In the music industry, there have long been comparisons to Madonna thrown around – a pop single here, a fashion look there – but to encompass the scope and success, and global fame of Madonna That’s another league entirely.
Figures came out this week that Rihanna is now the most watched artist on YouTube, with her official channel RihannaVEVO reaching more than 3.47 billion views, nudging aside Justin Bieber who was considered the king of social media.
It’s an impressive achievement in its own right. But it also seemed to cement Rihanna as the female artist who has achieved the near impossible – genuinely replicating the global and musical reach of Madonna, but in her own way, with her own sound.
It’s to an entirely different generation of course. At a time when the internet rules all else. But the similarities between the two women are quite striking: their prowess in harnessing the power of music clips, combined with genuine star power and sexual allure (and their enjoyment in showing it).
We won’t even go near the troubled relationships, or the bad film roles. (Although Madonna was ultra-cool in Desperately Seeking Susan, it was all downhill from there. Rihanna’s cameo role in Battleship was not exactly groundbreaking).
For both women though, it is the music – and truly great songs – which keep fans coming back for more.
You often hear older music fans, some groups of men in particular, rubbish Madonna’s most-loved pop songs as though they were nothing more than a bubbly, meaningless slice of the 1980s. But there are millions of people who can sing them word-for-word to this day. Or leap to their feet at a dancefloor when they hear the opening chords. To deny the power of that is deluded.
The same will happen with Rihanna’s songs. Sure, her break-out hit Umbrella felt like a one-hit wonder (although it strongly defined her distinctive sound which followed) but her 2011 release We Found Love (recorded with Calvin Harris) is one of the most compelling songs released in the last decade.
Rihanna is undoubtedly the musical icon of her generation. Her sound, her clips, her videos, her look – they are viewed and copied and talked about by millions of fans worldwide, every day.
Madonna would be proud
– Sydney Morning Herald