Rihanna hasn’t followed up her No. 1 album in 5 years, but she’s far from being alone in that category…

(April 3, 2021).  For the better part of the past half decade, Rihanna’s most diehard fans have been clamoring for a followup to the Barbadian superstar’s last album, the 2016 set Anti, which generated her 14th and most recent No. 1 single, “Work” featuring Drake. 

That album was released in January 2016 and reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 soon thereafter.

Rihanna’s ’Anti’ turned five in January. It reached No. 1 in February 2016 and again in April that year. Will a followup happen this year?

It’s been rumored for awhile that the iconic singer has recorded music for another album and, for years, the question has been when she will release it.  But with each year that passes, and as Rihanna has ventured further into her other, non-musical enterprises, there are people who now wonder if she’ll release another album.

All of this has caused her fans and the singer herself a bit of frustration as she has more than once had to remind people to just chill.

It would serve folks well to know that Rihanna is far from being alone in this category of artists who were at the top of their game – literally – before taking a half-decade or more to release another album.  

In fact, djrobblog found that, since 1980, more than 60 such artists – 61 to be exact – who reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart didn’t release another album for five years or longer.  And some of those artists still haven’t released a followup for reasons that will become obvious as you keep reading.

Of these 61 artists, 25 of them are solo acts.  And of those soloists, six of them have entered these ranks within just the past year, including Rihanna.

It’s worth separating the solo artists from the groups because in many cases, the groups called it quits and never released another album after their last No. 1 set.  

Of the 36 groups identified, eleven were considered defunct within five years of their last albums – all No. 1s – including (chronologically by the No. 1s): The Police (1983), Fine Young Cannibals (1989), Milli Vanilli (1990), N.W.A. (1991), The Firm (Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature; 1997), *NSYNC (2001), Led Zeppelin (2003), D12 (2004), Daft Punk (2013*), The Civil Wars (2013), and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2014).

Milli Vanilli‘s ‘Girl You Know It’s True’ topped the Billboard album charts in 1989-90. Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan never sang a note on it.

Everybody’s favorite punching bag, Milli Vanilli, wanted to record a followup to their 1989 No. 1 megasmash LP, Girl You Know It’s True, but a little technicality got in the way: Rob and Fab actually wanted to sing on their second album and, well, we all know the rest of that story.

Petty’s band was considered defunct after his untimely death in 2017.  In Daft Punk’s case, they just announced their breakup earlier this year, nearly eight years after their last album, the No. 1 Random Access Memories.

It’s worth noting that Led Zeppelin’s last No. 1 studio album was 1979’s In Through the Out Door, before a set of rarities, Coda, was issued in 2002.  In 2003, they hit No. 1 with How The West Was Won, a live album compiled from 1970s-era concert performances.  They have not released an album since. 

The jury is still out on groups like System of a Down, whose rumored breakup and long hiatus ended with the release of two new songs in 2020 (no full-length album released since the 2005 No. 1 Hypnotize).  

Additionally, Sade (No. 1 in 2010), Matchbox 20 (2012) and Alabama Shakes (2015) are groups whose active status is in question since they each had their last albums – all No. 1s – more than five years ago.

Sade – for the purpose of this article – is billed as a group. Their last No. 1 album, ‘Soldier of Love,’ has yet to have a followup.

On the solo front, of the 25 artists with more than five-year gaps after reaching No. 1, eight were impacted by the artists’ deaths: Selena, The Notorious B.I.G., Aaliyah, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and David Bowie.  Five of these artists – Selena, Aaliyah, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles and David Bowie – never had another studio album followup to their final No. 1s. after their untimely deaths.  

The Notorious B.I.G., Jackson and Houston have all had posthumous followup releases to their last No. 1 albums, with each occurring more than five years after the chart-toppers.  In Houston’s case, the followup album was a live release, Whitney Houston: Her Greatest Live Performances, in 2014 – two years after her passing, and five years, three months after her No. 1 previous album I Look To You in 2009.  

