Two years ago, she was just another Bajan girl with a dream. Now 18-year-old singer Rihanna is poised to become pop’s next superstar.
Eighteen-year-old Rihanna is lying on the backyard lawn of a private bungalow at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, California, her arm artfully propping up her head. As a dozen or so people buzz in and out of her personal space, measuring the light, pushing a strand of hair from her forehead, touching up her lipstick, she remains joyful and completely unfazed, even though there’s a camera less than twelve inches from her face.
“Gorgeous, Rihanna!” coos the photographer while the pop sensation locks glances with her friend Dara, who’s watching from the patio. First, she crosses one of her penetrating, cat-shaped eyes, then the other, then both. Over the next several hours, she will have her hair reshaped into a tousled cascade of locks, sip Coca-Cola and nibble on potato chips and chicken wings (hot sauce on the side), all while chatting on the phone (which chirps with her own “Break It Off” or Beyoncé’s “Check on It” ringtone). Even though she has the number one song on the Billboard 100 chart (“SOS”), plus a sex-soaked video running in heavy rotation on MTV (“Unfaithful”), Rihanna is still just a playful, goofy teenager.
“Music has always been my love,” she says in an endearing Barbadian accent as her new CD, A Girl Like Me, an impressive collection of reggae-flavored dance tracks and surprisingly touching ballads, plays over and over in the background. “In Barbados, I was always at the beach or at a dance club, singing in the mirror along with records. My neighbors would complain about how loud I was, but I didn’t care.”
At the end of 2003, Rihanna met producer Evan Rogers (Christina Aguilera, Ruben Studdard), who was vacationing in Barbados with his wife. Rogers heard her sing Destiny’s Child’s “Emotion” and invited her to a studio in New York City, where she recorded an EP featuring “Pon de Replay,” a dancehall riff that would eventually become the most downloaded track of the summer of 2005.
“When Rihanna walked into the room, she was pretty enough to be a model, plus she had a really distinctive presence,” Rogers says. “I thought, ‘This is way too good to be true. If this girl can sing, she’ll be a star.’” “We sent my demo to a few labels, and Def Jam was the first one to call back,” Rihanna says. “Evan called me in Barbados, and I started shaking. I was like, ‘You have to be kidding! Jay-Z!?’ I flew in the next day and went straight to the audition.”
She first met The Man in the Def Jam hallway. “Jay started talking about the label, but I can’t remember anything he said because all I was thinking was, ‘Tell me you’re interested…just tell me you’re interested.’ Then he said, ‘We don’t just sign songs. We sign true artists. You interested?’ Those were the best words I had ever heard.”
[tags]Rihanna, Beyonce, Jay-Z[/tags]