For all of Rihanna's sci-fi S&M; garb and unfortunate resilience in the tabloids, she's released hits with enough speed and consistency to rival anyone in pop history. On Nov. 19, she'll return with "Unapologetic," a new full-length for Island Def Jam that continues her streak of about an album per year with nary a chart miss in the bunch.
The album, her seventh, should return focus to her hit-making acumen after a grind of speculation about her wishy-washy connections with Chris Brown. Lead single "Diamonds," a downtempo slow-burn compared to last year's rave blitz of "We Found Love," is already topping Billboard R&B; and hip-hop charts.
The title and cover art also continue her knack for alluding to speculation about her personal life while never actually explaining much. The title professes autonomy, and the art harkens back to the magic-marker body art of the Riot Grrrl era.
But everything still abides by her rules for pop-friendly, sex-charged dance-floor assertiveness. The formula works -- Rihanna's the most-"Liked" artist on Facebook and the top-selling artist of all time in digital formats, with 146 million tracks worldwide even while a "classic" full album eludes her.
If nothing else, "Unapologetic" proves that even in a warp-speed digital era, the old rules of pop -- singles rule, release them often, keep difficult concept albums to a minimum -- are more relevant than ever.