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Rihanna (born February 20, 1988 as Robyn Rihanna Fenty) is a Barbadian singer, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. Born in Saint Michael, Barbados and raised in Bridgetown, during 2003, she recorded demo tapes under the direction of record producer Evan Rogers and signed a recording contract with Def Jam Recordings after auditioning for its then-president, hip hopproducer and rapper Jay-Z. In 2005, Rihanna rose to fame with the release of her debut studio album Music of the Sun and its follow-up A Girl like Me (2006), which charted on the top 10 of the US Billboard 200 and respectively produced the successful singles “Pon de Replay”, “SOS” and “Unfaithful”.
She assumed creative control for her third studio album Good Girl Gone Bad (2007) and adopted a public image as a sex symbol, while reinventing her music. Its lead single “Umbrella” became an international breakthrough in her career, as she won her first Grammy Award at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in 2008. She then annually released four consecutive RIAA multi-platinum certified studio albums, including the Grammy Award winner Unapologetic (2012). Her eighth studio album Anti (2016) topped the US Billboard 200 and became one of the most streamed albums of the year. Many of her songs rank among the world’s best-selling singles of all time, including the singles “Umbrella”, “Take a Bow”, “Disturbia”, “Only Girl (In the World)”, “S&M”, “We Found Love”, “Diamonds”, “Stay” and “Work” in which she is the lead artist, and her collaborations “Live Your Life” (with T.I.), “Love the Way You Lie” and “The Monster” (both with Eminem).
Recognized as a pop icon of today’s music, Rihanna is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with 250 million records sold worldwide. Rihanna is the youngest solo artist to earn fourteen number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, and has a total of thirty one top-ten singles. She was named the Digital Songs Artist of the 2000s decade, the top Hot 100 artist of the 2010s decade, as well as the all-time top Pop Songs artist by Billboard. Additionally, she is Spotify’s most streamed female artist of all time. Among numerous awards and accolades, Rihanna has won nine Grammy Awards, twelve American Music Awards and twelve Billboard Music Awards. Furthermore, she was awarded with the inaugural American Music Award for Icon in 2013 and the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 2016. Rihanna received the Fashion Icon lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2014. In 2012, Forbes ranked her the fourth most powerful celebrity, while Time included her on the annual list of the most influential people in the world.
2003–2005: Beginnings and debut
In 2003, Rihanna formed a musical trio with two of her classmates. She was discovered in her home country of Barbados by American record producer Evan Rogers. Without a name or any material, the girl group managed to land an audition with Rogers who commented, “The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn’t exist”. Rihanna went to Rogers’ hotel room, where she performed renditions of Destiny’s Child’s “Emotion” and Mariah Carey‘s “Hero”. Impressed, Rogers scheduled a second meeting with her mother present, and then invited her to his hometown in the United States to record some demo tapes which could be sent to record labels. She recorded the demo over the next year intermittently, due to only being able to record during school holidays. “Pon de Replay” and “The Last Time” were two tracks recorded for the demo tape, which were eventually included on her debut album Music of the Sun. That same year, Rihanna was signed to Rogers’ and Carl Sturken’s production company, Syndicated Rhythm Productions.
Rihanna‘s demo was shipped out to Def Jam Recordings, where Jay Brown, an A&R executive at the record label, was one of the first to hear the demo. Brown played the demo tape for rapper Jay-Z, who had recently been appointed as president and Chief executive officer (CEO) of Def Jam. When Jay-Z first heard the track “Pon de Replay”, he felt the song was too big for her. Despite being skeptical, he invited Rihanna to audition for the label. In early 2005, Rihanna auditioned for Def Jam in New York, where Jay-Z introduced her to music mogul Antonio “L.A.” Reid. At the audition, she sang Whitney Houston’s cover of “For the Love of You” (1987), as well as the demo tracks “Pon de Replay” and “The Last Time”. Jay-Z was absolutely certain about signing her after she performed her future hit single “Pon de Replay”. His boss L.A. Reid was also impressed with her audition, telling Jay-Z not to let Rihanna leave the building until the contract was signed. Reid left it to Jay-Z and his team to close the deal which resulted in a six-album record deal with Def Jam. She waited in Jay-Z’s office until three in the morning to get lawyers to draft up a contract because he wanted to prevent her from signing with another label. Rihanna cancelled other meetings with record labels and relocated from Barbados to the United States to live with Rogers and his wife.
After signing with Def Jam, Jay-Z and his team did the A&R for Rihanna‘s debut album and spent the next three months recording and completing her debut album. She worked with different producers to complete her debut studio album, primarily Rogers and his production partner Carl Sturken. With several songs to pick as a lead single, “Pon de Replay” was chosen because it seemed like the best song suited for a summer release. In May 2005, her debut single, “Pon de Replay”, was released under her mononym “Rihanna“. It charted successfully worldwide, peaking in the top five in fifteen countries, including at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart. The song became a big club hit in the United States, peaking at number-one on the Billboard Dance Club Songs.
Music of the Sun was released in August 2005. It debuted at number ten on the Billboard 200 and received a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of over 500,000 units. The album sold over two million copies worldwide. A second single, “If It’s Lovin’ that You Want”, was not as successful as its predecessor, but reached the top ten in Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. Aside from her work in music, Rihanna made her acting debut in a cameo role in the straight-to-DVD film Bring It On: All or Nothing, released in August 2006.
2006–2008: Breakthrough and new image
A month after the release of her debut album, Rihanna began working on her second studio album. A Girl like Me was released in April 2006. Rolling Stone felt that “the burning rock guitar” and haunted strings of some of the album’s tracks made “A Girl like Me […] likable.” The album was a commercial success, charting in the top ten in thirteen countries. The album reached number one in Canada and number five in the United Kingdom and the United States, where it sold 115,000 copies in its first week. The album became Rihanna‘s first to be certified Platinum by the RIAA, after selling over 1,000,000 units. Its lead single, “SOS”, was an international success, charting in the top five in eleven countries. The song reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and in Australia, her first to reach this chart position. “Unfaithful”, the album’s second single, reached the top ten in eighteen countries, including number one in Canada and Switzerland. Two more singles were released from the album: “We Ride” and “Break It Off”.
