Music of the Sun

Music of the Sun

What are the essential characteristics of a pop star? Natural talent? A striking look? Undeniable charisma? All wholly necessary, but what about an inherent sense of culture and how it informs the art you want to make? Less essential than those first three, to be sure, but it’s also exactly what set Robyn Rihanna Fenty apart from any of her perceived peers at the time of her debut, charting a path to stardom, global influence, and untold riches. Music of the Sun’s first track and lead single “Pon de Replay” finds the then-17-year-old channeling the dancehall parties she was too young to drink at, calling out popular dances of the time and sing-toasting her way to a crossover smash in the vein of Lumidee’s “Never Leave You.” Unlike “Never Leave You,” however, “Pon de Replay” was only the start. Rihanna would take on—and slay—vintage lovers rock in “Here I Go Again,” but after a brief interval of the more straightforward pop-R&B of “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want,” the singer was right back to her Caribbean roots with “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No),” a cover of a Dawn Penn classic that features then yet-to-be-crowned king of dancehall Vybz Kartel. (Kartel would double back to immortalize his collaborator some years later with “Pale Blue Dot [Rihanna Wine].”) And a young Rihanna’s taste extended well beyond the sounds of liming. “That La, La, La,” co-written by ’80s R&B hunks turned pop-music super writers Full Force, is the kind of glammed-up R&B that singers like Beyoncé, Amerie, and J. Lo once used as a calling card. “Willing to Wait,” which contains an interpolation of Deniece Williams’ airy ’76 soul ballad “Free,” and “There’s a Thug in My Life,” which boasts melodies from DeBarge’s “A Dream,” are, topically, gentle reminders of just how much life a young RiRi has yet to live. Rounding out the album’s guests are Jamaican R&B quartet J-Status; the MC who brought Canadian patois to the world before Drake, Kardinal Offishall; and arguably the most recognizable Jamaican deejay of the era, Elephant Man. Music of the Sun’s title track may feature yet another nod to ’80s R&B in its interpolation of DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night,” but its chorus reveals Rihanna’s ultimate goal here: inviting the world into her yard. “Doesn't matter who you are or where you're from,” she sings. “Come and dance to the music of the sun.”

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13