Before becoming a billionaire super-star, Rihanna started out as a young singer in her home country of Barbados. She was discovered in 2005 by Evan Rodgers, a famous American producer. Together, they sent her first demo records to Jay-Z. Being the newest CEO of Def Jam Recordings at the time, he flew Rihanna out for an audition. This led to the young aspiring singer to sign on with her first record deal, and the rest is history!
Music of the Sun
Rihanna’s first studio album Music of The Sun released in 2005 that included songs “The Last Time”, “Here I Go Again”, and her fan favorite “Pon de Replay.” Translating to “play it again” in Bajan Creole, “Pon de Replay” was a song that also featured in her demo that signed Rihanna to Def Jam Recordings. Her debut album also included collaborations with other artists. She worked with J-Status on “Here I go Again” and Kardinal Offishall on “Rush.” With a total of 609,00 copies sold, Rihanna began her music career strong!
A Girl Like Me
Soon after the success of her first album, Rihanna released A Girl Like Me in 2006. This album dropped only 8 months after releasing Music of The Sun. The thirteen featured tracks perfectly encapsulate the early 2000’s style of R&B and pop music. The overall sound of the album established Rihanna’s style and voice in music. It combined instrumental and rhythmic elements of her Caribbean heritage alongside the modern lyricism of R&B. A Girl Like Me also features the hit single “SOS.” It became Rihanna’s first single to reach #1 in the US Hot 100 list.
Good Girl Gone Bad
After establishing herself as a successful musician and performer, Rihanna switched up her look and sound with the 2007 release of Good Girl Gone Bad. This album went for a more sleek and powerful voice. Rihanna wanted to turn her image away from the young and innocent girl from the Caribbean.
In turn, she created a whole new persona for herself that set the tone for her future music career. She took inspiration from 1980s music as well as Brandy Norwood’s Afrodisiac album (2004). This strong twelve song collection included the tracks “Umbrella,” “Don’t Stop The Music,” and “Shut Up and Drive.” Rihanna earned seven Grammy nominations and her first award in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Umbrella” featuring Jay-Z.
Released in 2009, the Rated R album represented Rihanna’s split from her previous persona introduced in Good Girl Gone Bad. From switching to a more upbeat and hard-hitting music to a mature and atmospheric direction, Rihanna wanted to put her heart into Rated R.
Following the assault from her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, Rihanna wanted to push her emotions to a new level. For the sound, she took influence from the growing rock and dubstep culture. Some of Rihanna’s most recognizable singles from the album include “Hard,” Wait Your Turn,” and “Rude Boy.” Rated R placed itself at number four for the US Billboard chart within its first week of release.
Coming off her Last Girl on Earth Tour, Rihanna released Loud on November 12, 2010. This album revisits Rihanna’s love for the sound of dancehall music, which was prevalent in her Music of The Sun and A Girl Like Me. The return of the dancehall sound along with a more up-tempo composition was received positively by fans and critics.
It debuted at number three on the US Billboard chart. Her singles “Only Girl,” “What’s My Name?” and “S&M” all held spots for the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Later, Rihanna was crowned as the youngest artist to earn the most number one singles in the shortest time frame. The album, including features from Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Eminem, received three Grammy nominations including Album of the Year.
Talk That Talk
Marking the end of her six-album record deal, Talk That Talk dropped on November 18, 2011 after recording it while traveling on her Loud Tour. Originally planned as a reissue of her Loud album, Rihanna collaborated with producers including Calvin Harris and Stargate to strengthen her sound.
This album focuses on influences from electronic music as well as dubstep and house music. Her hit single “We Found Love” placed as Rihanna’s eleventh number one single in the US and placed on top of hit lists in twenty-six other countries. Talk That Talk is as a studio album that best encapsulates the integration of electronic dance music into the mainstream flow of pop and hip-hop.
While Rihanna promoted her release of Talk That Talk, she also recorded her Unapologetic album that made its release on November 19, 2012. Taking the role of the executive producer, Rihanna collaborated with past partners Calvin Harris, Stargate, and The-Dream alongside new partners like Labrinth to create a synth-pop sound.
The incorporation of musical elements in EDM and hip-hop fusion alongside the brief period it took to create the album caused mixed reviews. Nonetheless, it won the Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album. Unapologetic also received nominations for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the single “Stay.” The album topped the US Billboard 200, becoming her first number one album of her career.
Although the recording for ANTI began in 2014, Rihanna had ended her contract with Def Jam Recordings and moved to release with Roc Nation. Going through a rough period of burnout and struggling to find inspiration, ANTI consists of a more downtempo beat that utilizes lo-fi beats and slower vocals.
Featuring other famous artists including SZA and Drake, the album holds heavier emotional weight through Rihanna’s lyrics about love, longing, and betrayal. ANTI became Rihanna’s second number one album and became the first album by a black woman to spend 300 weeks on the Billboard 200! Hit singles such as “Kiss It Better,” “Work,” and “Needed Me” all make their way back to the Billboard top charts despite its release six years ago!
Currently, Rihanna has made statements saying her pregnancy was not going to stop her from creating music. With her work in Fenty and now becoming a new mother will we ever see Rihanna return to the recording studio?