Rihanna was just 15 years old when she auditioned for producer Evan Rogers

By Alex Heigl
Updated June 12, 2015 12:30 PM
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Because Rihanna is 27, it’s easy to forget that she’s been cleaning up on the charts for a while now. Ten years, to be exact.

Her first single, “Pon de Replay,” hit the Billboard Hot 100 a decade ago, on June 11, 2005. (It was released on May 24 of that year.)

In 2003, songwriter and producer Evan Rogers (who’s one half of the duo, along with Carl Sturken, behind hits for artists like Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson and Christina Milian) was on vacation in Barbados.

Rogers’ wife was friends with a mother of one of Rihanna’s classmates, and the then-15-year-old singer wound up auditioning for Rogers in his hotel suite with Mariah Carey’s “Hero” (a song that won her high school’s talent show) and Destiny’s Child’s “Emotion.”

Rogers was interested and eventually invited Rihanna to New York, where the pair recorded a three-song demo and sent it around. First to respond was Jay Z, who recently had been appointed president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings. He asked for an audition, which went well, to say the least.

“They kept telling us, ‘You’re not going to leave until you sign,’ ” Rihanna told USA Today in 2005. “We just thought they were being aggressive, but they meant it literally. We had to cancel a whole set of meetings with other labels.”

“Pon de Replay” (which means “play it again” in Bajan Creole, one of the two official languages spoken in Barbados) peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart seven weeks after its debut. In the intervening 10 years, Rihanna tied with Michael Jackson for the No. 3 slot in the “Most Hot 100 No. 1 Hits of All Time” list, after The Beatles (20) and Mariah Carey (18).

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“Rihanna felt like a massive star the very time I met her in Jay Z’s office,” Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels recalled to Billboard. We’d say the intervening decade has proved that instinct right.