This is a tale of two posts from Rihanna – a promo for Fenty Beauty from December 2018 and a selfie uploaded earlier this month. Underneath the ad, Rihanna responded to a fan inquiry of when her long-awaited R9 album would finally come out. The artist simply responded, “2019.” But nearly a year later, aside from hints at a possible reggae theme, there hasn’t been much else from Rih on the music front. This brings us to the second post.
In it, Rihanna’s decked out in gold chains and rings, an Abraham Lincoln-esque top hat, and a shirt that says “ART SCHOOL DROPOUT.” She purses her lips as if she’s in the midst of delivering some bad news. Her caption is a bummer for fans clamoring for music but a nice reminder of her own limits as a human: “This year has been quite an overwhelming one, and I’m working on that ish called Balance,” she wrote. “Brb.”
Still, even if the follow-up to 2016’s Anti is not out for some time, it’s definitely in the works. In a June interview with Interview magazine, she revealed that she was in the thick of the recording process. “I’m really happy with a lot of the material we have so far, but I am not going to put it out until it’s complete,” she said. “It makes no sense to rush it, but I want it out.” Here’s the thing: She probably couldn’t even rush it if she wanted to.
Rihanna’s been so busy outside of recording that it seems absurd to even expect a new song, let alone a new album before the year is over. She’s done so much in 2019, from starting a new fashion house to releasing a visual autobiography, that her having to take some recovery time makes a ton of sense. It’s also a lesson that we really have to stop bugging Rihanna. As we reflect on our own expectations, here’s a breakdown of everything Rihanna did in 2019.
January 6: She starts off the year by teasing new music
After suggesting that R9 would be coming out in 2019, Rihanna lit the fire of expectation in January with a 15-second Instagram clip. Though it was just a quick studio snippet with a spacey filter, it was proof that she wasn’t playing around and was actively in the studio working towards an LP.
Later, in May, she confirmed that R9 would presumably be the name, thanks to fans that “have haunted” her. In August, she revealed that she was “really happy with a lot of the material we have so far,” which sounds like proof that she’s working on it. Want more? She apparently even registered a new song, “Private Loving,” with performance rights organization BMI.
March 25: She made plans to enter into the skincare business
Fenty Beauty has been a smash in the cosmetic industry since its 2017 debut, so two years later, Rihanna looked to expand into skincare; in March, she trademarked the name “Fenty Skin.” News about it has been quiet since, but it aligns with a fan find in 2017 that suggested various lotions, creams, and more had been registered under “House of Fenty.”
April 12: She stars in Donald Glover’s Guava Island
Technically, the movie that Rihanna shot in Cuba with Donald Glover was filmed last August, but it didn’t come out until this April. The film, directed by Glover’s Atlanta collaborator Hiro Murai and featuring Black Panther’s Letitia Wright, debuted at Coachella before streaming on Amazon Prime. Rihanna plays a seamstress named Kofi, a partner to Glover’s Deni Maroon, and plenty say they wish she would have sung in the movie. But that would have required recording more music.
May 10: She starts a new fashion house
Back in January, reports abounded that Rihanna was in the middle of signing a historic fashion deal with LVMH. It wasn’t until May that the conglomerate officially unveiled news that the singer would create a Paris-based luxury fashion house named Fenty. In doing so, Rihanna became the first female designer of color for the brand and propelled her to become the wealthiest female musician in the world. She shared the clothing collection that “takes shape with her vision in terms of ready to wear, shoes, and accessories, including commerciality and communication of the brand” on May 22.
June 20: She goes day drinking with Seth Meyers
In the raucous segment for Late Night, she played a couple drinking games and sipped on some Rihanna-inspired drinks like "Under My Rumbrella," "Diamonds in the Rye," and "We Found Veuve in a Hostess Place." Afterward, the pair acted as bartender and barfly when Rihanna posed an interesting question to Meyers: "If I were to quit music, what should I do?" When Meyers brought up her business deals, Rihanna side-stepped it, and the pair came to the conclusion that she should be a pilot, something that she's wanted to do since she was a child.
September 12: She raises $5 million for her nonprofit
Her yearly benefit gala, the Diamond Ball, drew more than 500 attendees, including Megan Thee Stallion, 21 Savage, and Meek Mill. The hip-hop stars donated sums of money, directly and through auctions, to Rihanna’s nonprofit charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation, which benefits impoverished communities around the world.
September 20: She amps up Savage x Fenty
At the same time, Rihanna continued with her lingerie brand Savage x Fenty that’s since enlisted Normani as its first-ever brand ambassador. During Fashion Week, she hosted a show in Brooklyn that featured Normani, Halsey, Big Sean, A$AP Ferg, Migos, DJ Khalid, and 21 Savage all taking the stage, making it feel more like a concert than a fashion show. More than 200 countries streamed it from Amazon.
October 7: She designs and releases her own photo book
Rihanna’s pictures tell a story of an evolving pop star whose likeness has captivated the world since she entered the industry in 2005. In October, she released a self-titled “visual autobiography” that consists of 1,000 photographs of her “life as a musician, performer, designer, and entrepreneur.” It’s a hefty book that sits at 15 pounds and was carefully curated from over 400,000 photos taken by her personal photographer, Dennis Leupold. It's the perfect vessel to take some time to reflect on Rihanna's journey, and her latest selfie is the dedication to balance that she needs. After seeing just how much she did in 2019, how could anyone pester her for music? Save it for 2020.