In early 2007, Rihanna appeared on the single “Roll It” with Jamaican band J-Status and fellow Barbadian singer-songwriter Shontelle. The song appeared on J-Status’ debut album The Beginning, released in several European countries only. Around that time, Rihanna had already begun work on her third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad. With the help of producers Timbaland, Tricky Stewartand Sean Garrett she embraced a new musical direction through uptempo dance tracks. Released in May 2007, the album charted at number two in Australia and the US and topped the charts in multiple countries, including Brazil, Canada, Ireland and the UK. The album received the most positive critical reviews of her first three albums.
The lead single, “Umbrella”, topped the charts in thirteen countries and remained at number one in the UK for ten consecutive weeks, the longest-running number-one single there since Wet Wet Wet’s single “Love Is All Around” spent fifteen weeks at the top in 1994. It was Rihanna‘s first single to be named one of the best-selling singles worldwide, with sales of over 8 million copies. The songs “Shut Up and Drive”, “Hate That I Love You” (featuring Ne-Yo) and “Don’t Stop the Music” were also released as singles, with the latter becoming an international hit. In support of the album, Rihanna began the Good Girl Gone Bad Tour in September 2007, with 80 shows across the US, Canada and Europe. Rihanna was nominated for several 2008 Grammy Awards for Good Girl Gone Bad, winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Umbrella” alongside Jay-Z, her first Grammy Award.
On 9 June 2008, Rihanna released Good Girl Gone Bad Live, her first live long-form video. The DVD and Blu-ray release featured Rihanna‘s concert at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, United Kingdom, held on 6 December 2007 as part of the Good Girl Gone Bad Tour. Most of the concert’s set list originates from Good Girl Gone Bad; however, Rihanna also performed songs from her previous albums Music of the Sun and A Girl like Me. The release also contained a special documentary that presented Rihanna discussing her experiences during the tour. By late 2008, Rihanna still remained on the charts with the release of the fifth single from Good Girl Gone Bad, “Rehab”, and was named “Diva of the Year” by Entertainment Weekly for her “newfound staying power”. Good Girl Gone Bad has sold over 2.8 million units in the United States alone, receiving a two-times-Platinum certification from the RIAA. It is Rihanna‘s best-selling album in the country to date. The album has sold nine million units worldwide.
During the late 2000s, Rihanna experimented further with pop, dubstep and rock music, officially shifting her musical style and image away from the Barbados island girl. Throughout 2008, Rihanna performed on the Glow in the Dark Tour alongside Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and N.E.R.D. Her third studio album’s reissue, Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded, was released in June 2008 with three new songs: “Disturbia”, “Take a Bow” and the Maroon 5 duet “If I Never See Your Face Again”, plus a Spanglish version of “Hate That I Love You” featuring Spanish pop singer David Bisbal. All four were released as singles and charted highly, reaching peak positions worldwide. In August 2008, Rihanna and a host of other female singers recorded the charity single “Just Stand Up!”, the theme song to the anti-cancer campaign Stand Up to Cancer. “Live Your Life”, a duet between T.I. and Rihanna, was released that November and topped the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Rihanna‘s fifth number-one single on the chart. Rihanna‘s first remix album, Good Girl Gone Bad: The Remixes, was released in January 2009 and contained club remixes of tracks from Good Girl Gone Bad and its re-release Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded.
2009–2011: Collaborations and annual releases
On 8 February 2009, Rihanna‘s scheduled performance at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards was cancelled. Reports surfaced that then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, had physically assaulted her. He was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats. On 5 March 2009, Brown was charged with assault and for making criminal threats. A leaked photograph from the police department obtained by TMZ.com revealed that Rihanna had sustained visible injuries. A few months after the incident, Rihanna was featured on the single “Run This Town” by Jay-Z, which also featured Kanye West and was released as the second single from Jay-Z’s eleventh studio album The Blueprint 3.
In early 2009, Rihanna began working on her fourth studio album, Rated R. Rated R was released in November 2009. The album had Rolling Stone magazine stating that Rihanna “transformed her sound and made one of the best pop records of the year”. Rated R featured a darker and more foreboding tone than Rihanna‘s previous albums. Rated R debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 181,000 copies in the United States, giving Rihanna her highest first-week sales in the US at that time. The album was supported by six singles, including “Rude Boy”, which was the biggest worldwide success from the album, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and reaching top ten positions in twenty-two other countries.
In January 2010, Rihanna released her charity cover version of “Redemption Song” for the Hope for Haiti Now campaign. She also recorded the song “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)” together with Jay-Z, Bono and The Edge for the same campaign to alleviate the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In summer 2010, Rihanna collaborated with rapper Eminem on “Love the Way You Lie”, which was a major worldwide success, reaching number one in over twenty countries. The song was Rihanna‘s seventh US number-one of her career, making her the female artist with the fifth-most number-one songs in the chart’s history. Reaching number two, the song became the biggest-selling song of 2010 in the UK, and the first of Rihanna‘s singles to sell over one million copies in the country. In October 2010, Rihanna switched managers, joining Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Management. In late 2010, she was featured on three collaborations that were released as singles: Kanye West’s “All of the Lights“, from the album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Nicki Minaj‘s “Fly”, from her debut studio album Pink Friday (2010) and David Guetta’s “Who’s That Chick?”, from the album One More Love (2010).
