10 Years Ago Rihanna Introduces ‘Music of the Sun’ to the World
“I grew up kinda fast,” Rihanna told the Guardian in a 2007 interview. It was only four years earlier that Rihanna, then known as Robyn Rihanna Fenty, landed a chance audition that would catapult her from a 15-year-old Barbadian hopeful to the dancehall pop chart-topper who demanded DJs across the world “turn the music up right now” in the breakout of the summer, “Pon de Replay.” Before she became pop’s favorite reigning bad girl, her ascent began ten years ago today with the anniversary of debut album, Music of the Sun (Aug. 30).
As a budding singer in high school, Rihanna had formed a trio with two of her classmates when a mutual friend of producer Evan Rogers’ wife, a Barbados native, set them up to sing for him during one of their regular trips back to the island. Rihanna belted out Mariah Carey’s “Hero” and Samantha Sang’s tune revisited by Destiny’s Child, “Emotion.” Rogers was sold and uprooted Rihanna to move to American to live with his family in Connecticut.
“She had this incredible presence when she walked in,” Rogers recalled in a 2012 interview with the Hartford Currant. “People say, ‘Did you know she would be this big?’ And I always say, ‘I knew she had something really special and I thought if we could get her a record deal she could do something.’”
Rogers soon co-penned “Pon de Replay,” a summertime track playing heavily upon the singer’s Caribbean roots, and under the guise of Rihanna’s husky, vamped-up reggaeton vocals it quickly soared to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in July 2005. It caught the ear of Jay-Z, who invited her to audition on behalf of Island Def Jam Recordings.
“I knew it was all or nothing,” she recalled in a 2009 interview with Glamour. “Right away, the Def Jam people said, ‘You can’t leave the building.’ They closed the door, and the lawyers stayed until 1:00 or 2:00 A.M. to do the deal.”
She signed a six album contract deal with Def Jam and “Pon de Replay” was officially released on iTunes on July 26, 2005. By July 30, it had already reached the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs chart. The media was quick to draw comparisons to the smoky vocal trapezing of Mariah Carey, who happened to block “Replay” from No. 1 with her hit “We Belong Together,” fused with, and sometimes overshadowed by, the current vogue R&B stylings of Destiny’s Child.
Continuing to work with Rogers and his production partner Carl Sturken, Sun was released one month later and would break into the top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart. Critics praised the novelty of her island influence for standing out in a sea of pop divas.
In September, Rihanna released the playful, beachy single “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want,” delivering the coquettish earworm “If it’s lovin’ that you want / come and make me your girl.” The leisurely sing-along never moved the needle quite like “Replay,” but it was enough to break Rihanna from the ranks of a one-hit wonder.
Rihanna went on to release A Girl Like Me in 2006 with the club-friendly lead single “SOS” and shed anything that remained of her glossy image with 2007’s Good Girl Gone Bad thanks to a string of singles including the adrenaline-fueled “Shut Up And Drive” and highly praised “Umbrella.”
Rihanna’s Music of the Sun may have been her album where she was finding her footing, but it set her up for the most gleaming moments in pop culture and pushed her outside of her comfort zone.