Rihanna: The Billboard Cover Story
It's been just six weeks since Rihanna's wax figure was unveiled, but already it needs a makeover. The creepily life-like sculpture, which assumed its place in Madame Tussaud's Washington, D.C., outpost on Aug. 31, immortalizes the biker chick-meets-"Blade Runner" look that the pop star rocked this past winter: shoulder-padded blazer, airtight corset, shimmery makeup and a haircut that only she could pull off, part-buzz cut and part-blonde-streaked, sideways swoop.
But Rihanna has moved on since then, now sporting mostly shoulder-length, barrel-curled locks in a shade twice as fluorescent as fire-engine red. Her new look is less severe, more romantic. A day after the figure's unveiling, a photograph of the Barbadian singer kissing her waxen self appeared on Twitter and made it abundantly clear how much she's changed."A lot of people dress like Lady Gaga now. I've just stepped off into a whole new look and style," Rihanna says calmly, phoning in just before a flight to London after a nonstop week of work and play in New York. "The whole shoulder pad thing, and the architectural look, is so sharp-edged and tough. I'm over that. I like floral prints now, which I never liked.
"Trends are boring," she adds. "It's boring to see everyone doing the same thing."
For her recent collaboration with Drake, a remix of "What's My Name" that will appear on "Loud" as a bonus track, Rihanna personally presented the track to the Canadian MC. "She played the record to Drake backstage somewhere to try to get him on a verse," Hermansen says. "She's calling me up saying, 'Where are the files?' That's one thing you don't hear often from artists on her level."
"Drake is the hottest rapper out right now," Rihanna says, "and we've always been trying to work together. He's the only person I thought could really understand the melody of the song, and the minute he heard it he said, 'I know exactly what I'm going to do. I love it.' And he did it like three days later."
Much of the actual recording was done while Rihanna was on the road for her Last Girl on Earth tour, which kicked off in April in Europe and wrapped in August in the United States. (It will resume early next year in Australia.)
DIRECT TO FAN
Rihanna is the first to admit that making a personal connection with her fans hasn't been her strong suit up to now. "I just felt like there was this big distance with us," she says. "You know, they love me, they love how I dress and they move to my music, but they don't really know who I am."
That started to change in late August when Rihanna took over her Twitter account, which before had only been used to issue formal announcements. "No more corny label tweets!" she declared, and soon she was going even more direct, announcing the title of her new album in a live chat on fan site RihannaDaily.com. "I just got on there and started talking. Some of them didn't believe that it was me, like, 'Oh, fake Rihanna,' " she says of the first time she visited the chat. "So I got my best friend to Facebook RihannaDaily so they knew it was really me."
Rihanna utilized Twitter and Facebook to debut her album cover at the end of September, posting partial images of the artwork on the social networks, then directing fans to her official website RihannaNow.com for the full reveal.
"Fan engagement is a huge driver for us," IDJMG senior director of marketing Gabriela Schwartz says. "We had a lot of fun with our digital rollout for 'Rated R,' which was more about intrigue, countdowns, teasers and building anticipation. This is 'Loud' and it's inclusive, it's in your face and immediate, which is exactly what the album represents."
Though most of the "Loud" campaign's key elements have yet to be finalized, Schwartz says a viral campaign to search for the "loudest fan in the world" will launch in the next couple of weeks, and on Oct. 4 in London, Rihanna spent a reported eight hours at the trendy retail chain Topshop's flagship store, styling several fans and contest winners in outfits of her choosing.
Another element of the campaign involves a partnership with Doritos, although details are still under wraps after a curious-looking video for "Who's That Chick," a David Guetta-produced track, leaked online. Neither Schwartz nor a Doritos representative would comment on the leak or what the campaign entails, though the latter did say an announcement was coming soon and mentioned the website DoritosLateNight.com, which displays a video of Rihanna behind the scenes and teases an "interactive video" next to a still image from the leaked clip.
As for other high-profile looks, Rihanna is booked to perform on ABC's "Good Morning America" fall concert series Nov. 17, the day after "Loud" streets, and on the Halloween episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
For the first time, Rihanna is also delving into other sectors of the industry. She'll launch her first fragrance, titled Reb'l Fleur (a play on words from a tattoo on her neck that reads "rebelle fleur") next spring, and she's currently filming scenes for "Battleship," an action movie directed by Peter Berg.
"My favorite part has been shooting in the ocean," Rihanna gushes, sounding her most excited. "We were going at top speed, and I had to shoot this really badass weapon off the front of the boat. There was gunpowder all in my mouth by the time it finished."
Rihanna has a stuntwoman for her more daring scenes, but per usual, she's more likely to take charge. "They always want me to sit down when the dangerous stuff happens, but I am a control freak," Rihanna says. "So I said, 'No.' She doesn't do it like I would do it."