An Analysis Of Rihanna’s Album Release Schedule

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    Rihanna album cover TheLavaLizard
    A collection of Rihanna’s four most recent album covers.

    On November 19th, Rihanna will issue her seventh album, ‘Unapologetic’, in as many years. However, this large number of releases by the world’s most prolific and pervasive Pop star doesn’t exemplify a high demand for her music. Rather, it represents an artist eager to remain relevant through clever timeliness and repetition.

    Rihanna’s music can only be described as a generic blend of Pop, Reggae, R&B and Hip-Hop; a modern take on the Reggae Fusion genre that rose to popularity in the 1990s and dominated the early 2000s. Fortunately for Rihanna, she is set apart from her peers by her natural West Indian twang, near unlimited resources provided by her label and of course, her unmistakable voice that strangely attracts shallow music fans, who are more enthralled by catchy hooks than dramatic vocal performances. Yet, despite these many advantages, Rihanna is still just a Pop artist with a young audience.

    As previously explained in an article I wrote shortly after the release of her ‘Talk That Talk’ album last year – you can compliment me on my amazing plugging skills later – Rihanna is the face of the iTunes generation (the 16-25 age bracket), of which individuals generally purchase singles instead of full albums. Hence, she relies on much larger promotional campaigns to accumulate record sales that her counterparts with more mature target audiences easily command. So, the science of Rihanna’s audience provides a perfect explanation of why she has to release a continuous stream of material in an effort to maintain her relevance.

    “…Rihanna needs to remain in the media spotlight with her fashion, propaganda and music so that she won’t be replaced by another trendy Pop act.”

    As a ramification of her fans’ short attention spans – I personally blame the patchwork format of ‘Sesame Street’ – Rihanna can’t take an extended break from the music scene. Instead, she needs to remain in the media spotlight with her fashion, propaganda and music so that she won’t be replaced by another trendy Pop act. Hey, you would do the same thing if your boss (Jay-Z) was actively grooming your replacement (Rita Ora).

    It would be quite unfair, however, if we pretended that Rihanna was the first artist to drop new albums on an annual basis. That release pattern was actually the standard in the 1960s and 1970s, and only lost popularity when the MTV era was launched.

    With the increased popularity of music videos during the 1980s, artists were able to extend the lifespan of their singles and reach larger audiences via television, therefore allowing them to expand their reach with far less effort. Basically, they no longer needed to release 13 albums in a decade as Aretha Franklin did in the 1960s. Of course, black artists similar to the Queen of Soul were competing just to be heard during the then segregated music market, and their struggles were far greater than simply remaining on trend.

    This leads us to the next phase of our analysis: Rihanna’s use of timeliness and repetition. Anyone who has been paying attention to this Bajan would have noticed that her last 3 albums were all released during almost the exact same weeks of their respective years – ‘Rated R’ (November 23rd 2009), ‘Loud’ (November 16 2010) and ‘Talk That Talk’ (November 21st 2011). That, my dear friends, was no coincidence.

    How do you train a dog? You give it simple commands that follow a similar repetitive pattern. By that logic, the young, unfocused members of the iTunes generation have been groomed to expect a new album from Rihanna in November of each year, thus helping her marketing team to lower the cost of initial promotion because the fans won’t have to be informed that a record is coming; the news only has to be confirmed. Additionally, if the Navy -that is her nickname for her followers – somehow forgets, she simply has to change her hairstyle, which also adheres to a strict schedule, as a reminder.

    Furthermore, the November period for Rihanna’s album releases wasn’t chosen at random. When do album sales in the US famously spike every year? That’s right, the week of Thanksgiving, which is also the time when Rihanna’s new albums hit the shelves. Hence, as an artist who needs as much of a sales boost as she can get on the album charts, there is no better opportunity for success.

    Now you know why Rihanna releases a new album during the month of November every year. As a basic Pop artist with a young audience, she has to fight to maintain her relevance or else risk being replaced. So, her team has aptly trained her fans and manipulates them as much as they can to purchase her music. For Rihanna’s sake, Mitt Romney better not win the US presidential election or else he will cancel ‘Sesame Street’ and by extension, her fanbase.

