Last night, Rihanna tweeted a super hot black-and-white Paolo Roversi image of herself alongside a series of ominous hashtags, including #BBHMM, #R8 and #March26. The message was obvious – the Barbados-born singer was about to launch her new single. With “Bitch Better Have My Money” etched in Braille alongside a grainy photograph featuring a topless RiRi, draped in a heavy leather biker jacket courtesy of Undercover, chandelier diamond earrings and a pair of eyebrows worthy of their own cover, it's a bold new visual direction for Instagram's baddest. With the single just dropped, we dissect what we've learned so far from the codes behind the cover.
She’s stepped up the fashion stakes and teamed up with the king of the nude, Paolo Roversi
It’s no secret that Rihanna’s stepped it up in the fashion stakes, after a string of dalliances with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and Olivier Rousteing at Balmain, just last week it was announced she would take the title as the first black women to represent Dior. Taking this cross over to her music, she teamed up with Paolo Roversi to shoot the cover of her new single. The Italian-born photographer found his feet when he shot poet Ezra Pound's funeral in Venice and has since gone on to shoot everyone from Naomi Campbell and Stella Tennant. A champion of the ‘less is more’ mantra, Roversi favours subtraction when creating his image, whether clothes, set or beauty, with most of his models appearing soft and serene, against a simple backdrop – which explains Riri's stripped back look.
She’s come a long way since “Pon de Replay”
Staring down the barrell of a lens in nothing but a leather jacket and some diamonds – we’ve seen Rihanna slowly take off the glitz and glam of the 'pop' singer. The look is a departure from the hoop earrings and shimmering eyeshadow that came hand-in-hand with the early days of her 2005 smash hit "Pon de Replay" – and, thankfully, she's grown a few centimeters on those brows. With this photocopy-style image that looks as if it's been torn from the pages of an early 1980s issue of The Face, this might just be Rihanna at her rawest yet.
She’s taken to using Braille, quite a lot
When Rihanna used Braille to illustrate her surprise acapella-style collab for “FourFiveSeconds” with Paul McCartney and Kanye West it seemed like a simple style choice. Although advances in technology are making it easier for the visually impaired to read Braille online, we're not sure how far that extends to Instagram. And while it may be one of the most common 'languages' in the world, it's also a mainstay of the 'file under really, really obscure minimal techno' section of Discogs. But by looking towards techno musicians like Unit and Ladies Love Leon, does Rihanna’s adoption of the script mean we’re set to see a more underground style from one of the world’s biggest pop stars in the lead up to R8?
She’s been feeling a bit black and white lately
Chalk this up to a conspiracy theory, but, including this new release, Rihanna’s penchant for a B&W filter is pretty strong right now. From her AnOther SS15 cover story, to last month's Ye/Macca collab, the hue ties nicely to a more serious image. It’s not like we haven’t seen it before, but it comes down to how we’ve seen it. Compare it with Rihanna’s 2012 album Unapologetic, shot by celebrity photographer Michael Muller and oozing with sex appeal. Fast forward to a softer, doe-eyed RiRi and this feels more sexy than anything she's ever done – all without a suggestive pose in sight. But we should have seen this coming, really. On 20 February, Rihanna treated us on her 27th birthday by releasing a pre-#BBHMM black and white image of her with big brows, bare chest, and a well placed arm. The image was slated as a preview shot for her upcoming and much anticipated album R8, with photography credits going to Roversi. The single’s cover shot is just the second in the RiRi/Roversi collab – and we can’t wait for the next batch to drop.
She’s tapping subcultural style
How time flies – Rihanna’s 27 now, but it seems Roversi and RiRi are tripping back to the beauty of British adolescence. Dropping the 'smize' for a thousand-yard stare, the singer channels a style best immortalised by British subculture photographer Gavin Watson. With his documentation of UK tearaways seeing him credited as the inspiration behind Shane Meadow’s 2006 breakout film This is England, you’d be forgiven for thinking RiRi was on the cover of an early 80s punk zine. Speaking of 80s subculture links, we can’t help but make connections between the black and white-hued beauty and legendary stylist Ray Petri’s strong, sexually charged and ‘give a shit’ images of models clad in a mixture of underwear, bareskin and ready-to-wear. As one of the most influential names in fashion, even after his death, Petri was a founding member of the Buffalo collective, which also included Jamie Morgan, Roger Charity and Mark Lebon. A style movement in itself, Buffalo was a pioneer of DIY post-punk styling – with a particular fancy for a wide shoulder – and Petri and his gang were known for bringing street style to the masses, as well as championing the black model – especially that of Naomi Campbell and singer/model Neneh Cherry. We can’t help but think that leather jacket might be a nod to the fashion heavyweight himself.
She kept us guessing with a nod to 90s rapper AMG and an app called Dubsmash
RiRi followed her Roversi reveal yesterday by Instagramming a clip of Cleveland rapper AMG introducing his 1992 track “Bitch Betta Have My Money” – an uncensored ode to his dick and how much sex he has. The connection between the two was obvious, with Rihanna titling her song “Bitch Better Have My Money,” but will RiRi be singing about her privates while giving us a rundown on bedroom tactics with Drake and Chris Brown? No – but she did keep us guessing with a collective 10 seconds or so of the song's intro and outro being previewed on Dubsmash (an app designed to give short clips of sound) before dropping the trap-style single on iTunes this afternoon.
Follow Ashleigh Kane on Twitter here @ashleighkane