meta-scriptWomen In The Mix 2021 Recap: How Female Powerhouses Convened To Close The Wage Gap And Amplify Women's Voices Across The Music Industry | GRAMMY.com
Women In The Mix 2021 Recap: How Female Powerhouses Convened To Close The Wage Gap And Amplify Women's Voices Across The Music Industry

Haim attend Women In The Mix during GRAMMY Week 2021

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Women In The Mix 2021 Recap: How Female Powerhouses Convened To Close The Wage Gap And Amplify Women's Voices Across The Music Industry

Predicated on a platform of supporting and encouraging women in the music industry, the inaugural Women In The Mix event featured moderated panels, performances, high-profile guests and interviews by female leaders in multiple industries

GRAMMYs/Mar 10, 2021 - 08:12 am

What better way to kick off GRAMMY Week 2021 and International Women's Day than yesterday's inaugural Women In The Mix virtual celebration? The two-hour event, hosted by Rocsi Diaz, celebrated women's contributions to the music industry, seeking to amplify their voices. With moderated panels, performances, high-profile guests and interviews, Women In The Mix was informative and celebratory and exemplified the importance of women working with and supporting each other in the music industry.

Harvey Mason jr., Chair & Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy, and Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer of the Recording Academy, introduced the program. Mason jr., who ran for his position "on a platform of change and understanding," said closing the gender gap in the music industry is a top priority for the Recording Academy. Butterfield Jones then announced the Recording Academy's $25,000 donation to charities and organizations that support women’s growth in production and engineering.

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Pumping up the festivities, classical pianist Chloe Flower, who blew everyone away in 2019 when she accompanied Cardi B at her GRAMMY performance that year, gave a stellar delivery of her song "No Limit." Seated at her mirrored piano adorned with vases of colorful flowers, Flower also appeared later in the program, with an exquisite performance of "Flower Through Concrete."

Chloe Flower performs at Women In The Mix during GRAMMY Week 2021 | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Political activist and author Dr. Angela Davis introduced current GRAMMY-nominated jazz drummer Terry Lyne Carrington, founder of The Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice, whose motto is "Jazz Without Patriarchy." Carrington expressed gratitude to the Recording Academy for its donation and said she grew up with the desire to be a driving force behind the scenes to help young women reach their musical goals. With racial and gender justice comprising her initiative's guiding principles, Carrington said, "A cultural transformation is needed for the music itself to reach its potential."

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Multi-GRAMMY nominated artist and percussionist Sheila E. had a lively chat with GRAMMY-nominated rapper MC Lyte. Referencing the gender gap in music, Sheila E. said, "I think it's getting better, but I think it should be way better than it is now."

Current three-time GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter Ingrid Andress answered a series of questions about her career, revealing that her Best New Artist nomination is "pretty mindblowing to me because I definitely just started, and some of the people in that category are people I listen to all the time."

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Current GRAMMY-nominated Emily Lazar (mastering engineer and founder of The Lodge) was introduced by current multiple GRAMMY-nominated rock trio HAIM, with whom she's worked on three albums. Lazar discussed "We Are Moving The Needle," the non-profit organization she recently launched to elevate the number of female audio engineers and producers in the music industry. Lazar thanked the Recording Academy for its donation and said, "I'm excited to go beyond just talking about this gender disparity and actually effectuating some real measurable change."

Related: Listen: GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month Playlist Featuring The Nominees From The 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

Maureen Droney (Senior Managing Director, Recording Academy Producers and Engineers wing) led an informative panel comprised of Ebonie Smith (producer, engineer, singer-songwriter and founder of Gender Amplified), Piper Payne (mastering engineer) and EveAnna Manley (President of Manley Laboratories), each of whom passionately discussed their careers.

Elaine Welteroth and Saweetie attend Women In The Mix during GRAMMY Week 2021 | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

New York Times best-selling author and journalist Elaine Welteroth interviewed rapper and songwriter Saweetie, who said her wishlist for 2021 consists of her desire to collaborate with both Missy Elliott and Rihanna.

Tina Tchen (Time's Up CEO and President) and former Chair of the Recording Academy's Task Force of Diversity and Inclusion expressed gratitude for the Recording Academy's donation to Time's Up, emphasizing the necessity of female engineers and producers in the studio. "It makes a difference who's in the booth, who's in charge of the atmosphere in the studio who will say no when there's unacceptable behavior that's exclusionary or bullying or belittling that happens," she said.

Lanre Gaba (Atlantic Records General Manager/SVP A&R) moderated a fascinating conversation with current three-time GRAMMY-nominated record producer and songwriting duo Nova Wav (Brittany "Chi" Coney and Denisia "Blue June" Andrews) and R&B singer/songwriter IV Jay.

Cyndi Lauper attends Women In The Mix during GRAMMY Week 2021 | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

The queen of girls who want to have fun, two-time GRAMMY-winner Cyndi Lauper talked about what it meant to win her Best New Artist GRAMMY in 1985. "Usually what they used to say that is if you won the best new artist, 'Oh my god, the second album was going to be a problem,' Looking back now, I think it was a blessing because my career spans forty years."

Read More: Cyndi Lauper Is Still The Feminist Pop Star We Need

Current GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Joanie Leeds closed out "Women in the Mix" performing a stunning acoustic rendition of her appropriately titled song "All The Ladies."

Here are five things we learned about making it in the music business as a woman.

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Don't Be Discouraged By Rejection

Sheila E.: "You're going to get a lot of nos, but no doesn't mean you can't do it or you're not able. Maybe this opportunity wasn't for you. However, it opens the door for something else that you probably didn't even imagine you were going to go that way… Don't be discouraged when a door shuts because sometimes that door may be shut as protection. Maybe you're not ready or prepared yet."

