Over the course of a decade, Rihanna has blossomed from new artist with a cutesy pop hit and competitor of Teairra Mari to an international superstar whose stardom rivals some of the biggest names in music—including her own admitted past inspiration, Beyoncé. These days, her fans—lovingly referred to as the Navy—are painfully awaiting the release of her long-delayed eighth album, R8. I imagine many are currently wiping their tears with her cute new socks. In any event, as we wait for that album to finally drop, let us look back on Rihanna’s pop star ascension. Feel free to inject body rolls and dutty wines when the spirit moves you.
Oh, and a serious pussy pat. Can’t forget that.
Born in Saint Michael, Barbados, Rihanna’s career took off upon meeting record producer Evan Rogers in 2003. Speaking of her career in 2005, Rihanna explained in an interview that Rogers was married to a Barbadian and they met through mutual friends. Rihanna sang to him in his hotel room, and upon hearing her, invited Rih-Rih to sing in the studio. Once the demo was finished, it was sent to several labels and Def Jam jumped on it. She auditioned for Jay Z, and after being impressed, he signed her to a deal.
Her debut album, Music of the Sun, was released Aug. 30, 2005. The first single, “Pon de Replay,” reached No. 2 on the Hot 100.
The album’s second single was “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want,” a song not enough of you people appreciated.
Music of the Sun was certified gold, but was met with mixed receptions among critics. Still, some found promise in her. In his review for The New York Times, Kelefa Sanneh writes of a “pleasant surprise near the end, a cheerfully ridiculous electro-pop ballad where she explores a timeless romantic quandary: ‘There's a thug in my life/How’m I gonna tell my mama?'’”
She goes on to explore this sweet spot later.
Girl Like Me came a year later and spawned Rihanna’s first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100: “S.O.S.” The song was originally intended for Christina Milian, who passed on the track for her 2006 album, So Amazin’. Milian would go on to get dropped by her label while Rihanna’s sophomore album would score a platinum certification. While she was finding her footing, Rihanna had yet to fully supplant herself as a pop star.
Everything changed in 2007 after Rihanna got a haircut, a much bigger clothes budget, and more fitting collaborators like The-Dream and Christopher “Tricky” Stewart. Things took off not long after—starting with “Umbrella,” the first cut on her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad. This song was initially meant for Mary J. Blige, but even Blige realized in hindsight that the song was a great fit for Rihanna. After citing scheduling conflicts, Blige would go on to tell MTV News about Rihanna: “She’s such a beautiful lady, and I love her to death. I was so glad that she caught it and knocked it out of the park, and it’s still one of my favorite songs to date.”
The album had other huge hits like “Don’t Stop the Music” and went on to become a multi-platinum, international success. Rih would take this growing fame and create not only a world tour, but a reissued version of her smash, Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded. That included even more hits like “Disturbia” and “Take a Bow,” the latter of which people still love singing at random as loud as humanly possible. You know who you are.
After that came more platinum albums: 2009’s Rated R, 2010’s Loud, 2011’s Talk That Talk, and 2012’s Unapologetic. And many more No. 1 hits: “Rude Boy,” “Only Girl (In the World),” “S&M,” “We Found Love,” “Diamonds,” and others.
Many like to point out that Unapologetic is Rihanna’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. Yeah, but in between all of that, she racked up so many No. 1 singles before the age of 30 that she likely has put fear in the heart of Mariah Carey over the likelihood of her besting her record for most No. 1 singles by a female artist. In fact, Rihanna is now the best-selling digital artist of all time.
Commercially, she’s very much on the level of her idols like Mariah and Beyoncé: not too shabby for a decade’s amount of work.
We still need a new album to complete all of the newness Rihanna has teased throughout the year. In the meantime, her fans have plenty of reason to keep the celebration going.
That said, notice she pronounces her name as “Ree-an-na” and not “Ree-ahh-nuh.” Other members of the press have commented on this. Y’all still don’t listen, though. As big a star as she is, will the world ever get it right?