Rihanna, J. Cole

Friday, July 8, at the American Airlines Center

When Jay-Z signed Robyn Rihanna Fenty to Def Jam Recordings in 2004 , he surely must've thought that her catchy dancehall demo "Pon de Replay" would outlive her untested talent.

Others did: When Music of the Sun dropped, reviewers dismissed her as a pretty face cribbing Beyoncé's style. And yet, in spite of these critics, Music went certified gold in the U.S. More impressive, the then-17-year-old Barbadian singer rose above the catchy debut to worldwide success, eventually appearing in tracks alongside the likes of Eminem, Kanye West and David Guetta. Then 2006's A Girl Like Me and 2007's Good Girl Gone Bad marked her transition from Little Beyoncé to snarling punk-rock diva. Certainly, the contrast between massive hit singles "Disturbia" and "Umbrella" alone showed her pop resilience. 2009's Rated R signified more of a cathartic vent for Rihanna after the perilous end to her relationship with Chris Brown, displayed in the pathos of "Russian Roulette" and the macho fronts of "Hard." To balance the gloom and anguish, "Rude Boy" boasted brash challenge to dudes who think they "is big enough." On her latest album, Loud, Rihanna swapped her raven-black fauxhawk for a Little-Mermaid red 'do and costumes. Her electro-pop sound returns in "S&M" and "Only Girl (In the World)."

Clearly, if there's anything to be gleaned from her story, it's that critics sometimes make mistakes.

Up-and-coming rapper J. Cole opens.

 
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