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Leave Rihanna alone! A manifesto for healthier pop fandom in the 2020s

In the final days of December, speculation that Rihanna might be about to release her ninth album, known among fans simply as R9, entered overdrive. Despite the many articles and social media posts leaking titbits about the work in progress over the last four years, Rihanna has never shared official details about the project, though she once said her next album would come out in 2019.

It’s because of this throwaway comment in 2018 that relations between Rihanna and her “stans” (super fans) reached a kind of mania in late December. The star has posted taunts about “listening to R9 by myself and refusing to release it”, while her fans are gleefully joking about breaking into her house and holding her at knifepoint to obtain the album. Whatever Rihanna posts – whether it’s about the Australian bushfires or a friend who has died – the response is the same. Among Rihanna’s first tweets of 2020 was a carefree selfie. The first reply came from a fan: a picture of a child holding a knife, captioned: “Where’s the damn album.”

When did fans start believing they deserve albums from their favourite pop stars? New albums were once “eagerly awaited”; now fans believe that work is, in effect, being held to ransom. A similar chaotic energy surrounded Frank Ocean in 2016. He hadn’t released music in more than four years; like Rihanna, he had casually teased dates for new music only to miss his own deadlines. For a while, he couldn’t be

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