Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
Now, as her faithful #Navy await official news on the release of “R8” – the eighth full length studio album from music’s leading bad gal Rihanna, we pon de replay with an ode to her sophomore effort ‘A Girl Like Me.’
“Everything on this album is from a female’s perspective. This album is very personal to me and everything’s coming from my point of view…” – Rihanna, 2006
Much like Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and Jennifer Lopez with the late 90s’ “Latin Explosion” before them, Billboard’s early 2000’s charts saw a deviation from pop and hip hop dominance in the form of a “caribbean explosion” captained by Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and later, Jay Z‘s protege/then-newcomer Rihanna.
Making a major splash in 2005 with her debut top 10 hit ‘Pon De Replay’ and its moderately successful top 40 follow-up ‘If It’s Lovin’ That You Want,’ the Barbadian teen would catch the tail-end of the island music wave as, by her debut album’s release, interest in the movement was fading almost as fast as it’d risen.
In fact, ‘Lovin’s failure to replay the success of ‘Replay’ saw many quickly write the youngster off as a “one hit wonder” – a label she’d fight hard to defy with her sophomore project ‘A Girl Like Me’ (released just 8 months after her inaugural project).
Enter its lead single – 2006’s ‘S.O.S.’:
Originally written for, but later passed on by, ‘Dip It Low’ diva Christina Milian, the song – which samples the hit 80’s tune ‘Tainted Love’ – would get some serious love on U.S. radio and digital outlets. Ditching her original reggae/island inspired sound for that of one with more pop lean, the risky move quickly proved itself a lucrative one. Skyrocketing to #1 on the Hot 100 shortly after its release to radio, its performance on charts immediately quelled any murmurs of Ri’s ‘one-hit wonderdom.’
Her first official release as an adult, its accompanying music video would act to assist in the young singer’s journey from child star to adult sex symbol. Shedding her tomboyish baggy jeans and sneakers for a vixen-esque look, the transformation instantly drew comparisons to the day’s top R&B diva – Beyonce (a likening that would become a mainstay in her career).
On the heels of the success of ‘S.O.S.,’ the album slid right into the Billboards 200’s top 10 upon its spring 2006 launch. Debuting at #5 and selling nearly 115,000 in its premiere week (twice as many as her 1st album ‘Music of the Sun’), it was becoming more and more evident that Ri’s rise to stardom just igniting.
Anxious not to let the steam built by ‘S.O.S’ cool, Ri & team swiftly moved on to single #2 – the Ne-Yo penned ‘Murderer’ (later renamed ‘Unfaithful’).
Giving the budding diva her first taste of controversy, the number – an R&B ballad that narrates a woman’s remorse for acts of infidelity – drew criticism for its metaphoric depictions of gun violence. Despite the concern from music lovers and radio/tv stations alike, the coverage only assisted the song’s hoist to top 10 glory as it peaked at the #6 spot on the Hot 100.
Delivering the singer’s 2nd top 10 from this album (third overall), ‘Unfaithful’ beamed as yet another testament to Ri’s hitmaking power. A power put to the test with its follow-ups ‘We Ride’ and ‘Break It Off.’
‘Break It Off’
While ‘We Ride’ would ride right into chart obscurity and miss the Hot 100 all together, its successor – featuring dancehall hitmaker Sean Paul – saw the likely pair ride to the tally’s top 10 the next year despite the absence of an accompanying music video (giving Ri her 3rd top 10 from one album).
As early 2007 brought the era to close, the collection of hit singles not only kept the album afloat on music charts worldwide, but sailed it right to the platinum mark less than a year after its release. The absence of critical and industry-recognition (i.e. Grammys, American Music Awards, etc.) would not stall the album’s sales progress as numbers presently hover near the 4 million worldwide mark nearly a decade after its release. A feat, we’ll argue, is impressive given the short promo campaign it was afforded.
Arguably, ‘A Girl Like Me’ set ablaze an album trend quite prevalent in the Bajan beauty’s career – hitmaking factories shipping chart-topper after chart-topper in the face of manifesting no long-term sales support for its parent album. This, of course, partially due to the dearth of long-term promotional support from Ri & team as each project would barely see a yearlong campaign on its behalf before they moved on to the next album (see: May 2007’s ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’).
By no means her magnum opus, but for what it’s worth, ‘A Girl Like Me’ has a very important place in Ri’s discography as it was a turning point album in her career (the calm before the storm so to speak). From an image perspective, it was not only the last shred of innocence the now daring diva would purport, but it was also the last time she would blatantly give off Beyonce-isms in her essence – a move we applaud her for. Musically, it operated as a pilot to allow her to test pop waters and, thusly, open the door for her to completely ditch the R&B/caribbean angle that was, to great degree, a pigeonhole for her.
Since ‘Girl’ she’s comfortably skated on the thin line between pop and Urban, often leaning more to the radio friendliness of the former while interestingly still openly accepted by Urban audiences and never widely labeled a sellout (a feat not even Beyonce can attest to). If you ask us, ‘A Girl Like Me’ is to thank for that.
And, while it’s not uncommon to hear ‘P.S. I’m Still Not Over You’ on repeat here at TGJ HQ, we want to ask you: