Rihanna is releasing new music this year — but the album that popped up on iTunes and Apple Music over the weekend is not it. Still, Angel, an unauthorized record full of unreleased tracks uploaded by “Fenty Fantasia” and quickly disseminated across social media, was so popular among listeners that it debuted at Number 67 on iTunes’ worldwide albums chart.
Was it a real album? Yes, but no. While Rihanna was indeed the singer on the record, Angel seemed to comprise demos and some unreleased songs that have, according to Rihanna fans, been floating around the Internet in some fashion since 2009. Within hours, the album disappeared from iTunes and Apple Music as quietly as it had appeared, and Apple has not commented on the matter.
The leak, or fake leak, hasn’t been traced back to a source yet — but its circumstances recall the unauthorized Beyoncé and SZA albums that hit music streaming services in January. In those two cases, a user uploaded the albums via a DIY distribution service that delivers independent music to Apple Music and Spotify. Beyoncé’s music was released under the name “Queen Carter” and SZA’s had the moniker “Sister Solana.” Music industry leaders say unauthorized music (whether stolen, fake, unofficial or all three) has been rampant on the Internet since streaming became the dominant mode of music-listening, due to the sheer amount of music flooding those services all the time and the lack of a technological fail-safe to police for inauthentic music.
“This sort of thing happens all the time,” Larry Miller, director of the music business program at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Music, told Rolling Stone in January. “People just don’t hear about it because it just doesn’t happen all the time with the biggest artist in the world. Due to the changes in music distribution and the technology of distribution and consumption, these kinds of leaks, whether secret or not, are far more more likely to happen than ever.”
Rihanna’s team did not immediately respond to request for comment. While the singer said last year that she had a record in the works for a 2019 release, the exact date has not been announced.