MC Lyte: "I'm a firm believer in [the idea that] if a door shuts or doesn't remain open it's just not for you. All it means is go back to home base and practice, rehearse, create, do all of the things you need to do to better your craft, and this way when that next door opens, you're ready… don't get discouraged."

Believe In And Stay True To Yourself

Ingrid Andress: "You need to be your biggest cheerleader. At the end of the day, if you don't believe in what you're doing, nobody else will… We, as women, are programmed to think we have to compare ourselves to one another. Don't do that. Just believe in what you do separate from what everybody else is doing. You have to be the one to show people that what you have to say matters...Keep after it and stay true to yourself."

Saweetie: "You shouldn't try to be like me. You should try to be like you. Hopefully, I can inspire you to be the best version of you because I know what it feels like to be a little girl wanting to be something else. It takes away the focus from the true prize which is yourself, so earn your strengths, perfect your weaknesses and be you because that's the only person you can be."

Self-Care Is Essential

Saweetie: "I really encourage the go-getters who want to be in music to really take care of their body and their health because if your body isn't working, your music's not working. I'm grateful to have time to recharge, breathe, and get my body right."

MC Lyte: "It's resting, it's water, it's working out, it's getting in touch with nature and taking walks for no good reason at all except I want my feet to hit the pavement, or walking in nature to be in the grass… It's understanding that there's more to life than just entertainment or more to life than just what it is that I do."

Sheila E.: "I'm so much older, so what I have to do for self-care is constant just to even maintain what I want to do. Right now, it is just drinking water, nature, taking the time to rest, really eating the right foods, and taking care of myself, so I can do what I love to do."

Read: Designing Women In The Mix: How Music Inspired The Artwork Behind The Debut GRAMMY Week 2021 Event

Don't Let Fear Stop You

Brittany "Chi" Coney: "When I used to be personally fearful, there's something I used to do. I used to go into the bathroom, and you hold up your hands and hold your head up high for two minutes and it raises testosterone levels by twenty percent."

IV Jay: "I started meditating and I did therapy and there's nothing wrong with that. I feel like a lot of women feel ashamed of getting help but I just think it's worth it. If you need it, you need it so I personally feel like that helped me grow. I feel a lot better now."

Lanre Gaba: "I always dealt with it by being as prepared as possible so there's not even a moment of 'I don't belong here' because I've done the work, I've put in the time, I've done my research."

It's A Blessing To Have Female Mentors and Inspiration

Ingrid Andress: "I am fortunate because I met Kara DioGuardi, an iconic songwriter when I was in college… Kara was the first woman I met who really encouraged me to get better at songwriting.  She was a huge inspiration. As a young songwriter, having women like that to look after each other is important because I don't think I would have had the courage or enthusiasm to try and get better at what I did if she hadn't been so encouraging to me."

The Recording Academy Partners With Berklee College Of Music And Arizona State University To Conduct Study On Women's Representation Across The Music Industry

Songbook: The Ultimate Guide To Rihanna's Reign, From Her Record-Breaking Hits To Unforgettable Collabs
(L-R) Rihanna in 2023, 2006 and 2010.

Photos: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation, Greetsia Tent/WireImage, Kevin Mazur/WireImage

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Songbook: The Ultimate Guide To Rihanna's Reign, From Her Record-Breaking Hits To Unforgettable Collabs

As the world eagerly awaits Rihanna's musical comeback, GRAMMY.com takes a deep dive into the superstar's catalog and celebrates her evolution from teen idol to beloved icon.

GRAMMYs/Feb 20, 2024 - 06:37 pm

A chance meeting changed Rihanna's life.

The singer was just 15 years old when she met producer Evan Rogers, who was vacationing with his wife in Barbados. Rogers recognized Rihanna's potential, and invited her to an audition in his hotel suite. 

Shortly after her 16th birthday, Rihanna left her home country for the U.S. to record a demo, which included her breakthrough hit "Pon de Replay." The demo found its way into Jay-Z's hands, and Hov signed the teen artist to Def Jam and the label expedited her 2005 debut album, aptly titled Music of the Sun.

"When I left Barbados, I didn't look back," Rihanna told Entertainment Weekly in 2007. "I wanted to do what I had to do [to succeed], even if it meant moving to America." 

Twenty years later, Rihanna is a renowned entertainer-turned-mogul. She has sold over 40 million albums worldwide, garnered over 12 billion Spotify streams, achieved 14 Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers, and won nine GRAMMY Awards. Even her business ventures have been a massive success, as her Fenty Beauty brand is worth $2.8 billion.

Though it's been close to a decade since Rihanna's last studio album, 2016's ANTI, she reminded the world of her reign with her 2023 Super Bowl halftime show — which also marked her first time taking the stage in five years. Performing hit after hit while unveiling a baby bump, her 13-minute set became one of the most-watched halftime shows of all time with over 121 million viewers. 

In honor of Rihanna's 36th birthday on Feb. 20, GRAMMY.com is revisiting the monstrous hits, ambitious projects, brow-raising visuals, and iconic collabs that propelled her to international stardom — and why it's all put her in a league of her own.

A New Island Girl In Town

True to her Carribean heritage, Rihanna's dancehall-inspired debut single "Pon de Replay" earned the then 17-year-old Barbados native her first entry on the Hot 100 at an impressive No. 2. Her official introduction to the world also hit No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart; she boasts 33 on the tally, second behind only the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna.

Follow-up single "If It's Lovin' That You Want" stalled at No. 36 on the Hot 100, but still whetted fans' appetite — as did her debut album, Music of the Sun, which is mostly comprised of dance-pop and dancehall tracks with hints of R&B (like "Willing to Wait"). Plus, her reimagining of Dawn Penn's 1994 reggae classic "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" is still so fun to listen to after all these years.