    Thoughts?

    • Jess

      Great post! 100% on point!

      • I’m sorry, what is wrong with knowing the peak times to release an album again? I definitely do not belong to the ‘itunes generation’ but I love Rihanna’s music; a lot of it is timeless (umbrella comes to mind, we found love, shut and drive…rehab… the list goes on.) she knows what she’s doing, she’s breaking records all over the place…somehow, this is bad?

        • Jess

          That is YOUR opinion, I happen to agree with this post. There is nothing wrong with knowing the peak time but for me she never shows artistic growth. Writers and producers make her catchy pop tunes and she sings them. There is nothing timeless about Rihanna’s music for me. Mariah Carey released albums year after year but the difference is she showed artistic growth. That’s just my opinion which I’m entitled to have and your entitled to yours.

        • Jess

          *you’re entitled to yours

    • Micky Click

      Oh Wow That The Truth

    • truthteller

      I think I should feel somewhat offended since I actually like Rihanna and some of her music.Lol. What you said is somewhat true. She needs to release albums back to back to stay relevant. Its kind of standard in the pop game for the most part.

    • So funny that you said she’s the leader of the iTunes generation and her own team said ‘you get new iPhones every year and Rihanna makes music for you to put on it.’

      Y’all are on to something!

    • LOL

      Yup, well said. A break would be good though, I think this is lazy and redundant. If she even took a year and a half out, there will still be her spot in the industry.

      And although this is a Rihanna post I will just like to point out that this is the same reason Nicki is releasing in November is to hopefully gain platinum sales with ‘The Re-Up’, as she did with PF during this period two years ago. Boost those sales.

      • V

        Yes it’s very true her spot could still be there but herself and her team are so nervous her indebted fans are gonna move on they release these albums like clockwork out of fear. Her talent and fan base ain’t strong enough for those typa chances so they don’t

    • Anna

      very good article.

    • Tc23

      great post! ive been saying this stuff for years and her navy just dismiss me as a hater .. the girl can make a catchy tune and actually has some decent songs in her discography, but too not see her career as the over saturation of a girl with an extremely basic talent level is just naive

    • AM!R

      FINALLY someone recognizes the obvious!

    • Benron (King Of The Fucking Navy)

      I’m confused as to why you say it like taking breaks doesn’t hurt an artist of any kind, who takes breaks and comes back stronger anymore, no one.

      And I wouldn’t say she MANIPULATES buying her albums because I see her fans not buying if they don’t want to, for the rest of the article I agree though.

    • Liberiangirl

      Good article Trent, let me sip this tea and watch the “Navy” flood the comment section with ridiculousness http://t.co/rSwdgfGV

    • shane

      trent told no lies

    • UNapologetic#9

      And ur point is??? The bottom line is the music game has changed. Those not working the game like Ri are exactly what u state, IRRELEVANT, esp the copycat RO. Ri is winning and will be a legend. Deal with it. Xoxo

    • IAmDK

      I love Rihanna. I really do but this is very accurate. I also would love if Trent talked about how there was more than a years difference between ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ and ‘Rated R’ and how ‘Rated R’ is Rih’s best album (Musically)

    • larry

      Ooop!!!

    • jojo

      1. all pop music is pretty generic overall…..(minus born this way and rated r albums, just to give you recent examples)
      2. of course she releases in november for sales its no secret
      3. perople like madonna never took long breaks..look at the beginging of her career. 1st album 1983, 2nd 1984.3rd.1986. one soundtrack and one remix album in 1987. 4th in 1989. greatest hits album with new songs in 1990 and new soundtrack in 1990. its important to stay very visable
      4.rihanna is just smart unlike brandy,ciara,j.lo,nelly furtado,jessica,ashlee simpson,avril,shakira..rihanna dosent want to be lost in the wave of pop stars so she stays visable, i see no harm..thouh i wish she would tune out another rated r, all of the alumbs above(minus the yet to be released one) went platinum, thats BIG for this “ITUNES GENERATION SINGLES ARTIST”

    • R&B LIVES

      I agree a lot of the article. Jody Rosen wrote a piece at Slate.com titled ” Why is Rihanna so popular?” ….

