we’re ridiculously ready for some new riri
It's been a great year for pop, but we've missed one thing: Robyn Rihanna Fenty. i-D looks forward to the point when the world receives her new record.
With less than a fortnight until New Year's Eve, it's reasonably safe to presume that Rihanna won't be releasing any new music in 2014. Rumour has it that RiRi is about to "do a Beyoncé" and drop an entire album onto iTunes, but even she couldn't leave it this late in the year, could she? Then again, if anyone has the balls to unleash an LP right as Santa's collecting his big red coat from the dry cleaners, it's the 26-year-old Bajan beauty.
The world of mainstream music has really missed Rihanna this year. Taylor Swift released a fabulous pop album, preceded by a clever promo campaign featuring pre-release listening parties for hardcore fans and a launch gig live-streamed from a Manhattan rooftop. Sam Smith's sad, soulful songs about unrequited love made him the breakthrough success story of the year. Ed Sheeran is now such a big deal, apparently, that he can book in three dates at London's 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium for next July.
But what each of them (and virtually any other A-list artist) lacks is Rihanna's unique combination of superstar quality and genuine edge. You can imagine wandering into a dive bar in any city where she's on tour and ending up doing shots with her until 3am, but you'd still lose your shit when she came onstage the next night and belted out We Found Love.
Beginning with her 2005 debut Music of the Sun, Rihanna released an album every year for seven of the next eight years; a work rate that puts any other big-name pop star to shame: Beyoncé, Britney and Madonna each released three albums in the same period (2005-2012, FYI). But what's really remarkable is that Rihanna managed to be this prolific while exuding an unmistakable air of I Don't Give A Fuck. Rihanna is probably the least try-hard pop star ever: she prefers grinding and crotch-grabbing to dance routines, and she's no Katy Perry-style bants machine in interviews.
In spite of her innate nonchalance, @badgalriri (as she brilliantly brands herself on Instagram) never comes off like an amateur. She has stage presence by the bucket-load and a gloriously unselfconscious personality that always makes her compelling to watch. When I saw her at Twickenham Stadium in June 2013, she told the crowd that this gig was extra-special because her dear old grandmother had flown all the way from Barbados to hear her sing, before launching into S&M, a song which features the refrain "Sex in the air, I don't care, I love the smell of it".
Rihanna has always been supreme when it comes to singles - her Greatest Hits album will be second-to-none. In less than a decade she's already notched up 25 UK Top Ten hits, including collaborations with everyone from Kanye West to Coldplay, so your favourite RiRi tune could end up getting squeezed off The RiSumé (as I'm unofficially naming that Best Of collection): if you're a big fan of 2007's underrated Shut Up and Drive, at this stage it's not looking good for you.
So while I don't begrudge Rihanna this last year off - she's definitely earned it - it's very necessary that her big comeback single arrives imminently. By the time Dry January bores off for another year, I want to be dancing to a bombastic electro-R&B banger that features some kind of double entendre for RiRi's lady bits.
Photography Willy Vanderperre
Styling Panos Yiapanis
T-shirt customised American Apparel. Hat, skirt and leggings Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci. Bra customised by stylist's studio. Earrings and rings model's own.
[The Lovers Of Life Issue, no. 305, Pre-Spring 10]