Of the 17 solo artists who are still living, eight have yet to release a followup to their last No. 1 studio albums occurring more than five years ago, with five of those artists joining the ranks in the past year: Tyrese, Jill Scott, Janet Jackson, Adele, and, of course, Rihanna.

Janet Jackson’s last album, the 2015 No. 1 ‘Unbreakable,’ has yet to have a followup.

Country singer Gary Allan is the case study of an artist truly going out on top.  He released nine studio albums (plus two compilations) between 1996 and 2013 before getting his first No. 1, Set You Free, in 2013.  He hasn’t released an album since.  

Legendary singer Lionel Richie hit No. 1 in 2012 with Tuskegee, an album consisting of country remakes of his earlier hits.  He hasn’t released anything since, although he has been known to have long gaps following No. 1 albums.  It took Richie almost an entire decade to followup 1986’s No. 1 Dancing On The Ceiling with 1996’s Louder Than Words

The other artist in this category is Lauryn Hill, whose debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill reached No. 1 in 1998.  She has yet to release a proper followup, although she did issue a live album – MTV Unplugged 2.0– in 2002.  Technically, if we include live LPs (which we are in most cases), Ms. Hill would be removed from the list.  We’ll make an exception for the ex-Fugees rapper given how prominent her situation is.

The nine remaining living solo artists – Billy Joel, D’Angelo, Maxwell, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Justin Timberlake, Fabolous, Nas and Pink – have all released follow-ups to No. 1 albums, it just took them more than five years to do so for at least one of their No. 1s.

Some of these artists are repeat offenders – taking more than five years to release followups to No. 1 albums multiple times, including Richie, Maxwell, and Evanescence.

Lionel Richie took (or has taken) more than five years to release followups to both these No. 1 albums.

What does all of this mean?  Only that Rihanna is in a crowded field of artists who’ve taken more than five years to release a followup to a big No. 1 album.  We’re still waiting for Adele, Janet Jackson and several others to followup their last No. 1 albums from more than five years ago.

And, as fans learned at the beginning of the year, nagging her for any updates on when she will follow-up Anti won’t get them very far.

Here are the different tallies of artists who took or have taken more than five years to follow-up a No. 1 album since 1980.  

First the groups:

Artist (group)No. 1 album (year)Followup (time gap)
1.The PoliceSynchronicity (1983)None (37 years, 10 months)
2.Dire StraitsBrothers in Arms (1985)On Every Street (6 years, 4 months)
3.BostonThird Stage (1986)Walk On (7 years, 9 months)
4.Fine Young CannibalsThe Raw and the Cooked(1989)None (32 years)
5.Milli VanilliGirl You Know Its True(1989)None (32 years)
6.N.W.A.Efil4Zaggin (Niggaz4Life) (1991)None (29 years, 10 months)
7.Pink FloydThe Division Bell (1994)The Endless River (20 years, 8 months)
8.EaglesLong Road out of Eden(2007)None (13 years, 6 months)
9.Tha Dogg PoundDogg Food (1995)Dillinger & Young Gotti (5 years, 7 months)
10.The FugeesThe Score (1996)None (25 years)
11.New EditionHome Again (1996)One Love (7 years, 10 months)
12.ProdigyThe Fat of the Land (1997)Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (7 years, 2 months)
13.Fleetwood MacThe Dance (1997)Say You Will (5 years, 8 months)
14.The Firm (Nas, Foxy Brown, etc.)The Album (1997)None (23 years, 6 months)
15.MetallicaReload (1997)St. Anger (5 years, 7 months)
16.Beastie BoysHello Nasty (1998)To the 5 Boroughs (5 years, 11 months)
17.Tool10,000 Days (2006)Fear Inoculum (13 years, 3 months)
18.*NSYNCCelebrity (2001)None (19 years, 9 months)
19.CreedWeathered (2001)Full Circle (7 years, 11 months)
20.Led ZeppelinHow the West Was Won(2003)None (18 years)
21.D12D12 World (2004)None (17 years)
22.System of a DownHypnotize (2005)None (15 years, 5 months)
23.Red Hot Chili PeppersStadium Arcadium (2006)I’m With You (5 years, 3 months)
24.Dixie Chicks (now the Chicks)Taking the Long Way (2006)Gaslighter (14 years, 2 months)
25.EvanescenceThe Open Door (2006)Evanescence (5 years, 1 month)
25.Evanescence Evanescence (2011)Synthesis (6 years, 1 months)
26.Danity KaneWelcome to the Dollhouse(2008)DK3 (6 years, 7 months)
27.SadeSoldier of Love (2010)None (11 years, 2 months)
28.SugarlandThe Incredible Machine(2010)Bigger (7 years, 8 months)
29.Matchbox 20North (2012)None (8 years, 8 months)
30.Dave Matthews BandAway from the World (2012)Come Tomorrow (5 years, 9 months)
31.Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City(2013)Father of the Bride (six years)
32.Daft PunkRandom Access Memories(2013) None (7 years, 11 months)
33.The Civil WarsThe Civil Wars (2013)None (7 years, 8 months)
34.Black KeysTurn Blue (2014)Let’s Rock (5 years, 1 month)
35.Tom Petty & the HeartbreakersHypnotic Eye (2014)None (6 years, 9 months)
36.Alabama ShakesSound & Color (2015)None (6 years
Research courtesy DJRob and based on Billboard 200 album chart data

