If nothing else, it has been an eventful and eye opening year for Barbados born songstress Rihanna. In addition to recording one of the most popular singles of 2005, the hypnotic “Pon De Replay” (which bass bumped out of more car windows while igniting a slew of barbeques last summer), she won over the masses with her charming Bajan persona.
“So much has happened in my life, I feel like I’ve grown five years in a year,” she gushes. No doubt, by the time Def Jam Records released Rihanna’s debut album Music of the Sun, it was obvious that this young woman was more than a one-hit wonder. With a work ethic reminiscent of Motown sisters back in the day when soul reigned supreme, Rihanna traveled throughout the world.
2005 saw Rihanna rocking the mic on tour with Gwen Stefani, making crowds sweat in Japan, posing for magazine covers in Los Angeles and shooting her first film role for Bring It On Yet Again. This was a long way from the quiet life she led in Barbados in the parish of St.Michael. Robyn Rihanna Fenty has come through her musical initiation process unscathed. And now she is poised for everything that 2006 may hold as she readies to do it again with her sophomore release A Girl Like Me.
“I grew up so much this past year. I had no choice. To pursue my dreams, and with their support, I left my entire family in Barbados to move to the States. It was a little scary to have no friends or family and all of a sudden step into a recording studio,” recalled Rihanna.
“2005 taught me the dedication and responsibility it takes to make this dream a reality. Waking up at 5:00 am to start rehearsals, the training, the schoolwork, interviews, video shoots, going all day; it always seemed glamorous but it is real work. My love for music and singing will never change but the rose colored glasses are no longer so rosy.”
“Many times over the past year, I didn’t have anyone my age with me. When recording this album, I wanted it to seem like I was having a personal conversation with girls my age,” says the eighteen-year-old singer. “People think, because we’re young, we aren’t complex, but that’s not true. We deal with life and love and broken hearts in the same way a woman a few years older might. My goal on A Girl Like Me was to find songs that express the many things young women want to say, but might not know how.”
Dropping from the harmonic heavens to the groovalistic dance floor, Rihanna has returned with another single that will have listeners begging the d.j. to play it one more time. Produced by Jason Rotem, the sizzling “S.O.S.” is bringing the summer heat early this year. With its hypnotic beat and enticing melody, “S.O.S.” utilizes the electro-funk of Soft Cell’s ’80s classic “Tainted Love” to create a soulful anthem of young love.
“I got excited when I first heard this track and three days later, it was recorded,” Rihanna says. Turning heads with its rebel sound, “S.O.S.” has been used as the theme song for their NIKE latest women’s line, which can be viewed on NikeWomen.com. “Making that commercial was yet another new experience,” she says. “It took six days to shoot, but working with choreographer Jamie King (Madonna and Shakira) was amazing.”
Focusing on progressing as an artist, Rihanna has recorded a compelling track of heartbreak called “Unfaithful.” Penned by her label-mate Ne-Yo and Stargate, the song documents the tragic decay of a relationship when another person starts cheating.
Yet, in this instance, it is the girl who has strayed. “On a lot of records, men talk about cheating as though it’s all a game. For me, ‘Unfaithful’ is not just about stepping out on your man, but the pain that it causes both parties.”
Perhaps the most surprising track is the rock meets island vibe of “Kisses Don’t Lie.” Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, the principles of her production company, SRP, used a mixture of Caribbean elements, electric guitar and a mesmerizing bassline.” Coming from Barbados, I really hadn’t heard that much rock music,” Rihanna confesses. “Touring with Gwen changed my perspective. So, when I was discussing this project with L.A. Reid, Chairman of Island Def Jam Records, I made sure to say I want to experiment with some rock.”
During the recording of A Girl Like Me, Rihanna jet set down to Jamaica to record with Sean Paul on the yardie duet “Break It Off.” Smiling, Rihanna explains, “I have so much respect and love for Sean Paul. He took me to visit the Bob Marley Museum before going into the studio, which was an amazing experience. When we finally got to the studio, I felt as though Marley’s spirit was in the room with us.”
With A Girl Like Me, the beautiful singer proves that her breakthrough was no fluke. After selling 1 million copies worldwide of her debut Music Of The Sun, once again, the summer belongs to Rihanna.