Loud, Rihanna‘s fifth studio album, was released in November 2010. Its lead single, “Only Girl (In the World)”, reached number one in fifteen countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States. The album’s second single, “What’s My Name?”, featuring rapper Drake, also reached number one in the US and the UK. “Raining Men” was sent to US urban radio on 7 December 2010, as the album’s third single in the United States. The song featured rap vocals by Nicki Minaj. The fourth single, “S&M”, reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 following the release of its official remix featuring Britney Spears, becoming Rihanna‘s tenth number one single on the chart. Rihanna set a record as the solo artist with the fastest accumulation of ten chart toppers in the Hot 100’s history. At the 53rd Grammy Awards, “Only Girl (In the World)” won the award for Best Dance Recording. “Man Down” and “California King Bed” were released as singles in May 2011 with moderate success. “Cheers (Drink to That)”, which interpolates Avril Lavigne‘s 2002 single “I’m with You”, was released as the seventh and final single from the album, reaching the top twenty in the UK and the top ten in the US. To promote the album, Rihanna embarked on her Loud Tour in June 2011, which sold out ten nights at The O2 Arena in London, the most sold-out shows for a female artist in the venue’s history. Loud Tour Live at the O2, Rihanna‘s second live long-form video was filmed during the last three of these shows in London and was released on 13 December 2012. The tour was the seventh highest grossing tour worldwide of 2011.
Rihanna‘s sixth album, Talk That Talk, was released in November 2011. The album debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200 with sales of 198,000 copies and number one in the UK, selling 163,000 copies. The album’s lead single, “We Found Love”, topped charts in twenty-seven countries, peaked in the top ten in thirty countries and broke many chart records worldwide. The single topped the Billboard Hot 100 for ten non-consecutive weeks, becoming Rihanna‘s longest-running number-one single on the chart and the longest-running number-one single of 2011 in the US. The song was later named the 24th biggest hit of all time on the Billboard Hot 100. “You Da One” and the album’s title track, featuring Jay-Z, were released as the second and third singles, to moderate success. “Where Have You Been”, the fifth single, successfully charted worldwide, reaching number five in the US and number six in the UK. “Cockiness (Love It)” was released as the album’s sixth and final single in a remixed form featuring rapper ASAP Rocky.
2012–2014: Battleship and Unapologetic
In early 2012, two collaborations featuring Rihanna were released: Coldplay’s “Princess of China”, from their album Mylo Xyloto, and Drake’s “Take Care”, from his album of the same name. In February 2012, Rihanna won her third Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2012 Grammy Awards for her Kanye West collaboration “All of the Lights“, and was voted the Best International Female Solo Artist at the 2012 BRIT Awards for the second consecutive year. March 2012 saw the simultaneous releases of two collaborations between Rihanna and Chris Brown: remixes of her song “Birthday Cake” and his “Turn Up the Music“. The recordings received mainly negative responses due to the pair’s history of domestic violence. In September 2012, “We Found Love” won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year, making Rihanna the first woman to receive the accolade more than once.
Rihanna starred as Petty Officer (GM2) Cora Raikes in her first theatrical feature film Battleship, which was released on 18 May 2012. Loosely based on the game of the same name, both the film and Rihanna‘s performance received mixed-to-negative reviews; The New York Times said she was “just fine in the rather generic role”. On 19 August 2012, Rihanna appeared in the first episode of the second season of Oprah Winfrey’s American prime time television show Oprah’s Next Chapter. The episode scored the second-highest ratings in the history of the Oprah Winfrey Network. Her first television program, Styled to Rock, premiered in the UK in August 2012 on Sky Living. In the ten-week series, Rihanna, Nicola Roberts, Lysa Cooper, and Henry Holland assist up-and-coming British designers with their clothing lines. Meanwhile, the US version of Styled to Rock premiered on 25 October 2013 on Bravo.
Rihanna‘s seventh studio album, Unapologetic, was released in November 2012. In the United States, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart with first-week sales of 238,000 copies, marking Rihanna‘s first number-one album in the country. The album was Rihanna‘s third consecutive number-one album in the United Kingdom and fifth in Switzerland. The lead single from the album, “Diamonds”, reached number one in more than twenty countries worldwide, including on the US’ Billboard Hot 100, where it became Rihanna‘s twelfth number one on the chart. The album’s second single, “Stay”, featuring Mikky Ekko, reached the top five in over twenty countries, including number three on the Billboard Hot 100. As promotion prior to the album’s release, Rihanna embarked on the 777 Tour, a mini tour of seven shows in seven countries in seven days. On 6 May 2013, Fox aired a documentary about the tour, with a documentary DVD being released the following day as Rihanna‘s third live long-form video release.
In February 2013 at the 55th Grammy Awards, Rihanna won her sixth Grammy Award, in the category Best Short Form Music Video for “We Found Love” (2011). Also that month, the Official Charts Company in the UK announced that Rihanna had sold 3,868,000 records in the past year in the country, ranking at number one in the list of 2013 BRIT Awards artist nominees. Rihanna‘s fifth headlining concert tour, the Diamonds World Tour, began in March 2013 in support of Unapologetic. Rihanna then appeared in the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg comedy film This Is the End, which was released in June 2013. That same month, American hip hop artist Wale released a remixed version of his single “Bad” featuring Rihanna.
In October 2013, Eminem released his Rihanna-assisted single, “The Monster“, as the fourth release from his eighth studio album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013). With the song entering the UK Singles Chart at number one, Rihanna joined Elvis Presley and The Beatles as just one of three acts to have scored a number-one single each year over seven consecutive years in the chart’s history. The song also peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, which marked Rihanna‘s thirteenth chart topper, tying her at the time with Michael Jackson for the fourth most number ones in the chart’s history. Rihanna then appeared on Shakira‘s single, “Can’t Remember to Forget You”, which was released in January 2014. Following the release of Unapologetic and its accompanying tour, Rihanna aimed to take a hiatus from recording music, stating: “I wanted to have a year to just do whatever I want artistically, creatively.” In January 2014, Rihanna began working on her eighth studio album. In May 2014, Rihanna left Def Jam Recordings to sign fully with Roc Nation, the record label that had managed her career since October 2010.
