One of the biggest pop stars to emerge from the 2000s, Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty on February 20th, 1988) grew up in Saint Michael, Barbados and began singing in primary school. New York music producer Evan Rogers heard Rihanna perform while vacationing on the island and brought the then 16-year-old to the U.S. to record demos. Jay-Z, Def Jam's acting president, quickly signed Rihanna and Def Jam released Music of the Sun (Number 10, 2005), on which Rihanna came off like Beyonce with a deeper voice and Caribbean accent. The album's success was propelled by the dancehall-fueled "Pon de Replay" (Number Two, 2005) and, to a lesser degree, "If It's Lovin' That You Want" (Number 36, 2005).
A mere eight months after Music of the Sun, Rihanna returned with A Girl Like Me (Number Five, 2006), a noticeable artistic step up and a bigger hit. The album included her first Number One single, "SOS," which turned on a buffed-and-shined-up chunk of Soft Cell's new-wave dance classic "Tainted Love." The Ne-Yo-penned "Unfaithful" (Number Six, 2006) and the Sean Paul duet "Break It Off" (Number Nine, 2006) continued Rihanna's hot streak.
Still, those hits were just a warm-up, both commercially and in terms qualitatively, for Good Girl Gone Bad (Number Two, 2007) and its smash lead single "Umbrella," featuring Jay-Z. The song, was nominated for three Grammys including Record and Song of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, which it won. "Umbrella" dominated the summer of 2007, settling at Number One for seven weeks in the U.S. and for 10 weeks in the U.K.
The hits kept coming with "Shut Up and Drive" (Number 15, 2007) and "Hate That I Love You," featuring Ne-Yo (Number Nine, 2007). "Don't Stop the Music," which, like "SOS," married a fearsome digital 4/4 stomp to an old favorite (in this case, Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"), had been a club favorite in 2007 (it was Number One on the Hot Dance Club Play chart) before being plugged to pop radio (it reached Number Two on the pop chart).
With the 2008 release of a remix album Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded, the hits kept coming, including "Take a Bow" and "Disturbia"¬ — which both went to Number One—and "If I Never See Your Face Again," with Maroon 5's Adam Levine, which went to Number Seven.
On the night of the Grammys in February, 2009, Rihanna was assaulted by then-boyfriend Chris Brown, resulted in a media storm of controversy, especially when police photos of the battered singer appeared on gossip website TMZ.com. Brown ultimately plead guilty to felony assault charges and was given five years probation and ordered to stay 50 yards away from Rihanna.
Rihanna re-emerged in September, 2009 on "Run This Town," with Jay-Z, which peaked at Number Two. In November, she released her fourth studio album Rated R, which debuted at Number Four and selling 185,000 copies in its first week — the singer's best debut yet.
Evan Serpick contributed to this article.
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