There was once a time when the singers who dominated the Billboard charts were defined by a combination of talent, skill and versatility. An era where performers gained success as a result of either musical dynamism or electric showmanship. However, the days where such qualifications were considered the standard are long gone, allowing an individual to rise above her peers on the wings of clever marketing and trendy appeal. That individual is none other than Rihanna.
Blessed with beauty rather than actual talent, Rihanna has been mass-marketed as a fashion icon; gaining relevance via a string of highly publicised endorsement deals and being adept at fitting into the latest style trends. In fact, her fashion-forward appeal extends beyond her wardrobe and towards her music. Her label ensures that her albums feature the most successful songwriters and producers of the moment, guaranteeing that her sound remains current and fresh. Incredibly, as an implication of this brilliant scheme, Rihanna has enjoyed a successful career, disguised as the one thing that she is not: a gifted singer.
With five #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and millions of records sold, Rihanna is noted as one of the most successful acts of the last decade. She rests comfortably at the top of the charts while her vocally gifted counterparts, including Leona Lewis, struggle to have an impact. Interestingly, when the Bajan first emerged, she shared the spotlight with fellow Jay-Z apprentice Teairra Mari, who was unceremoniously released from contract despite both acts having similar first week sales of their debut albums and Mari being the undoubtedly more talented artist. Obviously, Rihanna’s exotic appeal is regarded as more valuable than the talent of her contemporaries.
Nevertheless, although several critics praise her music for tight productions and catchy hooks, ignoring her blatant lack of vocal prowess and stage presence, several questions have been raised. How long will her team be able to bamboozle audiences into purchasing her music? How long will she be able to depend on her looks as an instrument of relevancy? Whether or not she will enjoy a lengthy career remains to be determined. However, as long as her label continues to bolster her endeavours with such brilliant marketing strategies and she is able to attach herself to each passing fad, it seems that “this Rihanna reign just won’t let up.”