“Rihanna felt like a massive star the very time I met her in Jay Z’s office. That was also the day she was signed to Def Jam.”
Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels marvels at his first memory of Rihanna. “You could feel her burning drive to succeed when you looked in her eyes.”
Bartels’ hunch was right. Rihanna’s debut single, the dancehall-reggae infused “Pon de Replay” marked her Billboard chart debut, entering the Billboard Hot 100 (at No. 97) dated June 11, 2005. Seven weeks later, it reached its No. 2 peak, setting off an astonishing run. Rihanna, 17 years old at the time of her chart arrival, scored her first No. 1, “SOS,” in May 2006 and has tallied 13 toppers total, through 2013’s “The Monster” (on which she assists Eminem). In only a decade, Rihanna has tied Michael Jackson for the third-most most Hot 100 No. 1s all-time, trailing only The Beatles, with 20, and Mariah Carey (18).
Rihanna’s most recent top 10 brought her closer to The Beatles – literally – as “FourFiveSeconds,” with Fab Four icon Paul McCartney, and Kanye West, reached No. 4 in February. The folky song continued Rihanna’s trademark sonic exploration, which has, in addition to dancehall, encompassed dance/pop, hard-hitting hip-hop and soaring ballads. “Rihanna has an incredible depth of awareness about what the culture is doing and has an amazing connection with her fans,” Bartels says, alluding to her nearly 47 million Twitter followers (placing her among the 10-most followed people on the platform). “That allows her to be everything she wants.”
Rihanna is prepping her eighth studio album, for which no title or release date has been announced. Her last studio set, 2012’s Unapologetic, became her first Billboard 200 No. 1.
“Her first decade, in my opinion, has been superlative and iconic, yet it’s only a precursor of continued greatness,” Bartels says. “As a member of her team – and as a fan – I’m looking forward to it.”