      He desribed her as a one hit wonder 10 x over. He also gave her credit for having a great EAR.

      I agree with his analysis. Rihanna’s gift is that she really does have a GREAT EAR.

      I wouldnt pay to see her in concert but I admit that I do love songs like WE FOUND LOVE, PLS DONT STOP THE MUSIC, UMBRELLA, TAKE A BOW, PON DE REPLAY, SOS, RUDE BOY, BIRHDAY CAKE, WHAT’S MY NAME, ETC… AND I DONT EVEN LIKE A LOT OF POP MUSIC…. I get her success.

      Ciara is more talented but Rih has the better songs b/c she has a good ear….. She clearly can hear a hit ( unlike Ciara whom i love).

      She also has great style ( most of the time), which is important in pop culture. She will probably move into stadiums on the next leg of her European tour….

      She not the best performer but I watched her Hackney show on youtube and she does have a great team and she is smart enough to know what her fans want.

      Her last six albums have gone multiplatinum around the world and she is breaking BILLBOARD records….

      She will eventually become a pop icon like her hero Madonna…. another talentless act.

      • ksw

        I wouldn’t call Madonna a talentless act, seeing that she wrote most of her songs. Ciara maybe more talented than Rihanna, but Rihanna has the better music. I think if Ciara had Rihanna’s team, Ciara will be on top right now.

      • pineapple

        So true! Rihanna can hear a HIT RECORD right away. It’s a shame that so many other artists don’t have that ability AT ALL. There are smash records that Rihanna didn’t even bother releasing and just left as album cuts. She’s definitely very smart, at the end of the day

    • MC

      Very well written and put Trent! I agree, Rihanna’s team keeps this on purpose so that she sells best in November. I don’t think the label cares for her to be honest, they are trying to replace her with Rihta.

      • Benron (King Of The Fucking Navy)

        I see you…..

        • MC

          😛

      • ksw

        Rita Ora is with Roc Nation. Rihanna is with Def Jam, but is being managed by Roc Nation. Big difference. And quiet as it kept, I don’t see it for Rita Ora.

        • MC

          Still doesn’t stop her management and Jay-Z from pumping her as the “next Rihanna”.

        • pineapple

          Roc Nation needs to do better in the way they are marketing Rita Ora. I just don’t see it for her as long as she is “white Rihanna” in terms of her packaging

    • MmmHmm

      RIHANNA CAN BARELY SING, SHE CANT DANCE, & MOST OF HER LIVE PERFORMANCES ARE MEDIOCRE. SHEs AN IDUSTRY MADE “ARTISTS” BUT SHE DOES COME UP W/SOME HOT SINGLES THAT I LOVE!

    • ksw

      Rihanna has a great team behind her. They know what they are doing. They are striking the iron while it’s hot. Every artist would “kill” to have a team like RIhanna’s. The things I want Rihanna to do: Start writing her own material, stop smoking and drinking, and get better with her live performances. She has a lot of potential.

    • pineapple

      Rihanna is the only black female artist playing it like a white girl pop star and WINNING for it. No, she doesn’t have the most talent but she has the team of a champion.

      People say Lady Gaga is the inheritor of Madonna’s throne, but she’s not…Rihanna is. Period.

    • SJ

      Wait…your “analysis” is that she does it to make money??

      I was waiting for the “so what” part of your analysis to kick in and it never did. Since when do pop artists set out NOT to make money?

      • pineapple

        Fair enough. Trent seems to have left out the part discussing what she wants her legacy to be, but maybe that is going to be in his album review of Unapologetic?

