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In five short years, Rihanna has gone from being a little known teenager from Barbados to one of the most successful female singers in the world. Ten of her singles have topped the US Billboard Hot 100 charts, she has sold over 15 million albums and her songs have been downloaded a massive 28 million times. Along the way she has won industry awards, provoked controversy with her stage outfits and videos and hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when her then boyfriend, Chris Brown, attacked her. But there is no holding the girl back and she continues to go from strength to strength.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born in Barbados in February 1988 and can trace Afro-Guyanese, Barbadian and Irish descendants. She used singing to escape a home life dominated by her father’s cocaine addition and subsequent marriage problems. When she was 15, she formed a group with two of her classmates. Friends introduced the group to record producer Evan Rogers who was on holiday on the Caribbean island. He was immediately struck by Rihanna’s voice and presence and began coaching her for a career in the music industry. At just 16, Rihanna left her family in Barbados and moved to the States to live with Evans and his wife, working on demos during her school holidays. A demo tape was sent to Jay-Z at Def Jam records who immediately signed the singer to the record label.
Her debut album, “Music of the Sun” was released in August 2005 and reached number ten on the Billboard album chart. Her first single, “Pon de Replay” reached number two on the US and UK singles chart and was a recording of the track she had used on her original demo tape. The follow-up single, “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” didn’t do so well and Rihanna went straight back into the studio to record her second album.
“A Girl Like Me” was released just seven months after her debut album and produced the number one hit single “SOS”. The music industry’s response to the album was mixed although that didn’t stop her second single, “Unfaithful” from becoming an international hit. Rihanna followed up the release of the album by touring almost continuously for the next nine months, sometimes on her own, sometimes with other artists such as the Pussycat Dolls.
She returned to recording in 2007, releasing “Good Girl Gone Bad” which was to produce a staggering eight hit singles. The style of the album changed from her earlier work to showcase more dance tracks and fewer ballad and reggae songs that had marked her previous albums. Rihanna also changed her image to adopt a more edgier bad girl look, cutting her hair short and dying it black.
“Umbrella” was the song that brought Rihanna worldwide attention. The single which featured Jay-Z topped the charts around the world, including a ten-week stint on the top of the UK singles chart. Other singles from the album including “Shut Up and Drive”, “Don’t Stop The Music” and “Hate That I Love You” also reached the top of the charts in many countries around the world. The album was re-released in June 2008 with the singles, “Take a Bow” and “Disturbia” both hitting the top spot. When her collaboration with T.I, “Live Your Life” also reached number one, Rihanna could claim five number one singles in three years. She tied places with Beyonce for the most number of singles in the decade.
In 2008, Rihanna won her first Grammy Award for “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration”. She would go on to win the same Grammy Award the following year along with Best Rap Song for “Run This Town” (a collaboration with Jay-Z and Kanye West) and in 2011, she won her fourth award for Best Dance Recording for the song “Only Girl”.
Rihanna went back on the road in 2007 with the “Good Girl Gone Bad” tour and the following spring, joined Kaye West, N.E.R.D. and Lupe Fiasco on the Glow in the Dark Tour.
She released her fourth album in November 2009. “Rated R” sold over one million copies and the first three releases from the album – “Russian Roulette”, “Hard” and “Rude Boy” – all made it into the top ten singles chart, with the latter reaching the number one stop. To promote the album, Rihanna hit the road with her “Last Girl on Earth Tour”.
“Loud”, Rihanna’s fifth album came out in November 2010 and sold over 200,000 copies in its first week of release. The first single from the album was “Only Girl (In The World)” which had been released as a download several months earlier and was a slow burner, taking many weeks to reach number one on the Billboard singles chart. In fact it was over-taken to the top spot by her second single, collaboration with rapper Drake called “What’s My Name?”. When the latter topped the UK charts in January 2011. Rihanna became the only female singer to have five number one singles on the UK charts in consecutive years. Her tenth US number one single was “S&M” that reached the top in April 2011.
In between releasing her own albums, Rihanna has collaborated with many other artists on their recordings. These include Eminem on “Love the Way You Lie” which gave Rihanna her seventh number one US single and Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”. She also tried her hand at acting, taking a role in the film “Battleship” which is due for release in 2012.
Rihanna appears as much in the gossip columns as she does on the album charts. But in February 2009, the press attention in her accelerated when she was attacked on her way to the Grammy Awards by her then boyfriend, singer Chris Brown. A photograph of Rihanna after the assault was leaked to the press, showing that she had visible injuries on her face. Brown was arrested and subsequently charged with assault and making criminal threats and was ordered to serve five years probation and to stay away from Rihanna.
Rihanna has come a long way in a very short time. From singing with her girlfriends after school to dominating the music charts, it has been a very rapid rise to the top for the singer. She continues to produce hit singles and to push the boundaries of promo videos and to collaborate with some of the best artists in the business. There is no doubt she will be around to create her special brand of music for many years to come.