This week, the 24-year-old international icon released “Diamonds,” her latest single. While many critics are debating the track’s potential for mass appeal and praising Rihanna as a savvy businesswoman, I can’t help but assess her most recent success and song release in light of her past.
Her yearning to “shine bright like a diamond” is an extension of her ongoing journey to break free from the dark places that once haunted her.
Rihanna’s last few albums have not come with the heaviness and morbidity of “Rated R,” which was released in 2009 - the same year that she was assaulted by then-boyfriend Chris Brown. Her music has also come a long way from tracks like “Russian Roulette.” And there are those of us who maintain that there’s value in the “Man Down” video. Essence has even argued that Rihanna’s style transformation between “Rated R” and “Loud” demonstrated an evolution from darkness to light.
It appears that Rihanna’ growth hasn’t been limited to her artistry. The singer seems pretty comfortable in her own skin these days, sharing daily messages of inspiration with her Instagram followers and being unapologetically supportive of Chris Brown via Twitter.
While I believe that their musical collaborations and public displays of affection have the potential to send a dangerous message to their fans, I must also commend Rihanna for refusing to be a prisoner to her past. Too many of us are so unwilling to forgive those who have hurt us that our refusal to let go ends up perpetuating our pain.
Rihanna has refused to remain in a state of victimization. In “Diamonds,” she takes hold of her own agency and the power of love to prevail above all else: "Find light in the beautiful sea/ I chose to be happy/ You and I; you and I/ We're like diamonds in the sky."
The search for love, fulfillment and peace of mind continues for a very young Rihanna. Still, it’s comforting to know that the soundtrack to her life will possess more and more songs of joy. There’s no telling what the album and future videos will reflect, but we know today that Rihanna has chosen happiness.