A mere eight months later, Rihanna's sophomore effort, 2006's A Girl Like Me, arrived to an eager audience. Defying the sophomore slump, she celebrated her first No. 1 with the ubiquitous lead single "SOS," which famously samples Soft Cell's 1981 hit, "Tainted Love." While A Girl Like Me is filled with high-energy, danceable tracks (including the nostalgic "Break It Off" with Sean Paul), Rihanna's second single was the melodramatic ballad "Unfaithful." 

Penned by then-labelmate Ne-Yo, "Unfaithful" peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100. More importantly, it showed a different side to Rihanna, proving that she could channel deep emotion when the performance calls for it. It also marked Rihanna's first time veering away from her "girl next door" image, as the song's subject matter deals with infidelity.

A Girl Like Me contains many fan favorites, from the laid-back "We Ride" to standouts "Dem Haters" and "Kisses Don't Lie." The latter is a reggae-rock hybrid that sounds like a catalyst for some of Rihanna's edgier tunes like "Breakin' Dishes" from 2007's Good Girl Gone Bad era. Touching ballads"Final Goodbye" and "A Million Miles Away" showcase her voice beautifully, foreshadowing later big-vocal numbers like "Love on the Brain."

An Icon In The Making

Rihanna was a familiar face by 2007, but with the arrival of her third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad, she graduated from cookie-cutter pop star to bonafide icon.

Produced by Tricky Stewart, the LP's juggernaut lead single "Umbrella" featuring Jay-Z skyrocketed to No. 1 in 17 countries. Between striking images of Rihanna's silver-painted silhouette in the accompanying video and the now-iconic "ella-ella, eh, eh, eh" hook, "Umbrella" thrust the then 19-year-old into another stratosphere. Her confident delivery also commanded attention in a way fans and critics hadn't heard before.

The transformative era also birthed the gritty "Shut Up and Drive," on which Rihanna channels her inner rock star. The next two singles cracked the top 10: an affectionate duet with Ne-Yo,  "Hate That I Love You," which showed off Rihanna's softer side, and the party-starting, Michael Jackson-sampling "Don't Stop the Music," which cemented her place in the digital era. 

The melancholy "Rehab" is a clever metaphor for lost love, co-written by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. Despite being Good Girl Gone Bad's lowest-charting single, Timberlake heralded the song as "the bridge for her to be accepted as an adult in the music industry."

Good Girl Gone Bad remains Rihanna's best-selling album and marks her greatest reinvention as she adopted a more rebellious sound. She also won her first GRAMMY in 2008 (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Umbrella") and scored four other nominations, including Record Of The Year. The album's reissue spawned two more No. 1s: "Take a Bow" and "Disturbia," the latter of which acts like a prelude to Rated R, which saw Rihanna exploring darker themes.

Nine months before the release of 2009's Rated R, Rihanna was assaulted by then-boyfriend Chris Brown. On the deeply personal album, she translated her pain into art. Through lead single "Russian Roulette" and bitingly catchy anthems "Stupid in Love," "Fire Bomb," "Photographs," "Cold Case Love," and "The Last Song," Rihanna explored her angst and confusion.

But to focus solely on the domestic violence incident undermines Rihanna's artistic vision. 

Following three multi-platinum albums in a three-year span, Rihanna's rebranding as a rebel at heart reached its apex. The singer had grown in leaps and bounds while taking musical risks, even penning nine of Rated R's 13 tracks (she had no writing credits on Good Girl Gone Bad).

The road to Rihanna's most badass anthems — including "Bitch Better Have My Money" — can be traced back to Rated R. Case in point: Her bravado is loud and clear on "Hard," "Wait Your Turn," and "G4L." On "Rockstar 101," which features legendary rocker Slash, Rihanna declares her power: "Six inch walker/ Big sh— talker/ I never play the victim/ I'd rather be a stalker."

Badgal RiRi returned to her dancehall roots on her fifth No. 1 "Rude Boy," which offsets the album's harrowing motif. Final single "Te Amo" didn't chart, but garnered a great deal of attention as the Latin-infused Stargate production depicts Rihanna being enticed by a female love interest. 

Rated R showcased Rihanna's undeniable star power, and allowed her to shed her good-girl image once and for all.

A Partygoer's Dream

Following the career-pivoting Rated R, 2010's Loud offered a welcome return to the West Indian artist's earlier sound. The album feels like one big celebration of life, as evidenced by Rihanna's fire-engine red hair and No. 1 singles "Only Girl (In the World)" and "What's My Name?" (the latter of which was Rih's first collaboration with Drake).

Best described as "Don't Stop the Music" 2.0, the effervescent "Only Girl" marked her eminent return to the dance floor and took home a GRAMMY for Best Dance Recording in 2011. While "What's My Name?" may not outshine Rih and Drizzy's other collabs — including 2011's "Take Care" or 2016's "Work" — the second she sings, "Hey, boy, I really wanna see if you can go downtown with a girl like me," it's impossible not to whine your waist to the riddim.

Easily one of Rihanna's most overlooked hits, "Cheers (Drink to That)" is built around an unexpected sample of Avril Lavigne's 2002 hit "I'm With You," but it works surprisingly well as a party anthem. That same carefree spirit can be heard in the feminist track "Raining Men," which features Nicki Minaj — their first of two collabs, as they joined forces again for "Fly," the final single off the rapper's iconic Pink Friday album. 

A playful ode to sadomasochism and bondage, "S&M" contains some of Rihanna's most provocative lyrics: "Sticks and stones may break my bones/ But chains and whips excite me," she declares on the chorus. 

