That story about Rihanna wanting to make a heavy metal album isn't true, despite what you may have read

Rihanna and Nuno Bettencourt, onstage in 2013
(Image credit: Larry Marano/Getty Images)

Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt has shot down a long-running story that Rihanna wanted to make a heavy metal album, with his assistance, before panicked bosses at her record label stepped in to veto the idea.

Back in 2009, beneath the attention-grabbing headline 'Rocker Ri's plan axed', British tabloid newspaper The Daily Star loudly trumpeted an "exclusive" story stating that "closet rock chick" Rihanna was "desperate to go all heavy metal" until horrified  bosses at her label stepped in to block her wishes. 

The source of this "exclusive", according to the Star? None other than the singer's freshly-recruited touring guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, readers were told in 2009.

“When I spoke to Rihanna she was totally into transforming herself into a heavy rock chick," the guitarist was quoting as saying.

“She was listening to Led Zeppelin and new acts like Paramore and said that was the direction she wanted to go, so I said yes.”

The story goes on to say that the guitarist had turned down past offers to work with pop artistes, but had declined on account of his sense that the stars "didn’t really get the vibe". With Rihanna, however, Extreme's guitar player was reportedly up for the challenge, until senior figures at the Barbados-born singer's record company " had a seizure", and expressly told Rihanna not to pursue the idea.

But speaking yesterday, March 16, to Classic Rock magazine, Bettencourt, who remains an integral part of Rihanna's live band, emphatically denied that he had made any such claims 14 years ago, insisting that he never spoke the words attributed to him in the article.

"That's complete lies," says Bettencourt, "that's fabricated. It's so incorrect. I promise you on the life of my children that those words never came out of my mouth. It's a good story, which is why it got written I guess, but it's absolutely not true."

"What happened was that they got in touch with me because they said they wanted a guitar player, and wanted to rock out the show, and they had seen some of my stuff online. I said, Why would you want me, there's no guitar on a lot of the songs? And I was told, that they just wanted me to be me, and do it on Umbrella and everything, with heavy chords and riffs. I was like, Wow, that sounds fucking exciting for a guy like me who loves all genres of music. That's probably how that story started. But she didn't want to do a heavy metal record."

Bettencourt's band Extreme will release their sixth studio album, Six, on June 9 via earMusic. The guitarist produced the album, their first album since 2008's Saudades de Rock, which was recorded at his home studio in Los Angeles. The band already shared the album's first single, Rise, "a cautionary tale on the rise and fall of fame."

And you can read the full story behind the album and Extreme's return in an upcoming issue of Classic Rock magazine.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.