2015–present: Anti, film projects and upcoming ninth studio album
A year after Rihanna began working on her eighth studio album, the single “FourFiveSeconds” was released, which featured Rihanna paired up with Kanye West and Paul McCartney. Two further singles followed its release: “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “American Oxygen”; neither made the final track listing for Rihanna‘s eighth studio album. In March 2015, Rihanna released a concept album based around the 3D animated film Home, which she starred in, alongside Jim Parsons, Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez. “Towards the Sun” was released as the first single from the album. In late 2015, Rihanna inked a $25 million contract with Samsung that would see her promoting Samsung’s Galaxy line of products whilst Samsung would sponsor the release of her eighth studio album and its supporting tour. The Anti World Tour was announced in November 2015 and began in March 2016, with Travis Scottsupporting in North America, and The Weeknd and Big Sean supporting at selected European dates.
On 28 January 2016, Rihanna released her eighth studio album, Anti, exclusively through streaming service Tidal. The album peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200, becoming Rihanna‘s second number one and eighth top ten album on the chart. The album was supported by the release of four singles, including the lead single “Work”, featuring Drake, which topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Further Platinum-certified singles “Needed Me” and “Love on the Brain” both peaked inside the top ten of the US Hot 100. In 2016, Rihanna was featured on several singles. The first collaboration single was Kanye West’s “Famous”, where Rihanna provided uncredited guest vocals. She was then officially featured on Calvin Harris’ “This Is What You Came For,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. Rihanna was also featured on Drake’s “Too Good” and on Mike Will Made It’s “Nothing Is Promised”. On 27 June 2016, Rihanna released “Sledgehammer”, the lead single from the Star Trek Beyond movie soundtrack. On 28 August 2016, Rihanna was honored with the MTV Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards after performing various medleys of her hit songs. Rihanna released several collaborations in 2017. First she was the featured part in Future’s “Selfish”, the lead single from the rapper’s sixth studio album, Hndrxx. Summer 2017 saw the release of Rihanna‘s collaborations with record producer DJ Khaled, “Wild Thoughts”, which also featured Bryson Tiller and was a worldwide success and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and Kendrick Lamar’s single, “Loyalty”, which earned Rihanna her ninth Grammy Award at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. In November 2017, Rihanna was part of N.E.R.D’s comeback single “Lemon” from the band’s album No One Ever Really Dies.
Rihanna played the recurring role of Marion Crane in the fifth and final season of Bates Motel. The show received universal acclaim from critics. Rihanna also had a major role in the Luc Besson film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, an adaptation of the comic book series Valérian and Laureline. Also starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, the film was released by STX Entertainment on 21 July 2017 in the U.S. In August 2016, Rihanna joined the all-female cast in Ocean’s 8 directed by Gary Ross. Warner Bros. will release the film on 8 June 2018.
Rihanna officially revealed that she had begun work on her ninth studio album, just months after releasing Anti. In August 2017, Diplo submitted his material; however, Rihanna told him the music reminded her of a “reggae song at an airport” and was not going to use it for the album. On 19 October 2017 Shakka revealed that he was currently working with Rihanna on her “absolutely insane” album.
Music and voice
Rihanna is a mezzo-soprano, with a range spanning from B2 to C#6. While recording tracks for her third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad (2007), Rihanna took vocal lessons from Ne-Yo. Speaking of the experience she stated, “I’ve never had vocal training, so when I’m in the studio, he’ll tell me how to breathe and stuff… He’ll call out these big fancy words: ‘OK, I want you to do staccato.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, I don’t know what that is.'” Her vocal performance on Loud (2010) received positive reviews from music critics. James Skinner from BBC praised Rihanna‘s vocals on the song “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)” and wrote that her voice is powerful and that “it is Rihanna‘s vocal – at once commanding, soulful and vulnerable – that anchors the song, and Loud itself”. Andy Gill from The Independent feels that “California King Bed” features her best vocal performance. In a review of Unapologetic, Billboard magazine wrote, “Diamonds finds Rihanna doing one of her throatiest, most impassioned vocals to date, on this inspirational pop ballad.” Jon Caramanica of The New York Times stated, “over the years, as her game face froze in place, her voice cured into a weapon of emotional chill and strategic indifference. It’s decidedly unfriendly, made to give orders”.
Growing up in Barbados, she wasn’t exposed to a lot of music, mainly reggae, hip-hop, and soca music. When she moved to the United States, she became exposed to a lot of American music “rock being one of them, and I fell in love with it. [Now] I love rock music.” At the time of her debut, she recorded songs that were inspired by her Caribbean rootsand described her early sound as “a fusion of reggae, hip-hop and R&B, with a little something different thrown in”. Her early dancehall roots can be found on her debut album, Music of the Sun (2005), and its follow-up, A Girl like Me (2006). Music of the Sun demonstrates the influence of Rihanna‘s musical heritage of the Caribbean. Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times complimented its combination of dancehall and reggae, who said, “Dancehall reggae sometimes seems like a furiously insular form of music, but … Rihanna is only the latest singer to discover how versatile the genre’s spring-loaded electronic rhythms can be”. Her debut single, “Pon de Replay” features a dancehall-pop mixture that infuses a reggae style, while “If It’s Lovin’ that You Want” talks about a girl seducing a guy to be her boyfriend. Aiming for artistic growth, A Girl like Me expresses personal experiences that typical 18-year-old girls go through with ballads that were described as elegant and mature. After her second album, she slowly dismissed her dancehall and reggae roots.