Banned in 11 countries upon its release, the accompanying video features Rihanna tied up in pink rope, dancing with a blowup doll, and donning a Playboy bunny-esque costume as damning newsreels about herself flash across the screen. But Rihanna's love of kink made her an even bigger star: "S&M" produced a remix with Britney Spears and earned Rihanna her 10th No. 1 single. With this feat, she became the youngest artist to attain the most chart-toppers in a five-year span.

On "Man Down," Rihanna's patois is in full effect as she takes listeners through a gripping tale about murdering her abuser. "What started out as a simple altercation/ Turned into a real sticky situation," she laments in the opening verse, amplified by siren noises in the background. There's something so satisfying about Rihanna's Bajan accent as she unfurls "Rum-pum-pum-pum" repeatedly over an intensifying reggae beat that would make Sister Nancy and Bob Marley proud.

Nominated for Album Of The Year at the 2021 GRAMMYs, Loud is Rihanna's second most commercially successful LP — and for good reason. It was especially refreshing to see Rihanna emerge from one of the darkest periods of her life as exuberant as ever.

An Unapologetic Queen

Sonically and thematically, Talk That Talk doesn't break new ground, but Rih's DGAF attitude is front and center with plenty of sexual innuendos: Songs like "S&M" and "Rude Boy" seem pretty tame next to "Cockiness (Love It)," which features longtime friend-turned-boyfriend A$AP Rocky on its remix. "Suck my cockiness/ Lick my persuasion/ Eat my poison/ And swallow your pride down, down," she commands in the tantalizing chorus.

At just over a minute long, "Birthday Cake" leaves nothing to the imagination ("It's not even my birthday, but he wanna lick the icing off"). Rihanna controversially released a full-length version in the form of a remix with Chris Brown.

On an album that mostly sees Rihanna singing about her sexual fantasies, "We All Want Love" pulls back the curtain as it reveals her desire for true love: "And some say love ain't worth the buck/ But I'll give my last dime/ To have what I've only been dreaming about." 

Her longing continues in "Where Have You Been," which flaunts Rihanna's versatility, flipping Geoff Mack's 1959 country song "I've Been Everywhere" into an infectious EDM banger. Lead single "We Found Love" is undeniably the biggest hit to stem from the Talk That Talk era, spending 10 consecutive weeks atop the Hot 100. 

Boosting Calvin Harris' career, "We Found Love" presents one juxtaposition after the other: dark yet gleaming, euphoric yet sobering, fraught yet hopeful. Rihanna relies on more than just evocative lyrics to tell her story; accompanying synthesizers and alarm bells help to paint a picture as well. Met with controversy, its intense visuals portraying a drug-fueled, toxic relationship — and featuringwhat many speculated was a Chris Brown look-alike — earned RiRi a GRAMMY for Best Long Form Music Video in 2013.

Seven years into an already extraordinary career, 2012's Unapologetic became Rihanna's first album to debut at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. Its lead single "Diamonds" resonated in an equally major way, giving Rih her 12th No. 1 on the Hot 100.

Written by Sia, the power ballad kicked off another exciting era for the Barbadian singer, who unleashes an impassioned vocal performance. One of Rihanna's most precious offerings to date, "Diamonds" emerged as a self-love mantra due to its uplifting "Shine bright like a diamond" chant.

Vocally, Rihanna's strength lies in her ability to evoke raw emotion à la "Stay." Featuring Mikky Ekko, the stripped-down, slow-burning piano ballad narrowly missed the top spot on the Hot 100 but gave Rihanna her 24th top 10 hit, surpassing Whitney Houston's record of 23 in 2013.

Her swagger is boisterous in "Phresh Out the Runway," "Jump," and strip club anthem "Pour It Up," but "Nobody's Business" really drives home the album's theme of being unbothered. Her decision to join forces with Chris Brown yet again perplexed fans and critics alike, though the track itself is an irresistible production that features a genius interpolation of Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel."

Further down the track list, "Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary" is as autobiographical as it gets, and further taps into Rihanna's emotionally vulnerable side. "Mr. Jesus, I'd love to be a queen/ But I'm from the left side of an island/ Never thought this many people would even know my name," she pleads in the seven-minute two-parter.

Unapologetic spawned fewer hit singles compared to Rihanna's previous efforts. Its win for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2014 GRAMMYs, however, proved that Rihanna's reign wasn't letting up anytime soon.

While recording her then-forthcoming album, ANTI, Rihanna delivered what is arguably the single most unapologetic moment of her career: "Bitch Better Have My Money." The backstory is almost inconceivable given Rihanna's awe-inspiring billionaire status, but in 2009, Rihanna faced bankruptcy due to her accountants mishandling her funds — and thus "Bitch" was born six years later in 2015.

With lyrics like "Your wife in the backseat of my brand new foreign car" over a cryptic-sounding trap beat and an accompanying video depicting kidnapping and torturing her debtors, "Bitch" is not for the faint-hearted. The one-off single is so quintessentially Rihanna that it notably kicked off her Super Bowl halftime show.

An In-Demand Collaborator

While bestowing hit after hit on her own, Rihanna generously lent her distinct voice to some of her biggest peers. 2008 marks one of the earliest instances of her Midas touch: She flirts with funk in Maroon 5's underappreciated "If I Never See Your Face Again" before hopping on T.I.'s "Live Your Life," which shot straight to No. 1 on the Hot 100.

In 2009, Rihanna joined Jay-Z and Kanye West for the militant "Run This Town," sounding defiant as ever in the intro. She was called upon again for West's horn-laden "All of the Lights," flying solo on the hook followed by a star-studded choir that included Alicia Keys, John Legend, Fergie, and Elton John. Both larger-than-life productions won GRAMMYs for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

In between joining forces with Hov and Ye, Rihanna assisted Eminem in "Love the Way You Lie," which struck a nerve with many for its gut-wrenching lyrics shedding a light on abusive relationships. (Rih recorded an equally moving sequel for her Loud album.) Three years later, the two confronted their inner demons in "The Monster," and their musical chemistry scored a GRAMMY in 2015 for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.

