Rihanna Gets Serious On Rated R Album Cover

Black-and-white image features pensive close-up of singer's face

After the deadly-game song title, razor’s-edge logo and barbed-wire wrap she wore on the cover of her “Russian Roulette” single , it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that Rihanna’s upcoming Rated R album would feature a similarly dangerous image.

But the grainy black-and-white cover shot that leaked Tuesday (October 27) finds the singer in a moody, contemplative pose reminiscent of outrageous 1980s avant-garde singer Grace Jones. Wearing what looks like a leather top, Rihanna is depicted with her hand covering her right eye, with each finger wrapped in an intricate set of rings that hug two knuckles.

The image for the album, due November 23, was shot by fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth, who said Rihanna is “so beautiful, sweet and tough at the same time — and a pleasure to shoot,” according to PopEater.com. Von Unwerth went on to say that Rihanna is “fantastic to work with — very giving, very creative, very involved in every aspect of the shoot and ready to push the boundaries.” The photographer is known for her iconic album covers, including Britney Spears’ Blackout, Christina Aguilera’s Back to Basics and Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope.

The picture, in which Rihanna wears thick, dark lipstick and dramatic eye makeup that gives her a feline look, is just the latest tidbit of information to leak out about the album, her first since 2007′s Good Girl Gone Bad. The reveal of the cover also continues what promises to be a see-saw publicity battle between the singer and her ex-boyfriend, Chris Brown, who both have albums coming out in the fourth quarter.

Both singers are releasing their first efforts since Brown pleaded guilty in June to a felony-assault count stemming from a violent clash in February. And while Brown is barred from being within 100 yards of Rihanna for the next five years, the proximity of their album release dates (his disc, Graffiti, comes out December 15) has led to almost daily attention grabs by both sides for headlines over the past few weeks.

On the same day the Rated R cover emerged, Brown dropped the video for his song “I Can Transform Ya” and was gearing up for his first major live performance since the assault, a headlining spot at Power 105.1′s Powerhouse concert in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Tuesday night.

Just one week ago, Rihanna dropped the “Roulette” single on the same day Brown announced the dates for his “Fan Appreciation” tour , followed by the debut of Brown’s second single, “Crawl.”

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