up hope in exchange for that second Beyoncé Super Bowl performance. All we can really hope for at this point is that it doesn’t turn into another Dr. Dre Detox scenario.
Unfortunately, the suspicion when it comes to multiple delays is that the product is not good—which means the pressure for Rihanna, Kanye West (who is noted as executive producer on the album) and the rest of her team at Def Jam/Roc Nation to release something of quality is quadrupled. With ongoing cancelations and delays casting a shadow of doubt over the album’s merit, they’ve painted themselves into a corner. Adding to the tension is the fact that Anti will be Rihanna’s first album since Unapologetic, signifying a three year gap between LPs and the longest hiatus of her career. When Unapologetic came out in 2012, Rihanna had released seven albums in eight years, which is prolific even in our culture of short attention spans and instant gratification. The result has been plenty of unforgettable bangers (“Umbrella,” “Rude Boy,” “We Found Love” to name a few), which have helped overshadow each album’s glut of filler. The pause in production, you’d hope, would be indicative of better care being given to crafting a cohesive and spectacular tracklist with zero percent lag, but unfortunately from the outside looking in the general disorganization and apparent franticness around Anti seems to suggest that might not be the case. The Samsung ads featuring Rihanna (called the #ANTIdiaRY) don’t help matters either.
What Anti is doing to Rihanna is making her the unwitting hype man to a non-existing concept. The promotion for the album has rocketed past the actual production of the album at breakneck speed with Ri on the campaign trail not only through her own social media and press circuits (she was promoting animated DreamWorks movie Home in 2015), but in near cultural saturation. Everywhere you looked in 2015, there was Rihanna, pimping some new product, or staring seductively from the cover of a magazine, her very gaze teasing the apparent impending release on Anti. In the past year, Rihanna has become the face of Dior, the ‘Brand Ambassador and Creative Director’ of Puma, collaborated on a range of socks with the brand Stance (“Who is she, Rob Kardashian?” was my editor’s note, which literally made me laugh the water in my mouth out of my nose), and released her own perfume, RiRi by Rihanna. She appeared on the cover of The Fader (with no interview, perhaps because she had nothing to say about the one thing she’d be asked about—Anti), the cover of Vanity Fair, with a spread that made no mention of Anti, but rather, delved deep into her current dating proclivities, and in an interview with Miranda July for T Magazine (again, with no mention of Anti despite the interview’s late year release in October). She also graced the cover of i-D’s music issue, as well as Harper’s Bazaar and V Magazine. At the annual MET Gala she swanned through in the year’s most memed dress, and generally pervaded the celebrity/music news cycle as if, oh, I don’t know, she was about to release an album.
What Rihanna’s busy 2015 was designed to do was get fans excited for a brace of new songs. But the promotion for Anti, including all the incidental Rihanna appearances, has put the cart potential light years ahead of the horse. Keeping up with the Anti announcements, what’s been redacted, what stands, and what we can potentially expect from Ri’s long awaited release is more painful than keeping up with the Kardashians. Surely it must be soon? While we wait (interminably) here’s the story so far...
OCTOBER 8, 2014: THE FIRST SIGN SOMETHING WAS BREWING
Rihanna treated fans to a cryptic Tweet and photo, suggesting she was back in the studio recording what was believed to be her new album.
NOVEMBER 15, 2014: DJ SKEE ANNOUNCES NEW RIHANNA SONGS
DJ Skee, entirely jumping the gun, said Rihanna had shared 10 new songs with her label, which in retrospect seems unlikely, or like maybe a more appropriate reveal would have been “Rihanna has 10 new songs rejected by label.”
NOVEMBER 25, 2014: THE FIRST MENTION OF RELEASE
Over a year ago, regarding the release date of her tentatively titled album, Rihanna tweeted, “ANY news about #R8 will be delivered directly from me!!!!” The Rihanna Navy lost its collective shit, thinking Santa was going to bring them a new Rihanna album for Christmas. Turns out they had all been very, very naughty, because two Christmases have now gone by and no album has been delivered to anyone’s stocking.
That same day, Rihanna teased a clip with the song “Kiss It Better” (written by John Glass), which was believed to be appearing on #R8. She also teased what’s believed to be a track called “I’ve Been Searching for Something to Ignite Me When I’m Alone” (one of the tracks mentioned by DJ Skee) on Instagram and began taunting fans with photos of Baddie Winkle bearing the #R8 hashtag.
DECEMBER 17, 2014: BROKEN DREAMS
Rihanna shattered dreams for a Christmas 2014 release when she told WWD she was planning to release an album in 2015, saying, “I don’t know when exactly, but you will know when I know it.” The next day she posted a photo of herself with fans in Paris, where she was allegedly shooting something called The #R8 Experience, which is yet to be seen, and has been called “a still unknown fan experience.”
JANUARY 24, 2015: “FOURFIVESECONDS”
A surprise release of “FourFiveSeconds,” penned by and featuring Paul McCartney, as well as Kanye West, was a restoration of faith after missing out on a Christmas release. The song is excellent, with a more enduring quality than most of Rihanna’s output. It also allows you to gleefully imagine the moment when Sir Paul decided to use the word “wildin.’” It’s still believed that “FourFiveSeconds” will make it to Rihanna’s new album.
