Anti already has a world tour attached. It has a $25 million sponsor deal from Samsung. It has fans everywhere salivating for the first new album from Rihanna since 2012’s Unapologetic, an album that she executive-produced, and that became her first No. 1 album debut on the Billboard charts (which seems crazy in retrospect). After Unapologetic she took her first real gap between albums, a gap that has now stretched to three years. The longest she’d gone between releases before–over the course of seven albums–was the stretch between 2007’s Good Girl Gone Bad and 2009’s Rated R.
Consider this–we’ve been hoping that eighth Rihanna album would drop since “FourFiveSeconds” hit the internet last January. So the question remains: When do we get Anti?
Rumor has it the record release may be a mere two days away. Multiple “sources” are speculating that Rihanna will drop her album on the day after Thanksgiving, the infamous Black Friday shopping day. Honestly, what could be a better peg for one of the most anticipated albums in an already jam-packed year? Adele just dropped 25, and emotions are high considering she smashed an all-time album sales record. But, attention is already drifting–Rihanna’s lane is opening back up.
People are excited about buying music because we’re full steam ahead into the consumer-driven holiday season (though if it all leaves you feeling meh, you’re not alone). She rolled out a website specifically for previewing the album on Monday and shared a brief teaser video. She went on a press blitz in October with two massive cover stories. Kanye has all but promised his new album won’t be coming out this year, and you know that record is pretty much the only one Drake is trying to compete with, too. Plus, Rihanna has close enough ties with Kanye via Jay Z and Roc Nation that there’s no foreseeable conflict there. Coldplay is slated to release a new album 12/4, but that’s the only potential artist of merit she’s scheduled to be up against for the first few weeks of album sales. This week tends to be a dead one as far as big name albums go.
The biggest wrench in all these plans though is Tidal, the streaming service that Jay Z and a host of other illuminati-worthy artists launched earlier this year. The release of Anti on Friday is being billed as a Tidal exclusive with a wider release scheduled for the following week, 12/4. This will probably stymie the sales of Anti considerably, because people don’t like Tidal. I won’t get into all the possible reasons behind that here–namely, it is not a very user-friendly or convenient platform–but the fact remains. Will the availability of a Rihanna album be the turning point for the streaming service? Or are streaming service exclusives splintering the audience at large in ways that are hurting the artists themselves? Some people are citing Apple Music’s exclusivity of the “Hotline Bling” video as a big part of the song’s failure to hit No. 1. They’re probably not wrong.
As excited as I am for a new Rihanna album, this roll-out seemed fraught. The #R8 hashtag, a presumed title, gave way to Anti in early October, but still no release date was set. Earlier this year, “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “American Oxygen” both failed to chart well or even gain much notoriety. Sure, “Bitch Better Have My Money” stirred up the thinkpiece wasp’s nest, but it had none of the staying power of “Diamonds” or even “Stay” off Unapologetic. “American Oxygen” evaporated even faster, again, that might be attributable to its initial Tidal exclusivity. Countless other one-offs have been teased or come to us via advertising. They all sound good, but it’s also getting confusing trying to keep up with Instagram videos and Dior commercial soundtracks.
Is Rihanna the one who has to be sacrificed on the altar of Tidal’s mediocrity? The release of 25 was built off hitting hard and fast with a strong single and short roll-out. The album had a firm release date and was available everywhere immediately–this is the exact opposite of what we’ve seen for Anti. The song off this album that really connected for me was “Bitch Better Have My Money” a female-centered, self-worth-stunt that demanded everyone take stock of Rihanna’s true worth. When Black Friday comes around, I hope Tidal and Rihanna look at the trajectory of this year and do the same. She’s worth it.