Amid smash collabs, Rihanna and Coldplay's intricate "Princess of China" number gets lost in the shuffle, but it speaks to her charm as it's the band's first album (2011's Mylo Xyloto) to feature another artist. Another overlooked jam, her sultry "Can't Remember to Forget You" duet with Shakira sees both stars trade lines about struggling to let go of an undeserving lover.

On paper, a collaboration between Rihanna, Kanye West, and Sir Paul McCartney may seem strange, but the unlikely trio is further proof that opposites attract. Their "FourFiveSeconds" is a pop-folk hybrid with a universal message about carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. It's yet another example of Rihanna's willingness to push past her comfort zone to create something unique.

A year later, Rihanna got listeners on their feet by way of the Taylor Swift-penned "This Is What You Came For" with Calvin Harris. Understated compared to the duo's previous megahits ("We Found Love" and "Where Have You Been"), Harris' signature DJing style and Rih's ethereal vocals are a perfect match.

In 2017, Rih, DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller dropped the song of the summer with "Wild Thoughts," which heavily borrows from Carlos Santana's 1999 GRAMMY-winning "Maria Maria." It may be DJ Khaled's song, but RiRi owns it from the very moment she utters, "I don't know if you could take it/ Know you wanna see me nakey, nakey, naked." The bop reached No. 2 on the Hot 100.

She spits bars in Kendrick Lamar's "Loyalty" and "Lemon" with N.E.R.D., the latter of which comes close to rivaling your favorite rappers' verses: "You can catch me, Rih, in the new La Ferrar'/ And the truck behind me got arms/ Yeah, longer than LeBron/ Just waitin' for my thumb like The Fonz."

No matter what genre Rihanna touches or what artist she links up with, she brings her full self to each session whilst completely immersing herself into the music — taking on different personas to make the collab well worth it.

An Artist Fully Realized

With 13 No. 1s and twice as many top 10 hits under her belt, Rihanna set out to create timeless music instead of chasing a radio-friendly formula with her 2016 magnum opus, ANTI.

But that shift began with 2015's criminally underrated "American Oxygen." Her most political statement at the time, the goosebump-inducing lyrics detail Rihanna's journey as an immigrant, foreshadowing her then soon-to-be massive Fenty Beauty success. "We sweat for a nickel and a dime/ Turn it into an empire," she sings in the chorus.

Released four years after Unapologetic — her longest gap between albums at the time — ANTI illustrated Rihanna's greater desire for quality over quantity. "I needed the music to match my growth," she told Vogue in 2016 about the making of ANTI. "I didn't want to get caught up with anything the world liked, anything the radio liked, anything that I liked, that I've already heard. I just wanted it to be me."

The black-and-white, red paint-splattered album cover signals a rebirth, featuring a real-life image of Rihanna as a child. ANTI lives up to its name in its first 40 seconds, via opening track "Consideration." The minute she declares, "I got to do things my own way, darling," it's apparent that ANTI is not your average Rihanna album.

Lead single "Work" is the closest to pre-ANTI Rihanna on an album that defies expectations. But the dancehall masterpiece is one of a kind for Rih's refusal to water down the Jamaican patois (different from her native language of Bajan Creole) — proving that she is fully aware of her impact as one of the biggest Caribbean-born artists to make it in the U.S.

Many non-understanding listeners described it as "gibberish" at the time. Yet, the general public didn't seem to mind: About a month after its release, "Work" became Rihanna's 14th and longest-running chart-topper on the Hot 100. Weeks later, ANTI became her second LP to top the Billboard 200 chart. Subsequently, Rihanna held the No. 1 spots on the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 simultaneously, her second time achieving such an impressive feat.

Read More: How Rihanna's "Work" Reinvigorated Dancehall

ANTI is full of pleasant surprises that show off her artistry. Rihanna comes out of left field with the Prince-inspired "Kiss It Better," the album's second single, which sees the superstar falling back on addictive sex that "feels like crack" to justify a destructive relationship. "Same Ol' Mistakes" is a cover of psychedelic rock band Tame Impala's "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" — her first time remaking another artist's song for her own album since "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" on Music of the Sun. The Western-themed "Desperado" lends itself particularly well to covers by country artists, while the Dido-sampling "Never Ending" conveys the uncertainty she feels about entering a new relationship.

Elsewhere on ANTI, Rihanna drunk dials an ex ("Higher"), compares smoking weed to her lover ("James Joint"), and chastises a guy for getting emotionally attached after their fling ("Needed Me"). The latter song contains one of Rihanna's most empowering lyrics: "Didn't they tell you that I was a savage?/ F— ya white horse and ya carriage," she asserts in the pre-chorus.

Her voice sounds stronger than ever on "Love on the Brain," a doo-wop ballad resembling Etta James. But Rihanna makes it her own thanks to the bluntness of lines like "It beats me black and blue but it f— me so good."

The deep cuts on ANTI aren't merely fillers, and even rival some of the album's biggest hits. For instance, "Sex with Me" is featured on the deluxe edition as a bonus track, but managed to crack the Hot 100 at No. 83 and reach No. 8 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. Furthermore, the deluxe edition consists of 16 tracks, half of which topped the Dance Club Songs chart — smashing the record (previously held by Katy Perry's Teenage Dream) for the most No. 1s from a single album.

Accolades aside, ANTI is proof that magic happens when an artist of Rihanna's caliber follows their own instincts in pursuit of creating a body of work — one that can outlast them and continue to inspire generations to come.

Ever since ANTI, Rihanna's devoted fanbase has been begging for a new album, with Rih playfully trolling them with responses like "I lost it" and Instagram captions that read, "Me listening to R9 by myself and refusing to release it."

