Home Caribbean 'A' Listers Ordinary Women Who Got Rich Singing For A Living: Adele & Rihanna

Ordinary Women Who Got Rich Singing For A Living: Adele & Rihanna

by D Fitz-Roberts
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Popular American lyricist Yip Harburg once said, “Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought.” These words resonate for millions around the world spanning many generations (recent past and present) in times of pain, grief, happiness and even loneliness. A great song will teleport you to a memorable time and place bringing you to tears…this is what powerful lyrics and great musical arrangement can do to a person. What’s more…if this person can consistently move people to the same place every time with new material this artiste is revered by the prevailing media as a superstar within the genre.

For millennia singers have wowed audiences from Enrico Caruso who in 1902 recorded ‘Vesti le gubba’ from ‘Pagliacci’, to Ed Sheeran who gave us “Thinking Out Loud” in 2015 that became a number one hit in the UK making him arguably one of the world’s bestselling music artistes of his generation.

Such is the talent of people who have either instinctively sung as a means of coping with painful situations or folks who were encouraged by family and friends to take up the art form. Whichever approach, it would seem singing has an uncanny tendency to drive the artiste to undertake the role of soother, serenader, groover, crooner or other as an innate responsibility to their appreciative audience. A responsibility that often times has led the artiste to despair, heartbreak or financial ruin as substances such as heroin, ganja (Marijuana) or cocaine have in many cases been relied upon for increased energy and stamina.

To start this comparative assessment of two music giants, I am pleased to announce neither of them has been publicly shamed or accused of being associated with drugs of any find.

Adele singing in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo courtesy Erin McCormack, wikipedia.org

These two drug-free artises that have literally taken the world by storm in the past three decades are Adele Laurie Blue Adkins MBE known commonly as Adele or DayDreamer her fandom nickname, regarded by the music industry as one of the world’s bestselling music artists; and Robyn Rihanna Fenty NH known globally as Rihanna or Rihanna Navy her fandom nickname is regarded as the wealthiest female musician in the world.

Adele was born in the United Kingdom in 1988 to a working class single mother. She spent most of her youth in south London, Brixton and west Norwood which is credited for the inspiration for her first song Hometown Glory which only sold 500 copies and failed to chart at the time. However, as a result of the heavy downloads of her first album ‘19’ release, Hometown Glory successfully charted in the UK Singles Chart top 40.

In 2011 after global success with her first album ‘19’, Adele’s career took off to the amazement of all around her. She produced her second album ‘21’ regarded as the bestselling album of the 21st century with a startling sales record of a whopping 31 million copies worldwide. The accolades began to pour in, UK-Highest by a solo artist of all time, US-Top Performing Album in Chart History, she held the Billboard 200 for a staggering 24 weeks. The ‘21’ album was so strong it earned her six Grammy awards, Album of the year and Brit Award for British Album of the Year and not to mention being featured several times in the prestigious Guinness Book of Records.

Needless to say Adele has captured the hearts, minds and imagination of millions of fans around the world, people who adore her and as is reported, would pay usd$3,000.00, excluding airfare, to fly to Las Vegas to see her perform at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. Such is the strength and influence of her music.

Not surprisingly given Adele’s humble beginnings she is an avid and passionate supporter of several charities and civic organisations. She has been known to perform for FREE at the Little Noise Sessions with proceeds going to disabilities charity Mencap. Adele is also famously known for her unannounced visit to Chelsea fire station with cakes and tea in hand. She showed up to join the firefighters in their minute’s silence in tribute to the Grenfell Tower fire victims. Incredible, unpredictable woman!

Also born in 1988 but 5000 miles away in the sunny climes of Barbados in the Caribbean (formerly known as the West Indies) is Robyn Rihanna Fenty otherwise known as Rihanna. Rihanna too hailed from humble beginnings to a single mother after her abusive father took off when she was a teenager.

Choosing a musical career ahead of completing high school, one would say Rihanna struck gold. The musical trio she formed back in 2003 in Bridgetown Barbados exposed her to Evan Rogers, a highly accomplished American record producer with Syndicate Rhythm Productions. After a few audition type performances on the island Rogers was convinced Rihanna had what it took and invited her to the United States to record a few demos to be sent as teasers to record labels.
Her Pon De Replay demo tape was so hot that Rogers convinced his business partner Carl Sturken to sign her immediately.

As we say in the Caribbean, ‘De ball rollin’ now!’ The demo with Pon De Replay was sent to the newly minted president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings, none other than Jay Z who heard the track thinking it was too big for the likes of Rihanna and invited her to audition before his boss and music mogul Antonio Reid for the final sign-off. On hearing the rendition of Whitney Houston’s For The Love Of You Jay Z and Reid were so impressed that Reid instructed Jay Z to not let her leave the building before signing the contract, fearing she would easily be scooped up by the competition.

Her career exploded with the production of her third album Good Girl Gone Bad which was a collaboration between producers Timberland, Tricky Stewart and Dean Garrett who together used up-tempo dance tracks to guide her in a new musical direction. The collaboration worked so well that the album when released in 2007 totally smashed it at number 2 in the US and Australia and topped the charts in the UK, Canada, Ireland and Brazil. As they say in Guyana, ‘Rihanna had gone clear!’ There was no stopping her now. She released a string of hits including Umbrella, Shut Up And Drive, Hate That I Love You and Don’t Stop The Music all of which were international sensations that only confirmed her place in music history through her nomination for several Grammy Awards and earning the distinction of having her eighth album Anti being regarded by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, consecutively.

To do an accurate comparative assessment of Adele and Rihanna would take more pages than this column will allow as Rihanna has done and continues to play her part by supporting several philanthropic causes such as the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) in her hometown Barbados to honour her grandparents Clara and Lionel Braithwaite. The foundation hosts an Oncology and Nuclear Medicine facility at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on the island and she hosts annual fundraisers to support the facility.

These two mega stars who incidentally are great friends, are prime examples of what holding on to dreams can do and the value of self-discipline and hard work. They are also role models when it comes to demonstrating the importance of remembering one’s roots. They never forgot where they came from! Featured photo of Rihanna courtesy wikipedia.org.

D Fitz-Roberts

D Fitz-Roberts

D Fitz-Roberts is a multi-talented writer on socio-economic issues having worked in journalism across the Caribbean (Grenada, Guyana and BVI) in the 90s. He has worked in London with Black Britain Online, New Nation Newspaper and Caribbean Times. An academic with a passion for research on distributed ledger technologies in emerging economies he is keen to see the Caribbean embrace bitcoin and blockchain technologies to keep pace with the west. He writes periodically for mainstream publications and is the founder of CaribDirect.com. He is also the author of Caribbean children’s book LifeSucks! available on Amazon.


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