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Music of the Sun is the debut album by Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, released by Def Jam Recordings on August 12, 2005. Prior to signing with a record label, Rihanna was discovered by record producer Evan Rogers, who helped Rihanna record demo tapes which could be sent out to potential record labels. After Rihanna was signed by Jay-Z, the former Chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Def Jam, she continued to work with Rogers and his production partner Carl Sturken, as well as working with other producers for her debut album. Music of the Sun was recorded between 2004 and 2005. The album features vocals from artists including Kardinal Offishall, J-Status, and Vybz Kartel. As an R&B album, Music of the Sun incorporates musical elements of dance-pop and caribbean music genres such as dancehall and reggae.
The album received generally mixed reviews from music critics, who complimented its dancehall and Caribbean-inspired songs, while others criticized some of the production. Music of the Sun debuted at number 10 on the United States (U.S.) Billboard 200 and number six on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The album peaked in the top-40 of album charts in Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It produced two singles: "Pon de Replay" and "If It's Lovin' that You Want", the former of which peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Music of the Sun was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of over 500,000 copies.
Background and development Edit
Before signing to Def Jam Recordings, Rihanna was discovered in her home country Barbados by American record producer Evan Rogers. The two met in December 2003 through mutual friends of Rihanna's and Rogers' wife, while the couple was on vacation in Barbados, because of how Rihanna's friend had told Rogers' wife how the aspiring singer was always singing and performing. After meeting for the first time, Rogers' asked Rihanna to come to his hotel room, where she performed renditions of Destiny's Child's "Emotion" and Mariah Carey's "Hero". Rihanna's renditions impressed Rogers, who then took her to New York, where she was accompanied by her mother to record some demo tapes which could be sent to record labels. Production of the demo tapes took about a year, due to Rihanna only being able to record during school holidays. At the age of 16, Rihanna was signed to Rogers' and Carl Sturken's production company, Syndicated Rhythm Productions, who assigned her a lawyer and manager, before the completed demo tape were distributed to various record labels around the world in late 2004. The first to respond to the demo tape was Jay-Z, who had recently been appointed as president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings. Rihanna auditioned for him and music mogul L.A. Reid, in his office. Looking back on the audition and meeting Jay-Z, Rihanna explained in an interview how she felt before walking into the room, saying:
"That's when I really got nervous ... I was like: 'Oh God, he's right there, I can't look, I can't look, I can't look!' I remember being extremely quiet. I was very shy. I was cold the entire time. I had butterflies. I'm sitting across from Jay-Z. Like, Jay-Zee. I was star-struck."
During the audition, Rihanna performed Whitney Houston's cover of "For the Love of You", as well as "Pon de Replay" and "The Last Time", which were written and produced by Rogers and Sturken and would be included on her debut album Music of the Sun. Jay-Z was initially skeptical about signing Rihanna after he felt "Pon de Replay" was too big for her, saying "when a song is that big, it's hard [for a new artist] to come back from. I don't sign songs, I sign artists". The audition resulted in Rihanna signing a six-album record deal with Def Jam Recordings in February 2005, on the same day of the audition, with Jay-Z saying "There's only two ways out. Out the door after you sign this deal. Or through this window ...", meaning that he was not going to let her leave with signing a record deal. After signing to Def Jam Recordings, Rihanna cancelled other meetings with record labels and relocated from Barbados to New York to live with Rogers' and his wife. Rihanna explained the concept behind the title of the album to Kidzworld, saying that the sun is representative of the her native Caribbean culture as well as herself and that the album consists of music from her heritage.
Recording and composition Edit
After Rihanna signed a record deal with Def Jam Recordings, she began working with various producers for the debut album and continued to work with Rogers and Sturken, who had previously written and produced "Pon de Replay" and "The Last Time" for Rihanna's demo tape. Although Rihanna stated that when she first heard "Pon de Replay", she did not want to record it, expressing that she felt the song was "sing-songy", but grew to like the song at the end of the recording process. In an interview with Kidzworld, Rihanna explained how the pair helped her develop her song-writing abilities, saying Rogers and Sturken, who had worked with recording artists including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson.