Rihanna‘s music has incorporated a wide range of genres including, pop, R&B, reggae, dubstep, hip hop and EDM. With its provocative subject matter and lyrics, her musical career has been an experiment with new musical ideas and stated that she wants “to make music that could be heard in parts of the world that I’d never been to”. During a review for Good Girl Gone Bad (2007), Slant Magazine to write that Rihanna “finally figured out that she’s a dance artist and the majority of the album is comprised of uptempo dance-pop [songs like]” “Push Up on Me” and “Don’t Stop the Music“. It represents a departure from the Caribbean sound of her previous albums, and is described as a turning point in her career. While the first half of the record shares a lot of 1980s pop influences with songs like “Don’t Stop the Music” and “Shut Up and Drive”, the second half retreats into standard R&B.
Recorded after the assault by her then-boyfriend, Chris Brown, Rated R (2009) had a much darker tone and was filled with various emotions she experienced throughout 2009. In Loud (2010), Rihanna reflects on the fun and energetic vibe she had while recording the album. The album is a mixture of ballads, party anthems, and empowering love songs. Talk That Talk (2011) was similar to Rated R, as both contain hip hop, R&B, dancehall, and dubstep genres.Loud and Talk That Talk saw her explore sexuality in her work (“S&M” and “Birthday Cake”) and return to her dancehall roots (“Man Down” and “Watch n’ Learn”). She also branched out into house music with tracks like “We Found Love”, “Only Girl (In the World)” and “Complicated.” Her songs are also inspired through record sampling from other artists.
Rihanna has named Madonna as her idol and biggest influence. She said that she wanted to be the “black Madonna” and praised the singer for being able to constantly reinvent herself successfully throughout her career. “I think that Madonna was a great inspiration for me, especially on my earlier work. If I had to examine her evolution through time, I think she reinvented her clothing style and music with success every single time. And at the same time remained a real force in entertainment in the whole world.” Another major influence on Rihanna‘s music and career has been Mariah Carey, whose song “Hero” she performed when Rihanna was still a teenager at her high school talent show. She revealed that Carey’s song “Vision of Love” “was the song that made [her] want to do music.”
She grew up watching videos of reggae legend Bob Marley on television because that’s what they would play in the Caribbean. She stated, “He’s one of my favourite artists of all time – he really paved the way for every other artist out of the Caribbean”. She built a shrine in her home dedicated to the reggae legend and has covered Marley’s “Is This Love” and Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “Redemption Song” during her concert tours. During her childhood, she would go around singing Whitney Houston songs and “A Whole New World” into her hairbrush so much that her neighbors started calling her “Robyn Redbreast”. She also stated that one of the first songs she remembers falling in love with was Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” and that it “was really inspiring, and it made me develop a passion for music, so really, she’s partly responsible for me being here in this industry.”
Rihanna was also influenced by Janet Jackson, Aaliyah, Beyoncé, and Destiny’s Child. Other musical influences and idols include Celine Dion, Grace Jones, Lil’ Kim, Alicia Keys, Prince, Fefe Dobson, and Brandy. Rihanna takes influence from the different types of music she discovered when she came to America and revealed that rock music was one of the first genres she fell in love with. She commented, “as I grow older, I want to know more about music. I want to discover more types of music”. She cited Brandy’s fourth studio album, Afrodisiac (2004), as her main inspiration for her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad (2007). In her early career, her music contained strong influences of Caribbean music, including reggae and dancehall. The music video of the song “Rude Boy” featured images inspired by her Caribbean roots.
Videos and stage
Rihanna has worked with music video director Anthony Mandler on more than a dozen music videos, the first being “Unfaithful” (2006). “We’ve done 16 videos together; they’re not all tough, […] Yeah, I mean, I’m known for the ‘Disturbia’s and the ‘Russian Roulette’s and things like that, but ‘Only Girl (In the World)’ is certainly an ethereal kind of empowering, beauty-filled video,” Mandler said. Jocelyn Vena of MTV wrote, “Rihanna, like Madonna, also has a tendency to make truly thought-provoking music videos that fit the songs they represent. Smattered in between glitzier, more glamorous clips, Madge and Ri want us to think about bigger issues”. Jon Bream of the Star Tribune commented “[i]n the tradition of Madonna and Janet Jackson, Rihanna has become the video vixen of the ’00s … Rihanna has perfected the pout, the long-legged strut and trend-setting hairdos that keep women and men alike checking her out on YouTube.”George Epaminondas of InStyle considers Rihanna‘s music videos to be “cinematic” due to her “blend of lush island rhythms and swinging pop and … mischievous sensuality.” Tamar Anitai from MTV Buzzworthy listed “Disturbia” at number five on the “Buzzworthy’s Top 5 Most Paranoid Music Videos” and said that “Paranoia never looked so supernaturally sexy!”.
Many of her music videos were shot as short films exploring issues such as love triangles, abuse, and substance abuse romance, including “We Found Love” and “Man Down”. Her music video for “Umbrella” shows Rihanna‘s transition into adulthood and her newly adopted image. The “dark, creepy” scenes of “Disturbia” have been compared to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The video for “Russian Roulette” features Rihanna in a padded room playing a game of russian roulette with her partner. A scene of Rihanna being approached by a speeding car at night was compared to the altercation with Chris Brown. The Caribbean-inspired music video for “Rude Boy” was compared to rapper MIA’s video “Boyz” by many critics for its colorful aesthetic similarities. In 2011, she released three controversial music videos about sadomasochism, rape, and domestic violence. “Man Down”, which features Rihanna shooting a man in a train station, was criticized by the Parents Television Council. “We Found Love”, which shows Rihanna and her love interest in a drug-filled unhealthy relationship, sparked criticism from the Rape Crisis Centre for its inappropriate message. But Charne Graham of the Houston Press defended the singer, asking, “Why should Rihanna‘s music videos get everyone riled up when others’ equally sexual and controversial videos are in rotation? […] she just like[s] to make music videos that give us something to talk about.” She is the first woman to pass two billion cumulative views on the music video website VEVO. As of December 2016, she has accumulated over 10 billion views on the site. Her VEVO YouTube channel is currently the fifth most subscribed channel on YouTube.
