The Impact and Legacy of Rihanna’s Unapologetic: 10 Years Later

Released a decade ago, on the 19th of November 2012, Unapologetic, became Rihanna’s seventh studio album via Def Jam Recordings. The album’s legacy lives on today as it honours the pop icons’ honest and shameless attitude.  

Hearing nothing but relative radio silence from the Barbadian star (musically) since 2016, with the release of ANTI, this month marks the date of her triumphant return to music. Featuring on the soundtrack of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, with two songs titled Lift Me Up and Born Again she breaks that silenceThis potentially hints at a new body of work and has fans eager to hear more. Despite this being the first we’ve heard since ANTI, she has been working tirelessly on other enterprises within her brand. She has created an empire with her Savage X Fenty lingerie range and Fenty Beauty collections. This is all while becoming a mother, indicating she certainly has had her hands full.

Like all Rihanna records, Unapologetic received huge acclaim from pop enthusiasts and industry greats, largely being admired for its authenticity. Notably, the album won a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album in 2014 and became her first number-one record in the U.K.

The album’s relevance in pop culture remains firmly in place to this day; with all-time great pop songs like ‘Diamonds‘ and ‘Stay‘ forever being staples on pop playlists across the world. The longevity of these songs is a testament to how quintessential Unapologetic was and still is 10 years later. Sonically, the album’s authentic pop sound is skilfully mixed with R&B and EDM influences. This is largely from the input of producers like David Guetta and Chase & Status. This style was huge between the 2000s and 2010s, with other pop hybrid stars like Alicia Keys, Beyonce, and FKA Twigs adopting it into their music.

Rihanna – Diamonds

Fundamentally, ‘Diamonds‘ was a hit in 2012 and it still is to this day. If it were played today at a party, or nightclub it would be sure to get everyone up and moving. This is not just because of nostalgia but because it still holds up against any modern pop song to date. Topping the music charts in over 20 countries, ‘Diamonds‘ was a firm fan favourite from the record. It was easily one of the best pop songs to come out of that decade.

Nobody’s Business (Feat. Chris Brown)

As a very personal collection of tracks, divulging intimate details about past entanglements in her life, Rihanna bared all. The Guardian vocalised: ‘Hearing Rihanna sing her abusive partner’s praises makes this a deeply disturbing listen, however good the tunes.’ Considering the horrific events that took place prior to the 2009 Grammys between Rihanna and ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, the release of ‘Nobody’s Business‘ was not only shocking at the time but unnerving to listen to given the situation. Now in 2022, we have received in-depth context and information on the extent of the abuse Rihanna experienced. This came from Chris Brown’s documentary, ‘Chris Brown: Welcome To My Life‘ in 2017. Hearing in detail what took place from the abuser himself, makes listening to this song 10 years later all the more disturbing.

Stay (Feat. Mikky Ekko)

Although Unapologetic largely featured high-energy electronic songs, ‘Stay‘ provides a nice contrast to this intensity. It’s an elegant piano ballad, raw with emotion and vulnerability. The single thrived in the charts in 2013 and is a stand-out track from the album to this day. This was mainly because of Rihanna’s ability to communicate her feelings so beautifully.

The mighty influence of Rihanna and Unapologetic

In all respects: fashion, beauty, and music, Rihanna has forever been viewed as an iconic figure in the contemporary world. Everything she partakes in is celebrated because of the successful, powerful woman she is and the reputation she’s built. Rihanna’s authenticity and style have been a source of inspiration for many women in today’s music industry. Unapologetic is likely to have influenced the sound of many pop-R&B albums released over the past 10 years, like H.E.R’s self-titled album H.E.R in 2017, and SZA’s Ctrl from 2017, to name a few.

Reflecting 10 years later on Unapologetic’s release, it’s impressive to see its impact and influence on the pop world. From the notorious album cover to its undeniable spirit, it’s still recognised all over the world, and for good reason.

Rihanna is on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok

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