Her much-awaited return to music came at the tail end of 2022. The hitmaker twice contributed to the GRAMMY-nominated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack: "Born Again" and "Lift Me Up," the latter of which helped Rihanna score her first Oscar and Golden Globe nominations in 2022 and 2023, respectively. With the glorious "Lift Me Up," she found herself in the top 10 for the first time since 2017's "Wild Thoughts."

While the world is still anticipating her ninth studio album, Rihanna — now a mom of two boys — continues to make her own rules and move at her own pace. But as she's proven time and time again, it's always worth the wait.

The Rihanna Essentials: 15 Singles To Celebrate The Singer's Endless Pop Reign

10 Love Songs That Have Nothing to Do With Love: From "Every Breath You Take" To "Baby It's Cold Outside"
Rihanna attends Marvel Studios' "Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever" Premiere on October 26, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic / Getty Images

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10 Love Songs That Have Nothing to Do With Love: From "Every Breath You Take" To "Baby It's Cold Outside"

Don't let the song titles fool you. From misogynist attitudes to tales of coercion and even a secret pregnancy, many popular love songs aren't about love at all.

GRAMMYs/Feb 14, 2024 - 03:46 pm

Many studies on love have proven that it seems to be a trait present throughout species. Although it's undeniable that the capacity for love is universal, evidence suggests love manifests differently across individuals. That is why, for many people, love is undefinable, with the word meaning something for one and something else for another. 

This point has never been proven more true than in love songs. Numerous musicians and bands have sung about love, but their definition or meaning of the word and yours might be wholly different. You would be surprised to learn how many love songs have absolutely nothing to do with emotional or physical love.

When you delve beneath the surface, "love" songs are sometimes twisted, uncomfortable, sadistic, and unsavory. So, let's look at 10 love songs with nothing to do with love and everything to do with what they shouldn’t. 

"Every Breath You Take" - the Police 

When the Police released "Every Breath You Take" in 1983, it immediately became a huge hit, reaching No.1 on U.S., UK, Canadian, Irish, and South African charts. On the surface, this song seems romantic, which is why it made its way into numerous movie scenes and weddings, but the lyrics are uncomfortable and prove the song is not actually about love. 

Frontman Sting sings, "I'll be watching you," and, "Oh, can't you see, you belong to me?" about the song's object of affection. Rather than lyrics about a lover, it's believed that the song is about a stalker. At the time Sting was suffering a mental breakdown, making the verses infinitely more evil.

In fact, Sting himself said: "I think it's a nasty little song, really rather evil. It's about jealousy and surveillance and ownership."

"Rollercoaster of Love" - Ohio Players 

On the surface, the lyrics "It's a rollercoaster ride/we're on top for the moment/ and then we'll take that dive" seem to describe a relationship's exhilarating ups and downs. However, there has been much debate over the years about the true meaning behind the Ohio Players' staple. 

The most popular theory is that the song is about life's ups and downs, not love, but we'll never know. According to late frontman Leroy Bronner who wrote the tune, "To this day, I don't know what I wrote." He continued, "The words didn't make sense to me. But it was a hit."

The song also has a much darker recording humor, which further alienates it from the genre of love songs. According to the rumor to which the band responded "No comment," the scream on the track was the sound of a woman being murdered in the recording studio. 

The woman's death is an urban legend, but the band decided to leave it in as a joke and as a way to create buzz for the song, with the actual scream belonging to keyboard player Billy Beck. 

"Can't Feel My Face" - the Weeknd  

The Weeknd is well known for penning lyrics that have multiple meanings, so it's not surprising that his hit track "Can't Feel My Face" isn't really about love. 

With the lyrics: "I can't feel my face when I'm with you/But I love it" and "And I know she'll be the death of me, at least we'll both be numb/And she'll always get the best of me; the worst is yet to come." It sounds like a dark love song about a man who is so in love that he loses all control, which is plausible, but it's more likely the song is about cocaine. 

According to Billboard, the song is about drug dependency, and the Weeknd is crooning about cocaine and likening it to a bad relationship. The Weeknd had hinted at the song being about drugs when he commented: "I just won a new award for a kids' show, Talking 'bout a face numbing off a bag of blow." Unfortunately, it's not very romantic. 

"Umbrella" - Rihanna

Most believe that one of Rihanna's most famous songs is about a woman comforting her partner and explaining that she will be there for him through the good and bad times. "Baby 'cause in the dark you can't see shiny cars/And that's when you need me there. With you, I'll always share," she sings.

However, a few people believe "Umbrella" is about the corruption of a person's soul – Rhianna's in this case. Some believe that the 2007 hit is about Rhianna welcoming the devil into her heart, body, and soul. While this is more of a conspiracy theory than anything else,  a pastor recently posted on TikTok that he came back from hell, and "Umbrella" was one of the songs being used to torture individuals. 

"All I Wanna Do is Make Love To You" -  Heart

If you listen carefully to the lyrics in "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You," it's clear that the 1990 song actually about deceit. 

Nancy and Ann Wilson are singing about being in love with another man who cannot provide her with children because he is impotent — so she finds a willing one-night stand. She sings, "I didn't ask him his name, this lonely boy in the rain." When morning comes, the protagonist says "All I left him was a note/ I told him I am the flower; you are the seed. We walked in the garden; we planted a tree."

After some time has passed, she's unnerved to come across his path, presumably pregnant: "You can imagine his surprise when he saw his own eyes/I said please, please understand/I'm in love with another man/And what he couldn't give me was the one little thing that you can."

"Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga

"Bad Romance" was developed as an experimental pop record featuring elements of German techno and house. With more than 184 million YouTube streams, the 2008 track quickly became one of Lady Gaga's best songs. 