Now the solo artists:

Artist (solo)No. 1 album Followup (time gap)
1.Lionel RichieDancing on the Ceiling (1986)Louder than Words (9 years, 8 months)
1.Lionel Richie Tuskegee (2012)None (9 years, 1 month)
2.Billy JoelRiver of Dreams(1993)Fantasies & Delusions (8 years, 1 month)
3.SelenaDreaming of You (1995)None (25 years, 9 months)
4.Lauryn Hill The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)None (22 years, 8 months) *note: live album MTV Unplugged 2.0released May 2002
5.The Notorious B.I.G.Born Again (1999)Duets: The Final Chapter (6 years; both posthumous)
6.D’AngeloVoodoo (2000)Black Messiah (14 years, 11 months)
7.MaxwellNow (2001) BLACKsummers’night (7 years, 11 months)
7.Maxwell BLACKsummers’night(2009)blackSUMMERS’night (7 years)
8.AaliyahAaliyah (2001)None (19 years, 8 months)
9.Michael JacksonInvincible (2001)This Is It (8 years)
10.Garth BrooksScarecrow (2001)Blame It All On My Roots: Five Decades of Influences (12 years)
11.Shania TwainUp! (2002)Still the One: Live from Vegas (12 years, 4 months)
12.Luther VandrossDance With My Father (2003)None (17 years, 10 months). *Note: A live album was released just months after Vandross’ No. 1, called Live Radio City Music Hall (Oct 2003)
13.Ray CharlesGenius Loves Company (2004)None (16 years, 8 months)
14.Justin TimberlakeFutureSex/LoveSounds(2006)The 20/20 Experience (6 years, 6 months)
15.FabolousLoso’s Way (2009) The Young OG Project (5 years, 5 months)
16.Whitney HoustonI Look To You (2009)Whitney Houston Live: Her Greatest Performances (5 years, 3 months) 
17.NasLife Is Good (2012) Nasir (5 years, 11 months)
18.P!nkThe Truth About Love(2012)Beautiful Trauma (5 years, 1 month) 
19.Gary AllanSet You Free (2013)None (8 years, 3 months)
20.TyreseBlack Rose (2015)None (5 years, 9 months)
21.Jill ScottWoman (2015)None (5 years, 9 months)
22.Janet JacksonUnbreakable (2015)None (5 years, 6 months)
23.Adele25 (2015)None (5 years, 5 months)
24.David BowieBlackstar (2016)None (5 years, 3 months)
25.Rihanna Anti (2016)None (5 years, 2 months)
Research courtesy DJRob and based on Billboard 200 album chart data

Note: this tally excludes compilation  albums, remix albums, deluxe sets, reissues or soundtracks from an artist’s release history.  Mixtapes, EPs, Christmas and live albums were counted towards artists’ release histories (exceptions where noted above).

DJRob 

DJRob is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.

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