Denis Armstrong of Canadian Online Explorer commented on her performance at the Ottawa Bluesfest, saying “her show was a Disney-esque choreographed fantasy of non-stop hip-swiveling, sassy attitude and personal endearments and a string of funky, sugar-free hits.” Her performance of “Disturbia” at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards was ranked tenth best on the MTV Video Music Awards, according to a Billboard poll. Her revealing leather costumes during her Good Girl Gone Bad Tour were highly criticized by Malaysia’s conservative Islamic party, who recommended that her concert tour should be banned. Whilst commenting on her third album’s accompanying tour, The Times compared Rihanna‘s stage wardrobe styling to that of Janet Jackson and called her “a vision of Ann Summers couture in thigh-high boots and a few scraps of black PVC.” In the October 2011 issue of British Vogue, Rihanna said her performance outfits and appearances are all an act; “[t]hat’s not me. That’s a part I play. You know, like it’s a piece of art, with all these toys and textures to play with”.
Known for reinventing her style and image, Rihanna‘s music and fashion sense are noted by the media. In 2009, New York magazine described Rihanna‘s early look as that of “a cookie-cutter teen queen”, noting she has the ability “to shift looks dramatically and with such ease”. Around the time of the release of her second studio album, A Girl like Me (2006), many critics felt that Rihanna‘s style, sound, and musical material were too similar to those of Beyoncé. In an interview with Look magazine, Rihanna spoke about comparisons to Beyonce: “Beyoncé is a great artist and I feel honored to be mentioned in the same sentence, but we’re different performers with different styles”. She revealed during Oprah’s Next Chapter that Def Jam’s pop-princess blueprint made her feel claustrophobic during her early years with the label. According to Rihanna, “I felt like they were giving me a blueprint. […] They had a brand, they had an idea of what they wanted me to be without figuring out who I was.” With the release of her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad (2007), Rihanna dismissed her innocent image for an edgier look with a new hairstyle, which was inspired by Charlize Theron‘s bob cut in the science fiction thriller Æon Flux (2005). She followed the likes of recording artists Janet Jackson and Christina Aguilera who also shed their innocent image for an edgier look and sound.
Nico Amarca of Highsnobiety magazine wrote “over the course of her now 10-year career, [Rihanna] has undergone one of the most significant aesthetic metamorphoses the world has ever seen”.Her image and fashion has changed several times with different hairstyles since the release of her third album. She commented that as a child she “used to watch her [mother] get dressed” and that her love and admiration for fashion started with her mom. When putting together her own wardrobe she stated, “It’s become more about taking a risk … I always look for the most interesting silhouette or something that’s a little off.” Jess Cartner-Morley of The Guardian wrote that “Rihanna‘s wardrobe is the most talked-about, influential and dissected in pop right now” and that whatever she wears “is immediately reproduced on the high street, because it sells”. Country singer Miranda Lambert admires Rihanna‘s fashion and style stating, “I don’t necessarily get inspired by the whole no-bra thing, but I love that you never know what she’s going to wear. It always keeps you guessing, which makes her sassy and interesting.”
In an interview with Alexa Chung during Vogue Festival 2015, Balmain designer Olivier Rousteing praised Rihanna by stylistically comparing her to some of the biggest fashion icons in music history, such as Madonna, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Commenting on the cultural expectation for pop stars to be role models, she said “[being a role model] became more of my job than I wanted it to be. But no, I just want to make music. That’s it”. In a May 2013 interview with MTV, The Vagina Monologues writer and feminist Eve Ensler praised the singer, saying, “I’m a huge Rihanna fan, I think she has a kind of agency over her sexuality and she’s open about her sexuality, she has enormous grace and she’s immensely talented.”
Described as one of the sexiest women of her generation, she revealed that being a sex symbol is not a priority and that “it’s definitely flattering, but also uncomfortable.” Her appearance has landed her on the cover of magazines such as Maxim, FHM, Rolling Stone and in December 2012, Rihanna became the first woman to be featured on the cover of GQ magazine’s “Men of the Year” issue.
Rihanna is well known for having a wide collection of small tattoos around her body. Some of them refer to Egyptian Antiquity, a subject of a particular interest of the singer.
Impact and influence
Rihanna is recognized by the media as a pop and fashion icon, most notably since her third studio album Good Girl Gone Bad (2007). Nick Levine of Digital Spy described Good Girl Gone Bad as “the closest thing to a Thriller that 2007/08 is likely to produce”. Her single “Umbrella”, famous for its “ella ella” hook, is considered by Rolling Stone to be one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Her 2011 single “We Found Love” was ranked by Billboard as the 24th biggest US Billboard Hot 100 hit of all time. Her eighth studio album Anti (2016) and its lead single “Work” has been credited by Billboard for bringing the dancehall genre to the forefront of mainstream American music. Music critic Jayson Greene of Pitchfork described Rihanna as the most influential singer of the past decade, writing:
Rihanna Voice has become an industry-wide idea, a creative property like the Korg synth or LinnDrum […] We crave the thrill that you can only get when a dozen or so good ideas manifest themselves in a single voice. For the past 10 years, that voice has more or less been Rihanna’s. Now that she’s gleefully shredding it apart, she’ll probably generate a whole new comet trail of Rihannabes. Inevitably, none of them will carry the charge, the glassy cool and subterranean heat, of the real thing.
