Rihanna has wrapped up her seventh studio album, Unapologetic in seven years, an amazing pace that raises questions about whether she’s being overworked and possibly exploited by her label, headed by rapper Jay-Z.
The 24-year-old pop and R&B singer is definitely one of the hottest acts in music and a virtual cash cow.
But for all her hard work, she ranked dead last on the Forbe’s list of 25 highest paid musicians for 2011. She earned an estimated $29 million in 2012, a tidy sum, but less than Katy Perry ($44 million), Taylor Swift ($45 million), Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas ($61 million), and the queen of pop Lady Gaga ($90 million). She was also out-earned by 21 men on the list.
She’s been working almost non-stop since she was 17, despite some health issues and a lot of emotional baggage following her 2009 assault by then boyfriend Chris Brown.
Rihanna on a Hot, Sweaty LA Night
Few singers have churned out chart-topping albums at such a frenetic pace. She completed work on the album Monday (Nov. 7), and it’s being rushed to market. It will hit the street on Nov. 19 to catch the Christmas rush.
The singer expressed joy and some exasperation with the wrap on Twitter. “Man my album is complete, and I need a f—ing drink and a roll up!” she wrote. “It was quite the journey, but it’s all part of our story! #UNAPOLOGETIC,” she added.
Indeed, the album is one of her most ambitious yet. She made headlines and raised eyebrows when her label released the tracklist. It included a duet with Brown titled “Nobodies Business.” The two have rekindled their friendship and possibly a relationship in recent weeks, an emotional time for her.
The song’s lyrics suggest they are playing up the relationship for all it’s worth. “Me and you/ Said ain’t no nobody’s business” Brown sings. “Your love in perfection/It’s point me in the right direction.” Rihanna counters.
The album has been described as mix of grinding and aggressive songs and softer ballads by MTV News. She also collaborates on songs with Eminem and David Guetta, Future and Mikky Ekko.
But what’s remarkable is the pace of production. Her albums include Music of the Sun (2005). A Girl like Me (2006) Good Girl Gone Bad (2007), Rated R (2009), Loud (2010), Talk That Talk (2011) and now Unapologetic .
She’s headlined tours to promote four albums, and her Loud Tour broke the record for selling out ten nights at the The O2 Arena in London. She’ll kick off fifth headlining concert tour, The Diamonds World Tour, in March.
Between filming videos, her budding movie career, product endorsements and penchant for hard partying, she’s had health issues and has been subject to rumors that she is often near the breaking point. At one point, friends were reportedly urging her to go into rehab.
She signed with Def Jam Recordings after after label head Jay-Z requested a meeting with her. She auditioned in front of the rapper and music mogul L.A. Reid. They signed her to a six album deal the same day.
The music industry’s struggles and reports of financial distress in Jay-Z’s own far flung empire give rise to concerns that the talented diva is being used to prop up the label. It’s impossible, of course, to get details on the financial condition of Def Jam, but the way Rihanna is working raises questions whether she’s their financial lifeboat.
Her latest video for her song “Diamonds” will premiere tomorrow, Nov. 8 at 6:50pm on MTV and on Rihanna.MTV.com.