Music of the Sun was inspired by caribbean music, including soca, dancehall, and reggae, as well as corporating dance-pop and R&B. The lead single "Pon de Replay" was written by Rogers, Sturken and Vada Nobles, and was produced by the first two. Musically, "Pon de Replay" draws influence from the musical genres of dance-pop, R&B and dancehall. Lyrically, the song is about asking the DJ to play the protagonist's favorite song, as well as the fulfillment of dancing in a club. "The Last Time", written and produced by Rogers and Sturken is an acoustic guitar driven ballad, while "Now That I Know" is a stripped down string driven song. In addition to working with Rogers and Sturken for the majority of the album, Rihanna worked with production teams Poke & Tone of Trackmasters and Stargate. The former wrote and produced the second single released from the album, "If It's Lovin' that You Want", which Rihanna described as a "fun song". An R&B song, "If It's Lovin' that You Want" is a song about a girl telling a boy that he should make her his girl, because she has what the boy wants. A remix of the song entitled "If It's Lovin' That You Want – Part 2", which features rap vocals by Cory Gunz, was included as a bonus track on Rihanna's sophomore album, A Girl Like Me (2006). Alongside Rogers and Sturken, Stargate co-wrote and co-produced "Let Me", which appears as the ninth song on the album. Music of the Sun contains a cover of Jamaican singer Dawn Penn's "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)", and features dancehall recording artist Vybz Kartel.
Jason Birchmeier of Allmusic praised Music of the Sun and awarded it 3.5 stars out of 5; Birchmeier commented that the album presents Rihanna as "winsome rather than [a] wannabe," as well as how she managed to set herself apart from other dance-pop artists such as Ashanti, Beyoncé Knowles and Ciara. Birchmeier further stated that "Music of the Sun descends into faceless slow jams after a while, overall consistency not being among its attributes, but thankfully it picks up the pace toward the end ... the result is one of the more engaging urban dance-pop albums of the year." Chantal Jenoure of The Jamaica Observer gave the album 3.5 stars out of 5, and praised the dancehall and hip hop composition on several of the songs, including "Pon de Replay", "Rush", "Let Me", "Music of the Sun" and "That La La La", writing that they make the listener feel "happy" and "carefree".
Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times gave Music of the Sun a "mixed" rating; Sanneh praised Rihanna for combining dancehall and reggae genres with that of more popular and mainstream ones, noting that the combination between dancehall and pop resulted in "[Pon de Replay being] one [of] the summer's biggest and most seductive club tracks." However, Sanneh noted that Rihanna sounds "stranded" when there is not a beat to sing along to. Liam Colle praised the album and its Caribbean infused beats and gave Music of the Sun a rating of 5 out of 10. Barry Walters of Rolling Stone rated it 2.5 out of 5 stars and described the album as lacking the replay value, ingenuity and rhythm of the single with "generic vocal hiccups and frills" of US R&B inflecting upon her "Caribbean charm". Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine awarded the album 2.5 stars out of 5, describing the album as a "glut of teen R&B chanteuses" and described the lead single "Pon de Replay" as "a dancehall-pop mixture that owes plenty of its sweat and shimmy to Beyoncé Knowles' "Baby Boy". Evan Serpick of Entertainment Weekly was critical of Music of the Sun and rated it as a C grade album, writing "The 17-year-old's vibrant vocals lift tracks like 'That La La La' and 'Let Me,' but this bland dancehall/R&B debut is filled with chintzy production and maudlin arrangements that block out the Music of the Sun."
In the United States, Music of the Sun debuted and peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the chart issue dated September 17, 2005. The album spent a total of 35 weeks on the chart. Music of the Sun debuted on the U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at number six in the same chart issue, and spent a total of 44 weeks on the chart. After five months of release, the album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on January 1, 2006, denoting shipments of over 500,000 copies. As of July 23, 2010, the album had sold 593,000 copies in the United States. In Canada, Music of the Sun debuted and peaked at number seven on the Canadian Albums Chart in the chart issue September 17, 2005, but dropped out of the top ten the following week. After four months of release, the album was certified platinum by Music Canada for shipments of over 100,000 copies.
