The Forgotten Princesses of R&B

When the teenage Rihanna warbled her way through Pon de Replay her debut single in 2005, no one could have known the extraordinary power this eighteen-year old ingénue would one day have. Before Rude Boy, Chris Brown, and Instagram, she was just another princess-in-waiting in the R&B world, no different from the dozens of other starlets crowding the pages of Elle Girl and Teen Vogue. Eight years and seven Grammys later, RiRi has firmly established her place in history. There will never be another Rihanna (no matter how hard you might try, Rita Ora). But what happened to those other young ‘n’ sexy singers that got left by the wayside when Rihanna rose to superstardom? We take a look at her closest competition back in those early days and where it all went wrong for the would-be Rihannas.


Filipino/African-American born Cassie’s big hit Me & U came in 2006, complete with a video that made most teenage girls the world over want to gouge their eyes out in jealousy (myself included). Her pretty face also caught the eye of none other than P Diddy, who tracked her down after hearing Me & U in a club. The rest, as they say is history… or is it? It all began to go wrong for Cassie with live performances that were, in her own words, “pretty bad”, and a second album (in production since 2007) that never materialised:  according to sources, Cassie recorded over fifty songs for it, before abandoning it entirely. Still, it’s not all bad news: she and P Diddy have confirmed their couple status (via Twitter- where else?) and the 26-year old can be found dressing up as Wonder Woman at one of P Diddy’s lavish yacht parties.  


Keyshia Cole discovered the bottle of red hair dye about 7 years before Rihanna tried it out, sporting the look for her debut album, The Way It Is, in 2005. Released just two months before Rihanna’s debut album, Music of the Sun, it instantly went platinum and things were looking rosy for Keyshia, thanks to her fiercely powerful vocals and biting lyrics about female empowerment. She had a succession of successful albums, but her questionable decision to appear in a reality television programme about her family life possibly had something to do with her dwindling credibility as a recording artist. A word of advice, Keyshia. If it didn’t work for Jessica Simpson, it is NOT going to work for you. 


Ciara’s career began with a flying start  when she was named the Princess of Crunk’n’B (for those not in the know, Crunk = crazy and drunk) after her first album, Goodies was released in 2004. Fresh out of high school, the singer wowed the world with her astonishingly accomplished dance moves and athletic body. The title track featured dazzlingly cryptic   lyrical metaphors like “you want the goodies… but they stay in the jar”, and it became an instant worldwide number one. Things started to go wrong when her second album, Ciara: The Evolution was accompanied by vicious sex-change rumours, and her subsequent two albums quickly nosedived, before Ciara publically asked to be released from her contract with Jive Records. CiCi hasn’t given up the fight for Rihanna’s crown: her next album, One Woman Army is out in June and she’s already had Twitter beef with RiRi after implying that Rihanna was a “bitch” on the Joan Rivers’ television show. Oh, and her middle name - her ACTUAL MIDDLE NAME- is Princess. I rest my case. Watch out Rihanna, Ciara’s coming for that crown.


Before launching her singing career, Christina wrote songs for other pop stars, like Jennifer Lopez’s Play before, aged 19, signing a recording contract with Def Jam and releasing her self-titled debut album in 2001. Her somewhat-insipid singles, AM to PM and When You Look At Me never really made much of a stir- peaking only somewhere insignificant on the Billboard Top 40. So for her second album Christina amped up the raunchy factor: the video for Dip it Low- the first single from her second album- features Christina dressed in latex lingerie, writhing about in black paint. (It was so racy that my dad used to make me turn it off when it came up on Channel U.) In 2009, Christina eloped with R&B singer The-Dream and had a daughter, splitting up a year later. She then took to acting and even tried her hand at managing, before finding her calling as the Social Media Correspondent on The Voice. What dreams are made of, Christina. 


Poor Teairra Marí. Her career started off with so much promise: when Jay-Z was named president of Def Jam in 2004, his first collaboration project was with the sixteen year-old Teairra from Detroit. She was sexy, sassy and she could sing. Jay-Z even made a cameo appearance in the video for her debut single, Make Her Feel Good, christening her with his diamond-studded chain (Woah, guys… Symbolic.) Things took a turn for the worse when her accompanying album, Roc-A-Fella Presents: Teairra Marí failed to chart, and she was unceremoniously dropped in the middle of recording her second album. Teairra refuses to accept defeat: she has continued to swing from label to label, releasing a haphazard collection of mixtapes, videos and singles, for over seven years. In 2011, she was arrested for drunk driving and assault after crashing her car in L.A and beating up the officer that arrested her. See, she’s a born fighter. Go Teairra!