Time magazine included Rihanna on its 100 Most Influential People in the World issue in 2012. Stella McCartney writes “She’s one of the coolest, hottest, most talented, most liked, most listened to, most followed, most impressive artists at work today, but she does it in her own stride. She works hard, very hard. She gives to her fans, friends and foundation not just herself but her energy and spirit.” On 2 June 2014, Rihanna was presented with Fashion Icon lifetime achievement award from Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a special prize reserved for “an individual whose style has made a significant impact on popular culture on an international stage”. In August 2013, Rihanna is placed at number 13 on Billboard’s “Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Artists” list, being its highest ranking newcomer. Billboard also ranked Rihanna the top Hot 100 artist of the 2010s decade. In 2014, Time magazine’s pop stardom ranking metric ranked Rihanna second in history, based on all-time chart performance and contemporary significance.
Rihanna‘s work has directly influenced a number of contemporary artists such as Lorde, Sam Smith, Little Mix, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Ellie Goulding, Tegan and Sara, Marilyn Manson, Jessie J, Cover Drive, Fifth Harmony, Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato, Alexandra Stan, Grimes, and Cher Lloyd. Nigerian singer Oreziand British–Irish boy band The Wanted have also released songs named after her, titled “Rihanna” and “Walks Like Rihanna“, respectively. Additionally, Rihanna has become a dominating figure in social media and internet streaming, ranking at number one on Forbes’ 2012 list of Social Networking Superstars. In 2013, Rihanna was also named the most influential pop star in the United Kingdom by UK channel 4Music.
Rihanna has an honorary title of Ambassador for Culture and Youth in Barbados. On 22 February 2008, former Barbados Prime Minister, David Thompson, launched the national “Rihanna Day” in their country. Although it is not a bank holiday, Barbadians celebrate it every year in honor of Rihanna. Additionally on 30 November 2017, Westbury New Road in St. Michael, Barbados, the road where Rihanna was raised, was renamed “Rihanna Drive” to honor Rihanna‘s success in the music industry.
Rihanna has received numerous awards throughout her career such as 9 Grammy Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, 12 American Music Awards, 8 People’s Choice Awards, among others. Rihanna received the “Icon Award” at the 2013 American Music Awards and the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. In the United States, Rihanna has sold over 10 million albums, while Nielsen SoundScan ranked her as the best-selling digital artist in the country, breaking a Guinness World Record for digital single sales of over 58 million as of 2012. On 1 July 2015 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced that Rihanna had surpassed more than 100 million Gold & Platinum song certifications. In doing so Rihanna has the most digital single awards and is the first and only artist to surpass RIAA’s 100 million cumulative singles award threshold. In the United Kingdom, she has sold over seven million albums, making her the third best selling female artist this century. According to Billboard, her total album sales stand at 54 million copies sold worldwide.
Rihanna has accumulated fourteen number-one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for the third most number ones in the chart’s history. She has been named the top Mainstream Top 40 chart artist of the past twenty years by Billboard; she ranks first with most entries (36), most top tens (23), and most number ones (10). As of March 2014, Rihanna has sold over 18 million singles and six million albums in the United Kingdom. She is the tenth best-selling and the second best-selling female singles artist in the country, only behind Madonna and is second only to The Beatles for the most million-selling singles in the UK of all time. Her collaboration with Eminem, “Love the Way You Lie”, together with “Umbrella”, “Disturbia”, “Only Girl (In the World)”, “We Found Love”, and “Diamonds”, are some of the best-selling singles of all time worldwide. Rihanna has seven number-one singles on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and Airplay chart, as well as sixteen number-one singles on the Rhythmic chart.
Rihanna has ventured into other businesses and industries. In October 2005, Rihanna struck an endorsement deal with Secret Body Spray. In 2010, Rihanna featured in the Optus commercial, in conjunction with Optus supporting Rihanna‘s Last Girl on Earth Tour. The same year Rihanna also featured in the Kodak commercial along with rapper Pitbull. In October 2010, the singer released an eponymous book. The book, featured photos from Rihanna‘s Last Girl on Earth Tour and served as an accompaniment to her fourth studio album Rated R (2009). In 2011, Nivea celebrated its “100 Years of Skincare” festivities which featured several performances from Rihanna. Rihanna also became the face of Vita Coco in 2011. In 2013, the singer collaborated with MAC Cosmetics and released her own summer, fall and holiday lines of makeup called “RiRi hearts MAC”. In July 2013, lager production company Budweiser announced that Rihanna had become a part of their global “Made For Music” campaign, also co-starring Jay-Z.
Rihanna‘s first fragrance, “Reb’l Fleur”, was released in January 2011. The product became highly successful, according to Rolling Stone, Reb’l Fleur was a financial success and was expected to gross US$80 million at retail by the end of 2011. Rihanna‘s second fragrance, “Rebelle”, was released in February 2012. The promotional campaign for Rebelle, was shot by director, Anthony Mandler, who also shot the promotional campaign for Reb’l Fleur. In November 2012, Rihanna released her third fragrance, “Nude”. Rihanna‘s fourth women’s fragrance, titled Rogue was released on 14 September 2013, followed by a male version entitled “Rouge Men” which was released in 2014.
On 30 March 2015, it was announced that Rihanna is a co-owner, with various other music artists, in the music streaming service Tidal. The service specialises in lossless audio and high definition music videos. Jay-Z acquired the parent company of Tidal, Aspiro, in the first quarter of 2015. Including Beyoncé and Jay-Z, sixteen artist stakeholders (such as Kanye West, Beyoncé, Madonna, Chris Martin, Nicki Minaj and more) co-own Tidal, with the majority owning a 3% equity stake. “The challenge is to get everyone to respect music again, to recognize its value”, stated Jay-Z on the release of Tidal. In 2016, it was revealed that Rihanna would be releasing her music through her own label Westbury Road Entertainment, which had been established in 2005. Westbury Road is the name of the area Rihanna grew up in back in Barbados. The music would be distributed through Universal Music Group. Westbury Road Entertainment’s artist roster includes Melissa Forde as the label’s photographer, and KazeLoon.