    • pineapple

      that Slate.com article that argued that Rihanna can choose a hit record in a way that few other artists can should not be discounted. I mean Beyonce didn’t even release “End of Time” which was the biggest smash on 4. Ciara is practically deaf when it comes to knowing what a smash hit sounds like. Why does Rihanna have this skill in droves meanwhile so many other artists with boundless talent seem incapable of understanding what a hit record sounds like???

      I genuinely want to know…

      • olivia

        but bey was knocked most of the 4 era so she couldn’t promote that

        • olivia

          i ment knocked up

    • Rob

      Every artist has a game plan and a strategy, but at the end of the day people either buy your music or they don’t.

      • ksw

        Exactly. I don’t see why people tend to “pick” on Rihanna, when it’s her team that’s coming up with most of the ideas. I’m pretty sure she just want to make music and be successful.

    • Cajunbajan

      Great post. However I think the big question is, do u think Rihanna wants to be some great vocalist or to improve her game? I don’t think so. I think most her Stans would support her not matter what, she knows this. Where would she be 10 years from now? Who knows. She has great songs. But I think she’s lazy and has no intentions to be better.

    • O’neil

      I did an article on this earlier this year!Rihanna is just desperation to remain relevant!It has become so sickening!

    • O’neil

      Btw if that’s the real reason she releases albums in November it’s still a failure bcuz NONE of them have ever been to number 1!

      • pineapple

        her albums have gone to #1 in the UK, and she is bigger in the UK than the US. please don’t act like the UK market is irrelevant.

    • theman

      There were some good points in this article. But some of y’all bloggers need to leave the Rihanna thing alone. Y’all say the same shyt over and over.

      • Andy

        Amen!! I Back you up on this one!!! There going hard on her when she is just doing what a Pop Artist have to do. She sell. She is talented, but she’s being forced to be going and going. She don’t get a rest and that’s the price she have to pay to be out here as THE BIGGEST POP STAR IN THE WORLD. All you blogger love her, and you just trying to hide it by talkin’ shit about her. Leave her alone, let her live.

      • ksw

        I agree as well. She is successful and amking music. She is living out her dreams.

    • Chris

      Agreed. But about this Rita Ora person that you keep referring to… She hasn’t happened… And will not happen…

      • pineapple

        100% cosign. I am truly getting sick of the media acting like Rita Ora is a thing when she clearly is NOT

    • Girrrl

      So many people have come to your conclusion. What’s the point of reiterating what we all know. Rihanna is using a strategy from earlier decades (Mariah anyone?) to keep her name out there. The only album that really felt rushed was TTT but even that album had bangers. At least Rih is guaranteed to go platinum and have hits. I bet alot of record labels wish they had an artist like her.

      • John

        But Mariah actually had Talent!!!

      • Music-Doc

        I agree with part of what you said. We all knew this already, so there was no point in making an artilce about it.

        However, the difference between Mariah and Rihanna is, Mariah grew artistically, vocally, and musically with each new album (well, she did until she released “Rainbow” in 99, which is just a water-down verison of the “Butterfly” album before it).

        Futhermore, Mariah could sing her face off, but also, write her own hits songs. Rihanna on the other hand, could not. Thus, Rihanna has shown no grow and she’s becoming really annoying.

    • let the truth be known

      With all that said…..she’s still winning 🙂 love it or hate it, it works for her. she needs to give lessons to a few struggle artist still try to stay relevant.

    • Kayla

      If Rihanna puts another album out after this one then I am too through. Can you say over exposure.

    • i dont completely agree tbh. rihanna has acquired a solid fan base strong enough for her to take a break and come back to the top.. at this point she isnt just another pop star. it pains me to say it but by the time her career is over she will be legendary, shes already getting her name in the history books.

    • Music-Doc

      I love detailed articles such as this one. This article was very well written. You gave facts, humor, and examples all in one article, and that is hard to do. The fact is, most people can’t.

      My favorite part of this article was the Aretha Frankin example. Sure, she (Aretha) released an album ever year in the 1960’s, but that is because it was extremely hard for black artists to “get shine,” or just be heard. It was extremely rare for a black artist to cross over into the mainstream (white, middle class Amercia). Amercia was still dealing with blatant racism, segregation, and just pure hatered.