MARCH 2015: “HIGHER,” “AMERICAN OXYGEN,” AND “BITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY”
In the first quarter of 2015, it seemed like the ball was really rolling on Rihanna’s record. She shared various clips of ballad “Higher,” and her song “American Oxygen” was used for the NCAA’s March Madness campaign. Both are still rumored to be on the new album, although the latter seems to be more likely than the former, as it was an official release on TIDAL in April. She also released “Bitch Better Have My Money,” accompanied by one of 2015’s more iconic music videos, which will also apparently be making its way onto the new album. On her press tour for movie Home, she told MTV she wanted her new album to be “timeless.”
MAY 13, 2015: “ONLY IF FOR A NIGHT”
Sampling Florence + The Machine’s song by the same name (and featuring Florence Welch as cowriter), “Only If For a Night” was teased in Rihanna’s Dior FW15 campaign, “Secret Garden.” The track has not received an official release.
Via Rihanna's Instagram
MAY 20, 2015: “JAMES JOINT”
To celebrate her favorite thing in the world—weed—Rihanna shared “an interlude from my 8th studio album that I call “James Joint.” At this point it started to seem like Rihanna had a full album nearly ready to go. With three fully formed and officially released songs, one song leading a Dior campaign and several more teased via Instagram, at 2015’s midpoint there was no reason to anticipate a delay. And yet…
SEPTEMBER 10, 2015: CHARLI XCX
In an interview with British tabloid The Mirror, Charli XCX officially confirmed she’d been working on writing songs with Ri for her new album.
OCTOBER 8, 2015: THE ANTI-ANNOUNCEMENT
Relative radio silence ensued following a busy first half of 2015. Finally, however, Rihanna unveiled the title for her new album—the Anti we know and gag for now—at Los Angeles Mama Gallery. She also showed off the clearly Kanye West influenced artwork, a mini-Rihanna, half coated in red paint, eyes obscured by a too-large gold leaf crown. However, that same day, in an interview with NME, Rihanna broke news that the album wasn’t finished, saying, “It’s never done until it’s done.” Thanks for that bit of wisdom, Ri.
OCTOBER 29, 2015: THE SAMSUNG DEAL
Following the Anti announcement, Rihanna let it be known that she’d signed a $25 million deal with Samsung, who would be sponsoring the album and her forthcoming tour. This partnership spawned the cringeworthy #ANTIdiaRY, which is a great example of what happens when big corporations interfere in the business of cool, youthful people. The #ANTIdiaRY campaign has been rolling out slowly since, with clips and other convoluted interactive crap becoming available to fans in a countdown to the album release, despite that release not having a set date.
NOVEMBER 3, 2015: VICTORIA’S SECRET
At the eleventh hour Rihanna canceled her scheduled performance at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, allegedly because she was working on wrapping up her album. Priorities.
NOVEMBER 22, 2015: BLACK FRIDAY RELEASE
Teen Vogue reported that Anti would be dropping on TIDAL on November 27, with wide release on December 4, 2015, a.k.a. Black Friday, via advice from Rihanna’s camp. Hindsight’s 20/20.
NOVEMBER 23, 2015: ANTI WORLD TOUR
Rihanna announces her Anti world tour will begin in February 2016, which, at this point, seems like a stretch, giving her little time to rehearse songs from an as yet unreleased and seemingly incomplete album. Meanwhile, Ticketmaster lists dates for the tour as early as February 26, which hopefully is a tacit acknowledgement that we’ll receive Anti before then.
DECEMBER 15, 2015: SIA’S WORD
With a confusing back and forth on release dates, the notion of receiving Anti for Christmas once again seemed bleak. Especially when Sia revealed that Rihanna was still looking for new songs in December.
JANUARY 6, 2016: RIHANNA SPOTTED AT THE STUDIO
Earlier this week Ri was spotted leaving a recording studio in New York, and all we can really do is all cross our fingers that it was to listen to a complete and final cut of Anti..
JANUARY 7, 2016: “REAPER”
With confidence at an all time low, and no news about Anti other than those infuriating Samsung promo spots and paparazzi photo spawned speculation, Sia and Kanye West dropped “Reaper,” a song originally intended for Anti, which will now appear on Sia’s This Is Acting. The song is good enough that it seems like an odd rejection for Rihanna—although it’s decidedly lighter fare than something like “Bitch Better Have My Money,” it would fit in nicely alongside “FourFiveSeconds” and recalls the Sunday-kind-of-love, reggae vibes of “You Da One.” It’s an inoffensive pop ditty in Sia’s hands, which undoubtedly would have been far sexier in Ri’s talons. Regardless, it’s going to be on all my 2016 playlists.
JANUARY 8, 2016: “WORK”
Apparently, Rihanna was shooting a music video for a song called “Work” with Drake this past weekend—at least according to a casting call posted online (although who knows, it could be a hoax). Only time will reveal whether or not there’s truth in this rumor, although I have to say on a personal note I get endless joy out of Drake’s music video boners, so I hope so.
Meanwhile, the whole damn thing is probably going to be some exclusive TIDAL event anyway, so you might be pressed to ask yourself why you bother (unless, of course, you pay the extortionate monthly TIDAL subscription fees). Regardless, here’s hoping Anti comes out sooner rather than later, because we’re starting to get foreplay fatigue. After all, how long can we really be expected to care about a promise, when that promise has been broken so many times?
Kat George is getting hangry. She's on Twitter.