NEW YORK (AFP) - R&B superstar Rihanna on Wednesday released her long-awaited eighth album Anti as she offered exclusive early access through commercial tie-ups.
Anti, Rihanna's first album since 2012, had been announced late last year but the timing of the release was a surprise and came hours after she put out the first single.
Tidal, the streaming service led by rap mogul Jay Z in which Rihanna is a partner, premiered Anti and said it would not appear elsewhere for the first week.
Rihanna signed a deal reported to be worth US$25 million (S$35 million) with South Korean electronics giant Samsung, which set up an Anti interactive website accessible on its smartphones.
Tidal said Samsung users who used the website would be able to download Anti and receive a two-month free trial of the streaming service.
The release marks the latest effort by an upstart streaming company to challenge the dominance of streaming leader Spotify through exclusive releases.
Prince put out his two last albums on Tidal while pop superstar Taylor Swift released a tour video only on Apple Music.
Streaming services, which offer on-demand access online, have grown rapidly in recent years and become a key part of the music industry's commercial strategies.
Rihanna on Wednesday put out a first single, Work, which features chart-topping rapper Drake.
Anti starts off with Consideration, a collaboration with SZA, an R&B singer who has come to prominence more recently.
It does not include FourFiveSeconds, a song that Rihanna released a year ago with Paul McCartney and Kanye West.
Rihanna quickly became one of the 21st century's top-selling artists after releasing her debut album Music Of The Sun in 2005.
The two-month delay between the launch of the Samsung website and the album triggered speculation among fans who wondered if there were disagreements behind the scenes.
Some industry observers suspected Rihanna did not want to compete with British singer Adele, whose album 25 broke first-week sales records in November.
However, it is unclear how Rihanna will fare on the charts as her album is not available for conventional purchase.
She has announced a world tour to promote Anti, which will begin on Feb 26 in San Diego.