Where does one start a conversation about Rihanna? I guess the beginning—or one of her beginnings anyway.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty was introduced to the masses by way of her music. She came into our lives while wearing baggy jeans and gold sequins with her song “Pon De Replay,” and from there grew into a pop music-making machine. She released an album almost annually every year from 2006 to 2012, churning out dance songs that more often than not wound up at the top of charts. But these aren't just any dance songs; these are the best of the genre. It's impossible to deny the euphoria that ensues when "Don’t Stop The Music" or "Only Girl (In the World)" comes on shuffle. As much as those songs are quintessential to Rihanna's evolution and career, though, it’s the sound and image that she's emerged with in the past couple of years—when the good girl turned bad for good—that’s proven to be the most enticing aspect of Rihanna's music—and Rihanna, herself—so far.
Rihanna’s a pop star… technically. But, in the past couple of years, she’s proven that she doesn’t—and doesn’t want to—operate in the same sphere as someone like Taylor Swift. She’s not a role model. She’s said it before, and she reiterates it every time she’s seen smoking a joint or is caught responding pettily to someone on social media. She’s not a Beyoncé, either, and never will be. She shouldn’t try to be. Outside of sales, they're incomparable. Beyoncé is the mom, Rihanna is the fun aunt who buys you your first vibrator. Rihanna loves the kids, but she’s not asking for the kids to love her back. She’s unpredictable and, in a world of perfectly curated pop stars, her constant surprises are intoxicating.
I always assumed Rihanna was a Scorpio: a little crazy, a lot dark. Turns out, she’s a Pisces. Which also makes sense once you read this line describing the fish sign: “Nobody believes in themselves the way a Pisces does, and they tend to be true innovators in their fields. A Pisces is the imaginative icon of the zodiac, the one who moves the world forward into new and unchartered territory.” Last year alone, Rihanna forced other beauty brands to their knees with the release of Fenty Beauty, received the Harvard Humanitarian Award for her work in Barbados, created a line of creepers that sold out consistently, was Spotify’s most-streamed artist without having put out an album, and ruled NYFW with her Fenty x Puma collection.
But her true Piscean nature was revealed on Anti, which. if we have anything to say about it, would really be known as the album of the past few years. It wasn’t a chart topper like her projects before it, and many critics even labeled it a flop and “underwhelming.” But it was actually Rihanna's magnum opus. It displayed the Rihanna she rarely lets us see: vulnerable, emotional, moody, broken. As Jenna Wortham of the New York Times wrote, it’s the record you put out when you don’t need to sell records—or even care to anymore. Because, at this point, Rihanna is an entity bigger than her music.
You didn’t need us to list out her accolades for proof that the Barbadian princess is a visionary icon (an overused term, but applicable in this case). It’s in the way she carries herself, be it on the red carpet of the Met Gala or court-side at basketball games. It's in the way she seemingly levitates atop subway grates in heels. It's in the way she’s turned walking out of restaurants with wine glasses into an art form. It's in the way we wouldn’t dare question the line “sex with me, so amazing,” because how could it be anything but? It's in the way she can wear a shirt that reads “I Hate Rihanna” with sub-script that declares: “Don’t trust anyone under 30” a mere day before she’s welcomed into the club, and have 20-somethings everywhere nodding in approval. She’s right, we can’t be trusted, we all said to ourselves.
Just think: The past decade has been Rihanna in her 20s, imagine what her 30s will have in store.
It’s Britney, bitch? Nah. It’s Rihanna, n*gga.