Outside of the United States and Canada, Music of the Sun failed to achieve a comparable level of chart success. In the United Kingdom, the album debuted and peaked at number 35 on the UK Albums Chart in the chart issue October 10, 2005. In its second week charting, Music of the Sun fell by three positions to number 38, and dropped out of the Official UK Top 40 the following week. On May 12, 2006, the album was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) denoting shipments of over 100,000 copies. Elsewhere in Europe, the album debuted on the Swiss Albums Chart at number 46 in the chart issue September 11, 2005, and peaked at number 38 four weeks later. In Austria, Music of the Sun debuted on the Austrian Albums Chart at number 61 in the chart issue September 18, 2005, and peaked at number 45 the following week. The album debuted and peaked at number 93 on the French Albums Chart in the chart issue September 24, 2005. In The Netherlands, Music of the Sun debuted and peaked at number 98 on the Dutch Albums Chart in the chart issue April 29, 2006, and spent one week on the chart. In New Zealand, the album debuted on the New Zealand Albums Chart at number 40 in the chart issue September 26, 2005. Between September 29 and October 10, 2005, Music of the Sun dropped out of the top-40 albums chart, but made a re-entry at number 40 on October 10, 2005. In its fourth week charting, the album peaked at number 26.
"Pon de Replay" was released as the album's lead single on May 24, 2005. It received positive reviews from music critics, who praised the West Indian and Caribbean inspired composition. However, Bill Lamb of About.com criticized the song, writing that the lyrics did not make the listener feel intellectually challenged or provoke thought as to what the song meant. The song peaked at number one on the New Zealand Singles Chart and number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and UK Singles Chart. An accompanying music video was directed by Little X and features Rihanna in a club environment. "If It's Lovin' that You Want" was released as the second and final single from Music of the Sun on December 2, 2005. The song received mixed reviews from critics, with the majority praising and criticizing Rihanna's vocal performance. The song failed to replicate the chart success which "Pon de Replay" experienced, peaking at number 36 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and inside the top forty of multiple other charts. An accompanying music video was directed by Marcus Raboy and features Rihanna in a beach setting.
- "Pon de Replay"
- "Here I Go Again" (featuring J-Status)
- "If It's Lovin' That You Want"
- "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" (featuring Vybz Kartel)
- "That La, La, La"
- "The Last Time"
- "Willing to Wait"
- "Music of the Sun
- "Let Me"
- "Rush" (featuring Kardinal Offishall)
- "There's a Thug in My Life" (featuring J-Status)
- "Now I Know"
International bonus trackEdit
13. "Pon de Replay" (Remix featuring Elephant Man)
UK bonus trackEdit
14. "Should I?" (featuring J-Status)
Japanese bonus tracksEdit
Credits for Music of the Sun adapted from Allmusic.
- Rihanna – vocals
- Rob Mounsey– arranger/conductor
- Full Force – vocals (background)
- Carl Sturken – composer, guitar, keyboards, piano,
- Evangeline Evelyn – guitar
- Lawrence Glazener – bass
- Avril Brown – violin
- Kenneth Burward-Hoy - violin
- Yana Goichman – violin
- Ann Leathers – violin
- Cenovia Cummins – violin
- Jan Mullen – violin
- Elizabeth Nielson – violin
- Debra Shufelt – violin
- Marti Sweet – violin
- Uri Vodoz – violin
- Carol Wener – violin
- Stephanie Cum – cello
- Richard Locker – cello
- Mark Orrin Shuman – cello
- Lian Truffle – cello
- Tristan Hart – viola
- Vince Lionti – viola
- Sue Pray – viola
- Evan Rogers, Carl Sturken – Executive producers
- Full Force, Evan Rogers – Vocal production
- Full Force – Additional vocal production
- Al Hemberger, Matt Noble, Malcolm Pollack – Enginners
- Jason Agel, Roy Matthews, Alex Pinto – Assistant engineers
- Jason Goldstein, Jason Groucott, Al Hemberger – Mixing
- Chris Gehringer – Mastering
- Jay Brown, Adrienne Muhammad, Tyran "Ty Ty" Smith – A&B
- Tai Linzie – Design
- Andy West – Art Direction
- Tai Linzie, Mark Mann, Ivan Otis – Photography