On the surface, "Bad Romance" centers on the pull of a love that's bad for you: "I want your ugly, I want your disease/I want your everything as long as it's free/I want your love." However, it's not so straightforward. 

Gaga said she drew inspiration from the paranoia she experienced while on tour. She also stated the song is about her attraction to unhealthy romantic romances that are not always about love. 

"Young Girl" - Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

Not all love is appropriate, as the song "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap proves. This 1968 single is wholly inappropriate and creepy (and illegal), but it still managed to become one of the band's best-known songs. In fact, despite the lyrics being more about unsavory infatuation than love, it still reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (just behind "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"). 

Initially, this song doesn't appear inappropriate with lyrics  "Young girl, get out of my mind" possibly referencing the romance of a slight age gap. But the group doubles down: "My love for you is way out of line/ Better run, girl/You're much too young, girl."

If these words aren't enough to prove the song is about being infatuated with an underage girl, you might be convinced by lead singer Gary Puckett singing, "Beneath your perfume and make-up you're just a baby in disguise" and "Get out of here before I have the time to change my mind." 

"Under My Thumb" - by the Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones have had their share of controversy over the years, and it's not hard to see why when you consider the meaning behind many of their big hits. "Under My Thumb" might have been marketed as a love song, but it's about a relationship rooted in hate and control. 

With lyrics such as "Under my thumb/It's a squirmin' dog who's just had her day/Under my thumb/

A girl who has just changed her ways," it's apparent that Mick Jagger is singing less about heartbreak and more about power. The misogyny is so clear in this song that it made it into the book Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women That Love Them.

"Baby It's Cold Outside" - Dean Martin 

One of the most popular holiday season love songs, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was written by Frank Loessser and performed by Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald. It's difficult to say if these musicians knew the song's sinister and controversial underbelly. 

"Baby It's Cold Outside" is about a man who pressures a woman to stay at his home by any means necessary. The woman in the song tries to give reasons why she cannot stay with lyrics like "My mother will start to worry" and "My father will be pacing the floor." Yet, her concerns are shot down at every turn, with the man using the bad weather outside to keep her captive. Fortunately, the song has been remade with consensual lyrics, thanks to Kelly Clarkson and John Legend

"You're Gorgeous" - Babybird

This song may have a happy rhythm, but if you pay attention to the lyrics, there is much more to this song than meets the eye. Although the song appears to be about a man who would do anything for his lady love, it is about exploitation. 

This song — the British group's biggest hit, from 1996 — is about a sleazy photographer who takes advantage of a young and naive model and photographs her for men's magazines. The lyrics "You got me to hitch my knees up/And pulled my legs apart" details the true nature of this song.

"People should never be told how to interpret a song," Babybird told the blog Essentially Pop. "So, if they thought it was romantic, then fine." He continued, "Sadly, very few people got the true meaning, which is about male predatory behavior, but in popular music, most critics are a little blind to correct interpretation."

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Teezo Touchdown, Tiana Major9 & More Were In Bloom At The 2024 GRAMMYs Emerging Artist Showcase
Musical group Aint Afraid

Photo: Unique Nicole/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Teezo Touchdown, Tiana Major9 & More Were In Bloom At The 2024 GRAMMYs Emerging Artist Showcase

Part of the all-new GRAMMY House programming for GRAMMY Week 2024, PEOPLE and Sephora teamed up to highlight some promising new talent from around the country with the Beats & Blooms Emerging Artist Showcase.

GRAMMYs/Feb 7, 2024 - 12:00 am

Artists on the rise got their metaphorical flowers on Feb. 1, when GRAMMY House played host to the Beats & Blooms Emerging Artist Showcase. The performance-heavy event was produced in conjunction with PEOPLE and Sephora and hosted by comedian Matt Friend.

Some took the floral theme quite literally — like Texas rapper and singer Teezo Touchdown, who took to the stage clasping a giant flower bouquet, his microphone tucked somewhere inside. With his crisp white leather jacket and white gloves, Teezo looked fresh as he performed tracks from his recently released debut album, How Do You Sleep at Night? It wasn't hard to see how late legends like Prince and Rick James have influenced his artistry, and the audience appreciated his fly sartorial style.

Another dynamic performance came from Cocoa Sarai, a Jamaican-American singer/songwriter who has worked with artists such as Dr. Dre and Anderson .Paak (the latter of whom helped Sarai earn a GRAMMY in 2020 for her work on his Best R&B Album-winning project, Ventura). The Brooklyn-born artist — who is part of the new Music Artist Accelerator initiative presented by MasterCard, GRAMMY House’s primary sponsor — delivered an impactful set that included her bird-flipping anthem "Bigger Person" and was assisted by a great beatboxer named Fahz.

As many attendees got glammed up at Sephora's makeup station, the event co-sponsor also presented one of the night's performers. Sephora Sounds highlighted twin sisters Inah and Yahzi of the viral group Ain't Afraid, whose energetic performance hit home. During their charismatic set, which featured the sisters both singing and rapping, the pair told the crowd that their lighthearted stage presence is a way to turn some of their trauma into positive art.

Inah and Yahzi weren't the only sibling duo to take the stage at Beats & Blooms. Brandon and Savannah Hudson — aka BETWEEN FRIENDS — first got national attention as quarter-finalists on "America's Got Talent" in 2013, and have since racked up millions of monthly plays on Spotify for what they like to call "laptop dream pop". BETWEEN FRIENDS performed songs from their 2023 album, I Love My Girl, She's My Boy.

Tiana Major9 closed out the event with an exciting performance that featured a song debut and a sing-along. After premiering a new track called "Braids," the Motown artist got everyone to join together for an exquisite cover of Faith Evans' smoldering "Soon As I Get Home". 

