ARTICLE: Why Rihanna Is More A Singles Than An Albums Artist...
This week, Billboard announced that Rihanna Fenty, arguably one of the world's biggest popstars at the moment, has only sold 5 million albums in the US since her debut in 2005. Now, while this may have come as a suprise to some people, we can tell you that it most definitely did not to us.
Why, you ask? Well, we intend to share with you stats, facts and figures and our thoughts as to why it is clear that Rih appears to be more of a singles artist than an album one.
First off, let's truly think about how many albums Rih should be selling in correlation with the extensive promotion she undertakes, the incredible amount of money behind her, the great songs she's been given and the individual image she currently has. For RR and GGGB, L.A Reid has truly been spending that cash like no other. It is possible that Rih has one of the largest marketing budgets in the music industry; the producers hired for her two latest albums have been some of the best and most higly paid in the world - Stargate, Will.I.Am, Justin Timberlake, Tricky Stewart, Timbaland and The Dream. You'd be hard pressed to find better producers/writers (with the exception, of course, of JD and hitmaker Timbaland). They give her incredible song after incredible song, hit after hit - Umbrella, Don't Stop The Music, Take A Bow, Cold Case Love, Rudeboy, Photographs. THEN, in the months preceding and succeeding the release of Rih's albums, we see her all over the place; performing, shopping, on all the hottest talk shows.
Then, of course, there is that individualistic image. Rih is one of the most easily recognisable popstars in the world. With that trademark haircut and fashionista styling, she is often found on best-dressed lists and frequently named as one of the best dressed women in Hollywood.
So, with all these factors; with an incredible team behind her and all this promo, why can she still not shift boatloads of albums?
Well, it's actually quite simple. Rihanna, while having some admittedly incredible songs - and indeed great albums (we own AGLM, GGGB and RR) - is simply not someone who the American public seem to take seriously on a musical level. It is apparent that, while they are willing to buy her singles (and indeed give her 7 #1s) and dance to her music in the clubs, they aren't prepared to actually venture out and buy an entire album. It is possible to argue that there is a world of difference between paying 99c for Rudeboy on iTunes and shelling out $10 for Rated R. People just don't seem to want to spend that kind of money on her.
And, for someone who is supposed to be hovering near the level of The Trinity (who we will discuss shortly) in terms of popularity, it is clear that Rihanna simply isn't as popular as her team would have you believe. Is she merely a victim of excessive hype rather than a testimony to how she is actually viewed by the general public.
Now, we can tell that some of you are probably saying something along the lines of the following: 'But she's sold 15 million albums worldwide! That's significantly more than 5 mill in the US!'. And there you would be correct. But not when you put into perspective how much money Def Jam are spending on Rihanna, her records and the extensive promo she undergoes for each album. To make up for all of that, she should be selling around the region that The Trinity are.
The Trinity, comprised of Beyonce Knowles, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, are the three most famous and powerful popstars in the world (Legends notwithstanding). All three are in the Forbes 100 at #2, #4 and #6 respectively and have combined earnings of $213 MILLION in the last year ALONE.
This same concept applies to Rih's tours. Beyonce, Britney and Lady Gaga are all known for their ability to perform damn well and put on an incredible show. Rihanna, on the other hand, isn't. It isn't possible to argue that she is a better entertainer than the other three, and, while she has improved considerably in the last few months and her voice is both memorable and actually good, it just isn't enough in a B-Brit-Gaga world. The other three sell out date after date because they are entertainers on a level Rihanna will simply never be. And that isn't shade to Rih - that is actually just a fact.
Rihanna, who is arguably just beneath them in terms of popularity, is worlds away when it comes to record and ticket sales. To avoid argument, we'll compare stats.
Beyonce has sold 30 million albums with three solo records, which comes to an average of 10 million per album. Lady Gaga has sold 15 million with two records, for an average of 7.5 million. Britney has sold 78.5 million with six records, for an average of 13 million. In comparison, Rihanna has sold just over 15 million albums with four records, for an average of 3.75 million per album. That is a significant difference for someone who is supposed to be up there with them on the world stage.
Now for tours. Beyonce's latest tour, her I Am... Tour, made over $103 million, Britney's The Circus Starring Britney Spears made over $130 mill, while Lady Gaga's is set to also top $100 mill by the time it's complete. This is a world away from Rihanna's which is rumoured to have grossed only about $20-25 mill for a 58 date tour.
Again, some may argue that Rihanna has only been out since 2005 so it's unfair to compare her to Britney and Beyonce, and we'll go so far as to say it's unfair to compare her to Lady Gaga as well. However, please remember that Rih is on her FOURTH album. By this time, Britney had had three sold out world tours, Beyonce was on Destiny Fulfilled level of fame and success (along with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams) and God only knows how successful Lady Gaga will be in two records time. So Rihanna should most definitely be selling a lot more records and tickets than she is at the moment.
Our opinion as to why The Trinity is outselling Rihanna by a clear margin when it comes to albums is that people are more interested in purchasing their albums than hers. Whenever you read the comments beneath blog posts on the four ladies concerning their next releases, you will see the following beneath a Trinity post - 'I can't wait for ______'s new album!' or 'I need a new ____ album'. Under a Rihanna post, you'll see 'I can't wait to hear Rih's new music' or 'Yet another #1!'
There is a world of difference between these statements. While the former give an insight into why The Trinity sell records on a superior level, the latter shows you just why Rihanna has yet to have a #1 album five years into her career. People are more interested in buying her singles and hearing them on the radio, than they are in buying her actually very good bodies of work.
And all these factors contribute to why we are sure that Rihanna, while being incredibly popular and considerably commercially successful (when not compared to The Trinity), will never be a legend or an icon. She can neither perform like them (and, while Britney may not have the best voice, she is still one of the most influential popstars of the last decade and can put on a damn good show) or sell records on their level. When you ask someone about, say, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Madonna or Prince and what made them icons, most often album titles will feature or memorable performances will pop up in their explanation about what makes these artists stand out. Indeed every legend has that iconic/memorable performance, i.e. one that can be considered a turning point in their career. For Beyonce, one could argue that it was her incredible 2003 VMA performance, for Britney, her 2000 VMA showing, for Lady Gaga, her 2009 VMA shocker. Rihanna has yet to have that.
Conclusively, we have no idea what steps Rih could take in order to up her credibility when it comes to albums or have a performance where it is just her OWNING the stage, with no props, dancers or explosions. Yes, she has improved greatly in the last few months, yes, in our opinion, her albums are some of the best of the last ten years and, yes, she can sing. But this isn't enough. She needs to come even harder. She needs to prove her naysayers wrong, that she deserves to be just under The Trinity on the world stage and that she CAN roll with them.
If not, we fear she may just be lost in pop history along with the many other, hot-at-the-moment, stars who came. And went.