Rihanna: 31 Years of Evolution and Zero F*cks
Robyn Fenty, who turns 31 today, has so little in common with other artists of her (or any, really) generation, that it often seems as if she is was delivered to Earth in a spaceship she’d built herself.
Since her debut album, the Bahamian has notched 13 No. 1s and 31 top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. She’s been nominated for 33 Grammy awards and won nine of them. In addition to the validation that comes with a series of sold-out world tours, she has won both an AMA Icon and an MTV Video Vanguard award for her visual work. Her career has been one of shape-shifting sounds — from pop to R&B to dance to more Caribbean and African rhythms and…Paul McCartney. And the last person that accurately predicted her next career move was no one.
Rihanna is one of a small handful of all-time most streamed artists on all platforms and will probably put the top spot completely out of reach for others if and when she decides to drop more music.
But that’s only part of the story. It was early on when she began to think about using intuition and talent for something other than accolades. Her commercial success began with funding philanthropic and business forays into fashion, jewelry and cosmetics, and she made the decision to move beyond short-money endorsements for creative control and ownership stakes.
Music may have fueled Rihanna’s offstage pursuits, but the stretches between releases and tours have provided her the opportunity to create a work-life balance, popping up everywhere from World Cup soccer matches and Formula One races to Barbados’ annual Carnival-like Cropover festival. And while fans were busy trying to decipher social media posts and surprise appearances, she has publicly done something no one else would even think possible: Rihanna’s musical success is quickly becoming an accompanying soundtrack for her personal evolution.
On the occasion of her birthday, the best tribute we could offer is this: Rihanna has become a global force for social change, making a real difference in the lives of millions all over the globe, without fundamentally giving a fuck about what others think.
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