In November 2015, Rihanna and Benoit Demouy launched a beauty and stylist agency named Fr8me. The business based in Los Angeles was set up in order to assist artists in booking commercials, editorial shoots, ad campaigns, and red-carpet appearances. Rihanna stated, “Hair, makeup, and styling play an important role in creativity, I am very involved with that part of my process, so this agency was an organic thing for me to do.” The roster includes Rihanna‘s makeup artist Mylah Morales, wardrobe stylist Jason Bolden, hairstylist Patricia Morales, and Marcia Hamilton. In addition to Fr8me, Rihanna opened a photo agency called “A Dog Ate My Homework”, which represents photographers Erik Asla and Deborah Anderson.
In 2017, Rihanna launched cosmetic company Fenty Beauty under LVMH’s Kendo Brands. The partnership was worth $10 million and would see Rihanna release various beauty products. The first installment of Fenty Beauty was released on 8 September 2017 in stores and online, available in over 150 countries. It included an array of products including foundations, highlighters, bronzers, blush compacts, lip glosses, and blotting sheets and was praised for its diverse range for all skin colours. Time magazine named Fenty Beauty as one “The 25 Best Inventions of 2017”, citing the breadth of its range.
Early in her career, Rihanna made clear her interest in fashion and desire to work in the clothing design industry. In November 2011, Rihanna announced her first fashion venture with Armani. In February 2013, Rihanna presented her first women’s spring fashion collection at London Fashion Week for British street fashion brand River Island, collaborating with her personal stylist Adam Selman. They published two more collections for the brand, a summer edition released on 25 May 2013 and an autumn edition released on 10 September 2013. The fourth and last collection for River Island, the winter edition was released on 7 November 2013. Rihanna went on to collaborate with numerous fashion house’s including Dior, Stance and Manolo Blahnik. In March 2015, it was announced that Rihanna had been chosen as the new face of Dior; this makes her the first black woman to be the face of Dior.
In December 2014, it was confirmed that Rihanna would become the creative director of the fashion sportswear Puma, overseeing the brand’s women’s line which will include collaborations in apparel and footwear. In the fall of 2015, Rihanna released her first trainer with Puma, and the sneaker sold out online with three hours of its pre-sale launch. Over the next two years, Rihanna released various other footwear in different colorways and styles, which were all met positively by both critics and buyers. 2016 saw Rihanna debut her first clothing line in collaboration with Puma at New York Fashion Week; the collection was met with rave reviews from fashion critics. In the spring of that year, Rihanna debuted her second collection at Paris Fashion Week and was met with critical acclaim. Vogue magazine praised the collection and Rihanna, stating “Sometimes when a famous person tries his or her hand at another discipline, the results can be uneven. And yet there are those special cases when making the switch leads to a good surprise. Judging by the collection she showed today, we can add Rihanna to that list.” In Autumn 2017, Rihanna x Puma returned to New York, for the debut of their autumn collection, like previous lines the collection was met with positive reviews. Vogue Magazine stated “Fenty x Puma has kept one step ahead, so to speak, thanks in part to shoe designs that think outside the box—Rihanna is the first woman to have won Footwear News’s coveted Shoe of the Year award, after all.”
Rihanna has become a fashion icon. On 2 June 2014, Rihanna received the Fashion Icon Award at the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards at the Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Regarding this, she said, “Fashion has always been my defense mechanism”. Mexican singer Becky G told Latina magazine that Rihanna is one of her style icons.
In 2006, she created her Believe Foundation to help terminally ill children. In 2007, Rihanna was named as one of the Cartier Love Charity Bracelet Ambassadors, with each celebrity representing a different global charity. To help raise awareness and combat HIV/AIDS, Rihanna and other public figures designed clothing for the February 2008 H&M Fashion Against AIDS line. In 2008, Rihanna performed a series of charity concerts entitled A Girl’s Night Out to benefit the Believe Foundation. The concerts were made free for the public. Money from sponsors and advertisers were to be donated to provide medical supplies, school supplies and toys to children in need. In September 2008, Rihanna contributed to the song “Just Stand Up!” with fifteen other female artists, who shared the stage to perform the song live on 5 September 2008, during the “Stand Up to Cancer” television special. The proceeds from the single were given to the fundraiser. The television special helped raise $100 million for cancer research.
Rihanna founded the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) in 2012, in honor of her grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite. Current programs include the Clara Braithwaite Center for Oncology and Nuclear Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, and education programs. The CLF hosts an annual Diamond Ball charity fundraiser event. The inaugural event in 2014 raised over $2 million, and the second raised over $3 million. On 12 February 2012, Rihanna performed a benefit show at the House of Blues to raise money for the Children’s Orthopaedic Center and the Mark Taper-Johnny Mercer Artists Program at Children’s Hospital. In November 2012, Rihanna gave $100,000 to food bank donation for Hurricane Sandy, On 3 January 2014 Rihanna was part of the MAC Viva Glam campaign, which benefits women, men, and children living with HIV/AIDS.
In February 2017, Rihanna was named Harvard University’s “Humanitarian of the Year” by the Harvard Foundation. During Rihanna‘s third annual “Diamond Ball”, the ex president of the United States; Barack Obama praised Rihanna‘s work stating “You’ve become a powerful force in the fight to give people dignity.
Rihanna (age: 31) is a Barbadian singer known for singles like Pon de Replay, SOS, Umbrella, Take a Bow, Diamonds, Only Girl (In the World), Stay, We Found Love and movies This is the End, Battleship and Ocean's 8.