By Gavin Martin
She is an artist who has learned to grow up fast. During her half-decade in the limelight, the 22-year-old Bajan bombshell's image has developed at an ever accelerating pace.
Now, with Loud, her lust-filled fifth album, Rihanna moves closer to fulfilling her ambition - stated early in her career - to become "the black Madonna".
"I like things strong and edgy," she smiles.
"I don't like things that are expected."
The teenybop, carnival reggae princess who appeared on her tentative 2005 debut Music Of The Sun seems a world away from the flame-haired hip-hop temptress who strides, and writhes, her way through Loud. In a pop world driven into a hormonal frenzy by Lady Gaga and her pal Katy Perry, Rihanna is clearly ready to compete.
Of course, much has happened between then and now. She left her Caribbean home to find the fame she dreamed of while growing up in Barbados in the shadow of an absentee crack-addicted father. In America, Jay-Z spotted her determination right away.
"Rihanna has an intensity and a drive for success," Jigga enthused. "I sign artists based on their swagger and level of talent. She's got both."
Their relationship would make Rihanna the biggest breakout female star of the decade, no small thanks to the ubiquitous Jay-Z-assisted international smash Umbrella.
Only Jay's missus, Beyoncé, sold more records in the last decade than Rihanna, and she had a five-year head start. Loud is an album of risque fun and hard-won maturity, representative of how Rihanna's enjoyed both fame's pleasures and its pains.
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