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Since the turn of the century, every American summer has seemed to produce one or two Caribbean-styled dance-pop hit sensations, and the summer of 2005 was no different, as the relentless dancehall-lite booming rhythms of Rihanna's "Pon de Replay" seemed as omnipresent as sunshine. Like Daddy Yankee ("Gasolina") and Sean Paul ("Get Busy") in summers prior, Rihanna emerged initially as an unknown superstar, known far more for her song than for herself. Unlike Daddy Yankee and Sean Paul, however, she is a woman -- a young and beautiful green-eyed one, to be more specific. Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in the St. Michael parish of Barbados a brief 17 years before she reached the Top Two of Billboard's Hot 100 chart (held back from the number one spot by the undisputed song of the summer, Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together"), Rihanna always exhibited a special quality, winning beauty and talent contests as a schoolchild. But because she lived on the fairly remote island of Barbados in the West Indies, she never foresaw the sort of stardom that would later befall her. That stardom came courtesy of a fateful meeting with a man named Evan Rogers. The New Yorker was vacationing in Barbados with his wife, a native of the island, when someone turned him on to Rihanna. Since Rogers had spent years producing pop artists -- including superstars like *NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, Laura Pausini, and Rod Stewart -- he offered her the opportunity to record some music after he recognized her talent and potential. Along with Rogers' production partner, Carl Sturken (the other half of Syndicated Rhythm Productions), Rihanna recorded some demos that sparked the interest of the Carter Administration -- that is, Def Jam president Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. This led to an audition and, in turn, an on-the-spot offer to sign with Def Jam, which Rihanna indeed inked on the spot. Come summer 2005, Def Jam rolled out "Pon de Replay," the lead single of Music of the Sun, which was produced almost entirely by Rogers and Sturken and which synthesized Caribbean rhythms and beats with urban-pop songwriting. "Pon de Replay" caught fire almost immediately, challenging "We Belong Together"'s half-summer reign atop the Billboard chart before Music of the Sun even saw release. ~ Jason Birchmeier, All Music Guide
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