      Futhermore, I do like Rihanna and she has some good songs that I like. However, she does not get played on my iPod every day, or even every week.

      Clearly, Rihanna is just being used by her record label to make as much money as possible, until she burns herself out. Then, I think that when Rihanna’s music starts to stop selling, she will be replaced by the next new trendy artist.

      Lastly, ask yourselves, “What is Rihanna’s talent?” She cannot sing, dance, act or write her own hit songs. So, what makes Rihanna special? She’s beautiul, sexy, and marketable. That’s her “talent” and she plays the “bad girl” role very well.

      • Kayla

        Well said!!

    • I’m sorry Trent, I live you but I totally disagree with this analysis. I am a huge Rihanna fan and I have been from day one. I am not 25 or younger and I kinda resent being referred to as the sesame street fan base. I buy every album, multiple copies (which I usualyy givethe others away via my website) because I am a true fan and don’t mind spending 50 dollars or a lil more to add to album says and see Rih Win… To begin with she released albums regularly to get herself exposed… Her third album contained umbrella which blew up!!! I’m sure there would have been more time between albums after that one had Chrianna Gate not happened.. that cd was primed for singles but after the incident the label had to think quick and figure out how to move on for her professionally and personally. From there I truly believe that she kept releasing albums by choice and too stay busy. She.was heart broken and barred from seeing the love of her life…. So what do you do… Make a shit ton of money!!!! She is now at a point where she does not have tp release albums so readily but I for one am glad that she does because I love her music and relate to it deeply. Most people offer criticism without ever listening to the lyrical content her albums contain. Most get stuck on the outside package.. yes she is beautiful. Stylish and everything else but you cannot deny that her albums have spoke volumes over the last 7 years whether it was to a pop tunes or not.. * excuse any typos I am typing from my phone and its kinda distorted on my screen* with that said everyone is entitiled to their opinions much like their ass.

    • I feel like she might break or bow out after this album. Maybe to focus on other things: acting, business, family… Or maybe not.

    • WonderLand19

      That last line on Mitt Rommey killed me. Trent, great article. Really enjoyed it.

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    • Lil Kim

      who’s rita ora…?

    • ML

      Trent is right. If she takes a year off, it is going to be a struggle. Nowadays even the most talented can’t take that long 6-9 months off. She should take 6 months off to grow instead of having a team of writers do it for her. I actually have all Riri albums but I still know the game. Her team is more concerned with sales which she is more of a single artist than an album artist which is why she doesn’t go to #1 with an album 0 for 6. but she has plenty of #1s (she gets played on pop and urban radio) and people will buy the song because it is catchy but won’t invest in buying her album because for her radio presence and hit factor she barely scans past platinum. Her biggest selling album sold 2.7M and that was after a re-release. I think her team thinks that it is better to just go platinum consistently instead of taking a break and expanding her artistry. Good luck to her but i have a feeling she has 2 more records before the end is near.

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    • CHURCH IS IN SERVICE!

      *Takes seat*

    • kurt

      its sad how she has to release an album every year to stay relevant. i cant wait for ARTPOP to be released in 2013 and slay all these generic pop chicks

    • lulu

      I like this article…things that make u go hmmmm. However I 2 am a BIG Rihanna fan. 42yrs old BTW, & not itunes savvy N the least. What I do know about this chick, is that first & foremost Rihanna is an “Artist”. Not a singer, perhaps an entertainer. Yes she can hold a note, but this bish knows a hit when she is told, taught, or hears one, & is marketable as all get out. Say what u want about her, not one chick N the music industry can hold a candle 2 her fashion game. I once heard someone say (who…can’t remember) “U can buy designer clothes, but U can’t buy style.” That my dear commenters is a gift Rih has hands down. Yes @ the end of the day, U can pick apart her vocals, performances, and the I.Q levels of her Navy, but this Bajan beauty is a Booming Business. C’mon people, lets spit out the hatorade, and give credit where it is due. Keep winning Rih!