“I am a child but I have to think and act like a woman, this business forces you to”
Imagine if at sixteen years old someone approaches you from the music industry who felt that you were very talented, and then wanted you to record a demo for major record label executives. Before you know it, you are singing for some of the top decision makers in the industry, and after the audition, you are signing a six album-recording contract. These days this type of story is rare in the music industry, but it happened to Rihanna. Moreover, some executives are trying to replicate the process because of Rihanna’s success.
Many of you reading may feel that sixteen is rather young to handle such experiences, but young persons signing such contracts happens often in the industry. I remember when I started to work at a small independent record company the singers signed were – you guessed it, sixteen years old. After a while I began to wonder what we were doing working with such young artists who needed parental consent, but later I understood from the business perspective the time it takes to develop an artist. If an entertainer is starting out at sixteen, by the age of nineteen or twenty the artist is ready for the limelight. In addition, young persons are easier to mold into a particular image easier to promote.
There is no arguing that Rihanna has enjoyed major success in the industry. Seven studio albums, more than 25 million albums sold and 60 million digital singles sold worldwide are evidence of her popularity. Her five American Music awards, eighteen Billboard Music Awards, and five Grammy Awards show that artists and others acknowledge her work in the music industry all before the age of twenty-five. Do you believe we have all of this musical success from a teenager from the small island nation of Barbados? Robin Rihanna Fenty is a long way from her humble beginnings living with her family in a three-bedroom bungalow, as she recently bought a $12 million dollar mansion in California. There is absolutely no question that Rihanna has acquired millions of dollars and worldwide recognition. However, what is the price of the success?
When I read Rihanna’s quote above the first word that stood out to me was “forces”. Maybe Rihanna wanted to grow up fast as most adolescents do. However, she said the business forces you to grow up, and so I wonder if she experiences not necessarily regrets, but the realization that some of her childhood was lost. There has been a lot of news in the media of her relationship with another young superstar, Chris Brown, mostly about her allegations of physical abuse. Rihanna constantly fields questions about her personal life and I am sure she would rather speak about her music only, so I will stick to discussing her music. Last month Rihanna released her new album Unapologetic, that I can tell you has music for all listeners. She also received three more Grammy nominations last month. Rihanna is young in age, but her eight years in the music industry have been eventful, successful and extremely busy. Going forward I hope two things for Rihanna: 1) that she is able to be happy and 2) enjoy creating good music.