LOS ANGELES — At 19 (as of last week), Rihanna knows she still has a lot to learn. And that's exactly why she loves working with her "Unfaithful" collaborator Ne-Yo.
"He is such a genius," the Barbados-born beauty said recently. "I've never had vocal training, so when I'm in the studio, he'll tell me how to breathe and stuff. And I'm like, 'What?' Like he'll call out these big fancy words: 'OK, I want you to do staccato.' And I'm like, 'OK, I don't know what that is.' "
After working together on A Girl Like Me (see "Rihanna Shows She's 'Still A Teen' In 'We Ride' Video"), Rihanna spent the week of the Grammys writing songs for the follow-up with Ne-Yo.
"I read through the lyrics, and I'm like, 'What are you thinking? What is going through your head?' " Rihanna recalled. "I just have to stop sometimes and be like, 'Ne-Yo, OK, tell me why you wrote this song.' Because I don't understand how he comes up with certain concepts and he just blows me away sometimes. He's just insane."
Rihanna has also worked with Stargate (Beyoncé) and Evan and Carl (Kelly Clarkson), who first discovered her, as well as hitmaker Sean Garrett. "He is crazy with the melodies," Rihanna said. "I can't keep up sometimes. He will fit five words into one second and you're supposed to get it all pronounced. And I'm like, 'OK Sean, we can't do that.' He's crazy."
Rihanna also has studio time booked with Timbaland and Will.I.Am and is hoping to reel in Polow Da Don (Pussycat Dolls) and Andre 3000. "His style is so amazing to me," she said of the latter.
So far, the new music is going in a different direction for Rihanna. "Not on purpose," she said, "but I just want to hear something fresh."
Fresh and mostly uptempo. "I think that's where I want to go on this one," she said. "You feel different every album, and [at] this stage I feel like I want to do a lot of uptempo [songs]." I want to keep people dancing but still be soulful at the same time."
Rihanna is recording most of the album in Los Angeles, where she is also taking acting classes. "Movies is definitely something that I'd love to do," she said. "I love movies like 'The Matrix' and 'Underworld.' I'm a crazy person."