GRAMMY House's three days of events are a place for a diverse array of music industry professionals, musicians and social creators to immerse in the pulse of culture, take the torch and carry it forward — and Beats & Blooms was a powerful example of just that.

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A Celebration Of Women In The Mix Inspired With Tales Of Tears, Tenacity & Triumph
(L-R) Melody Chiu, Marcella Araica, Carly Pearce, and Jordin Sparks at the 2024 A Celebration Of Women In The Mix event.

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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A Celebration Of Women In The Mix Inspired With Tales Of Tears, Tenacity & Triumph

Featuring appearances by Carly Pearce, Jordin Sparks, Emily King, and an emotional keynote by Ty Stiklorius, the Feb. 1 GRAMMY House event also included professional hair and makeup touchup activations.

GRAMMYs/Feb 3, 2024 - 11:05 pm

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, women from across the recording industry gathered at GRAMMY House in Los Angeles' Arts District on Feb. 1 to celebrate their achievements and to remind the music world that there's still much work to be done.

A Celebration Of Women In The Mix Presented by PEOPLE and Sephora brought together musicians, agents, producers, engineers, managers, and more for three hours of food, drinks, speeches, and general revelry. 

Hosted by People Magazine Editor-At-Large Janine Rubenstein, the event featured a keynote speech by Friends At Work CEO Ty Stiklorius — best known for her years managing John Legend, among others — as well as performances by Sephora Sounds' artists Beth Million and Rawan Chaya, and 2024 GRAMMYs Best R&B Album nominee Emily King

"We wanted to make sure that we were driving representation and providing opportunities for all women in music from studio professionals to artists and beyond," said Tammy Hurt, the Chair of the Board for the Recording Academy, while detailing the creation of Women In The Mix in 2019. She noted that her team set a goal of recruiting 2,500 new women members to the voting body of the Academy by 2025.

An event Presenting Sponsor, Sephora had makeup artists set up next to the stage, giving guests some glam. Participating sponsors Dyson and The Hartford also had activations for guests to enjoy; Dyson provided styling stations for hair touch-ups and curated an immersive listening experience with the Dyson Zone™ noise-canceling headphones, while The Hartford hosted an interactive, augmented reality graffiti wall.

As Sephora's SVP of Personalization, Anna E. Banks explained on stage, the brand is committed to creating "the world's most inclusive beauty community." She added that Sephora supports individuals' creativity and ingenuity — whether it's through the products they choose to sell or the looks they feature in their campaigns. As one of the brand's new programs, Sephora Sounds will work to "continue to push for more diversity and representation" across the industry, "breaking down barriers and ushering in marginalized voices."

Keynote speaker Ty Stiklorius brought much of the room to tears with tales of sleazy record execs, thwarted dreams, and how she took the road less traveled to decades of success in the music industry. Donning a stunning maroon suit, Stiklorius detailed how she became not only John Legend's manager, but also his film and TV producing partner, his business partner in several companies, and the co-founder of several social impact groups working to reduce incarceration and level the playing field in terms of universal opportunity. 

"It's literally impossible to be a woman," Stiklorious said, quoting America Ferrera's powerful speech from the Barbie movie. She expressed frustration at the fact that women are always expected to be extraordinary — whether it's as a wife, a mother, or in the workplace — and dismissed antiquated notions that women can't be leaders in the music industry while having a family. To wit, Stiklorious created her company, Friends At Work, to give more women and more marginalized people a place to thrive in the industry, to be appreciated, recognized, and paid appropriately.

After all, Stiklorious reminded the room, women still have a long, long way to go to achieve any sort of parity in the music industry. While women dominate the major categories at this year's GRAMMY Awards, a recent study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that, while women make up more than half the population and the market for music, they only take up about 35 percent of the Billboard Hot 100. Only 6.5 percent of music producers are women, and less than 20 percent of the songwriters of last year's top songs were women. In fact, Stiklorious said, "nearly a quarter of the most popular songs of the last 12 years were penned by just 12 men." 

"Think about how those 12 men are shaping audience perfections and beliefs about romantic relationships, wealth, health, and any number of topics," Stiklorious said, before referencing a story she recently wrote for the L.A. Times in which she makes the case that, if the top women performers added just two women songwriters to some of their sessions and some of their songs, we'd reach gender parity in the songwriter space in just four years. 

"It's not that big of an ask, actually," she said. "With the growing power of female performers, those who routinely top the charts can change the lives of women songwriters and our culture, because the status quo isn't good for anyone, regardless of their gender identity, we all lose out on untapped and underappreciated talent."

The end of Stiklorious' speech was met with a rousing standing ovation.

After performances from Beth Million and Rawan Chaya, People Executive Editor Melody Chiu took the stage for the event's panel, which featured recording engineer Marcella Araica, GRAMMY winning country artist Carly Pearce, and GRAMMY nominee Jordin Sparks. They talked about role models, the barriers they've faced in the industry, becoming mothers, and how they learned that "no" is actually a complete sentence.

Singer/songwriter Emily King won the room over with tracks like "Medal" and "This Year." After King's set, Ruby Marchand, the Recording Industry's Chief Awards and Industry Officer, wrapped up the event by thanking members of the Recording Academy staff and board in the audience for their hard work on the event and in driving new membership. 

Diving into her thoughts on the concept of trust, Marchand said women in the music industry "have to learn to trust each other, because we're here to help and guide and support, and sometimes even help somebody through some critical thinking and get back on track." 

Women in the industry also have to learn to trust themselves, Marchand said. If women can all learn to be fearless and to trust in themselves, their decisions, and their strength, the sky's the limit. 

The Recording Academy's GRAMMY House Returns For GRAMMY Week 2024; Immersive Pop-Up Experience To Feature The Third Annual #GRAMMYSNEXTGEN Party