What we learned this week: Rihanna's accidentally on purpose album release and BoB's conspiracy

Rihanna

Who knows? Maybe it will all turn out to be part of some grand masterplan.

The RiRinvention

We’ve already heard voices raising the idea that Rihanna’s album release on Wednesday was no accident, that it wasn’t a mistaken upload to Tidal that led to it being shared online that led to the album being released for free. Yes, there are rumours that what appeared to be a shambles was, in fact, deliberate. We don’t know. But we do know that the album doesn’t really offer hit after hit after hit – less of a banger than a whimper, the naysayers might claim – and that one of the highlights is Rihanna singing over a Tame Impala backing track. But it doesn’t really matter any more, does it, because, as Peter Robinson wrote, music these days isn’t an end as much as a delivery mechanism for Rihanna’s celebrity.

Colin Vearncombe, RIP

Colin Vearncome had two hits, nearly 30 years ago, but the news of his death prompted an outbreak of sadness in the comments thread beneath our news story. Maybe it was the special kind of sadness that accompanies the deaths of those artists who lived their lives largely out of the spotlight, who stayed with music, trying to make that connection with an audience, because they knew they had to, rather than because they had a huge income to lose if they put down their instruments. Or perhaps it was because Wonderful Life made a deep connection with people, a song of melancholy and wisdom. The great irony of Vearncombe’s death, as Pete Paphides wrote, was that Wonderful Life was an albatross whose success he never quite came to terms with, and perhaps it would take his death to make people look further afield in his body of work.

Kanye West v Wiz Khalifa v Amber Rose v the world

This week, West announced that the album formerly known as Swish would now be titled Waves. Launching a series of since-deleted tweets attacking Wiz Khalifa – in response to his suggestion that West had nicked the concept of the title from Max B, a Harlem rapper who popularised the phrase “wavy” in his music – West proceeded to unleash all manner of criticism online, directed towards Khalifa’s music and his relationship with Amber Rose. Then there was bit of confusion over the initials KK (Wiz was referring to his own brand of Khalifa Kush weed; West thought he was referring to Kim Kardashian) and somewhere along the way various issues regarding West’s alleged sexual preferences were discussed, triggering a number of wider conversations on the subject – Vice’s Let’s Be Honest, Straight Guys: We All Like Butt Stuff being a particular highlight.

Martin Shkreli threaten’s Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah

This week saw the return of the controversial pharmaceutical tycoon and owner of Wu-Tang Clan’s one-off, $2m album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, Martin Shkreli. In a bizarre video, obtained by TMZ, Shkreli swirls a glass of red wine and stands with a group of masked men while berating Clan’s member Ghostface Killah, who recently called him the “Michael Jackson nose kid”. In the clip, he threatens to “erase him from the history books of rap” and says, in the style of a seriously perturbed geography teacher, “I expect you to write me a written apology. From the heart.” Good luck with that.

Bills, bills, bills

We’re getting to the time of year when the festival bills start to fill up, and barely a day goes by without some headliners being announced for some event or other. Green Man was the first to come clean this week, naming Belle and Sebastian, James Blake and Wild Beasts as its 2016 headliners. Reading/Leeds followed suit, announcing that Foals and Disclosure would be making their first top-of-the-bill appearances as co-headliners, joining Red Hot Chili Peppers. Finally, Bestival joined the fray, naming the first two of its headliners: Major Lazer and the Cure.

BoB – very much not your uncle

It all seemed like a bit of a laugh when the Atlanta rapper BoB announced that we’d all been taken in, and that to anyone with half a brain it was quite clear that Earth is flat. “A lot of people are turned off by the phrase ‘flat earth’ … but there’s no way u can see all the evidence and not know … grow up,” he tweeted, adding a succession of images that he appeared to think proved his case. He was called out by the US astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who pointed out some of the faults in BoB’s reasoning, and BoB responded with a diss track, which is where it all got a bit less funny. “Before you try to curve it, do your research on David Irving,” he rapped on Flatline, referring to the Holocaust-denying pseudo-historian. “Stalin was way worse than Hitler,” he continued, “that’s why the Potus gotta wear a kippa,” suggesting Barack Obama is in thrall to some cabal of Jewish global overlords.

Happy birthday, John Lydon!

Even young punks grow old, and this weekend John Lydon passes 60. Incredible to think that he’s been making music for 40 years – and here are some defining moments from those years, in pictures.

Bowie turned his nose up at the Chili Peppers

David Bowie seemed to have turned rejecting offers from other groups into a full-time career. Last week it was reported that he’d rejected an offer from Coldplay to sing with them – on the perfectly reasonable grounds that the song just wasn’t very good. This week, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers revealed that they had asked Bowie to produce them “two or three times”, on the albums By the Way and Stadium Arcadium. “We would write long emails explaining everything, and why it was time for us to really get our ships on – and he always respectfully declined.” Kiedis also noted that the band had been trying to get Brian Eno to produce them for most of their career, and he “has said no eight times”. Hmmm. Do you think they’re trying to tell you something, Anthony? In other Bowie news, his longtime designer Jonathan Barnbrook has made the Blackstar artwork components available for free download. He doesn’t want you making and selling T-shirts with the images, but do you fancy a Bowie tattoo? Be his guest.

Paul Kantner RIP

It’s been a terrible few weeks for rock’n’roll deaths, and the latest star to drop out of the firmament is Paul Kantner, one of the Jefferson Airplane’s founders. Once again, RIP.

So long, Sia later

You have to feel a bit sorry for Sia. Hers was the only big album scheduled for release in late January, a time devoid of competitors. Then Rihanna’s album slips out and suddenly she’s no one’s idea of news. Maybe it only rubs it in that Sia has worked with Rihanna (Diamonds is a Sia song), and that her own album is – as we’ve been reminded several times – made up of songs she wrote for other artists but which were rejected. So the big reviews were suddenly relegated, and the social media chat was all about someone else. As it happened, the reviews were a bit of a shrug, anyway. “Sia has gone from subverting the mainstream to being the mainstream, and in light of that transformation, you’d expect more than a play-by-play recreation of her most recent highlights,” reckoned Pitchfork. Noting that the song Footprints was based on a poem that appears on posters, our own Alexis Petridis suggested: “There seems a very real possibility that, elsewhere among Furler’s reject pile there might lurk songs called things like The Impossible We Do at Once – Miracles Take a Little Longer!!! or Sex Instructor (First Lesson Free).

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Michael Hann and Harriet Gibsone, for theguardian.com on Friday 29th January 2016 17.29 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010