In 2007, Rihanna launched herself into the upper echelon of pop’s stratosphere with her third studio effort, Good Girl Gone Bad. The chart-topping LP cemented the Barbadian multihyphenate as one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Embedded on the album was the single, “Umbrella,” co-written by The-Dream and Christopher “Tricky” Steward. The record was an immediate hit and went on to earn Rihanna her first Grammy Award. “Umbrella” also marked Rihanna's landmark transformation from island girl next door to pop femme fatale.
As the story goes, “Umbrella” was originally written with Britney Spears in mind before it made its way to Rihanna. Though, it was rumored that the song was also offered to R&B star Mary J. Blige before Rihanna. Blige confirmed the story during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen promoting Power Book II: Ghost while answering fan-submitted questions.
“It was during Grammy time for me. It was a big Grammy time. I was nominated for eight Grammys and I was trying to get myself together for that,” Blige recalled. “During that time, that’s when ‘Umbrella’ came to me and I couldn’t do anything with it because I was so busy with my own life. I was like ‘You know what? It doesn’t really sound like me anyways.’”
She passed on the track and thus it went to Rihanna. When Cohen asked if she regretted the decision, Blige said no, explaining, “Everything about that song was tailor-made for Rihanna.”
She added, “Nothing about that song was Mary J. Blige. My fans would’ve been bugging out on me. But for Rihanna, it was perfect.”
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(Photo from left: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tiffany & Co. and ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)