Where’s the Album, Ma’am? The Longest Pop Diva Hiatuses

From Rihanna to Madonna, these icons have taken their sweet time giving the gays what they want. How'd that work out for them?

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Lady Gaga has finally managed to quiet her murmuring monsters, having released “Stupid Love,” the lead single for her long-awaited, as-yet-untitled sixth album. It’s… something. But more important, it’s a sign that Gaga fans will soon be sated with another full-length—more than three years after they openly ignored Joanne.

Rihanna fans, however, are about ready to riot. The Navy is so starved for a bop that Anti is still on the charts—four whole-ass years after she dropped it.

Sometimes these diva hiatuses are self-imposed—the muses need to be nurtured, after all. Sometimes there are other forces at play, such as a greedy record label or shady managers. But the wait only puts more pressure on the artist and the resulting work. Will it be worth it?

In light of that, it’s time to take a look at a few divas who have taken exceptionally long breaks between trying to give the gays everything they want—and remember how that worked out for them.

Rihanna

Anti (January 28, 2016) – ???: 1492 days… and counting

In the grand scheme of diva things, Rihanna’s four-plus-year break between albums isn’t that long. Lest we forget, RiRi churned out nearly an album a year for the better part of a decade. Her best album, however, came three years after 2013’s Unapologetic. That alone makes me think whatever album Rihanna does release will be worth the wait. Of course, the world has changed dramatically since 2016, and our little diva has grown up, having become a fashion and makeup mogul in the meantime. Still, fans are so thirsty for new music that at this point Rihanna can pull a Beyoncé and just quietly drop an album without so much as a tweet and it’d bring the globe to a screeching halt. That’s called power.

Madonna

Rebel Heart (March 6, 2015) – Madame X (June 14, 2019): 1,561 days

Since her self-titled 1983 debut album, Madonna has been pretty consistent about releasing a new album every two to three years, with a few exceptions. The first came with 1998’s Ray of Light; Madge took time off after 1994’s Bedtime Stories to work on Evita, give birth to future icon Lourdes Ciccone, and delve deep into Kabbala. The result, some 1,225 days between drops, was one of her finest albums to date and snagged her the first Grammys of her career. She then took 1,435 days between 2008’s Hard Candy and 2012’s MDNA. But her longest respite between albums occurred after 2015’s Rebel Heart and her latest, Madame X, which earned the Material Gal some of her strongest reviews in years—and her ninth No. 1 album overall.

Mariah Carey

Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse (May 23, 2014) – Caution (November 16, 2018): 1,638 days

If there was ever a model of pure consistency, it was Mariah Carey in the ’90s. Mama was churning out an album every year or two, and when someone is that productive fans can take it for granted. The prior decade was not too kind to the elusive chanteuse, as she weathered poor album sales, a manipulative agent, a called-off engagement to a billionaire (as a diva does), an ill-advised reality show, and a number of embarrassing public performances. The confoundingly titled Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse became Carey’s lowest-selling non-holiday album to date. But you never underestimate a diva. A Vegas residency, some new management, and four years later, Mariah returned with Caution, her best album since 2003’s The Emancipation of Mimi.

Christina Aguilera

Lotus (November 9, 2012) – Liberation (June 15, 2018): 2,044 days

Xtina loves to take her time between albums. It seems like there’s always some singing competition to be hosted, or some mediocre track needing her lustrous featured guest vocals. Just when you thought Aguilera had given up her own music career to steer others’ paths to glory on The Voice, she made a graceful comeback with her eighth studio album. Liberation was well received by critics, got nominated for two Grammys, and did okay sales-wise. It became Aguilera’s seventh top 10 album, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard charts.

Janet Jackson

Discipline (February 25, 2008) – Unbreakable (October 2, 2015): 2,776 days

Now, Ms. Jackson is known for taking her sweet-ass time between projects. Four years was her average gap even during her peak production years: We had Rhythm Nation (1989), janet. (1993), The Velvet Rope (1997), and then All for You (2001). But after 2008’s Discipline, Janet parted ways with her label of only 14 months, Interscope, and didn’t immediately sign with another, leaving the future of her output up in the air. Instead, she went on tour, acted in a few movies, and got secretly married to a billionaire (again, as a diva does). Then, like a true boss, she started her own label, Rhythm Nation, and seemingly out of nowhere released 2015’s Unbreakable to rave reviews. It became her seventh No. 1 studio album.

The Diva Hiatus Hall of Fame: Sade

Entire pop-diva careers have started, flourished, and faded into obscurity during a single stretch between Sade albums. Following 1992’s Love Deluxe, the singer took a leisurely eight years before letting us have Lovers Rock. And if you thought that was long, she then vanished for a whole decade between Lovers Rock and 2010’s Soldier of Love. And I bet no one was asking Sade, “Where’s the album?” Because they knew better. At this rate, we’d be lucky to get another album from her before the polar ice caps fully melt. But if we do, you can bet your ass it’ll be worth the wait.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat