In the past few months, Rihanna has recorded two songs with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown (with whom she has a troubled past), candidly tweeted about about her predilection for smoking weed and started a nasty online feud with Brown's new girlfriend.
Rihanna has come a long way since she first exploded on the scene in 2005, but lately it seems she's been making more headlines for what she says and does outside the recording studio than for her music. Is she falling into a Lindsay Lohan-like spiral, or is this all just a calculated effort by the "machine" to keep her relevant in a market that is constantly looking for the next best (or baddest) thing?
If her latest stunt is any example of what's to come, it seems Rihanna will do almost anything to keep the blogosphere buzzing. The singer recently stepped out without a bra, while wearing a see-through top in New York City, and everyone was wondering what she was thinking.
"Rihanna wasn't going out for a night on the town or a performance," Leah Chernikoff, editor of Fashionista.com, told The Huffington Post. "She was going out to dinner on a Sunday at a casual but scene-y restaurant in the West Village. It certainly seems like a bid for attention, though I'm not quite sure why."
When TMZ asked Rihanna about the images, she was recorded saying, "You mean my t*tties? F*cking perv! It was the flash, man!"
Her fresh attitude was also evident in her recent Twitter attack on Chris Brown's girlfriend, Vietnamese model Karrueche Tran. Rihanna tweeted a picture of a bag of rice cakes wearing sunglasses and gold earrings similar to ones that Tran favors, with the caption "Ima make u my b----." The stunt started an online feud between the two women, with Rihanna's fans making serious threats against Tran.
It may seem like Rihanna is looking for trouble, but perhaps it's all a ploy to keep up with her outlandish competition.
The singer, who began her career as an innocent ingénue from Barbados, seems to be purposefully crafting an edgier, devil-may-care image as she struggles to define herself in a music market saturated with wild women like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj.
"Gaga and Minaj have set the precedent that the offstage 'performance' is just as important as what you do onstage," said Dorothy Cascerceri, senior editor of In Touch magazine. "The more shocking an artist's hairstyle or costume is, the more popular they are these days. Rihanna is a huge pop star, but it is no secret that her stardom has waned. Perhaps her crazy haircuts and colors, clothes (and lack thereof) are her way of staying relevant in a constantly changing landscape."
Rihanna -- or more likely her management team -- is careful about how they toe the line. Sure, she recently revealed that she smokes weed on Twitter, but she hasn't been arrested for her drug use and hasn't gone to rehab. The folks crafting the image of the "New Rihanna" are careful to make her edgy, but not uninsurable, unlike some other young starlets on the scene.
"Of course this is calculated. With record labels, movie studios and advertisers all benefiting from this 'machine,' she's got too many guardrails around this 'good girl gone bad.' Rihanna is nothing but on track towards a Britney-sized sexplosion, but with the LiLo cautionary tale on her side," explained marketing expert Eduardo A. Braniff, CEO of the Imagination Group’s Americas division. "The 'controversy’ and 'backlash' is all as formulaic as the series of events leading to what we all want to become an epic fail, but in this case will be a likely reinvention."
It makes sense for a reinvention to rear its head now, as Rihanna gears up to make her big-screen debut in the upcoming blockbuster "Battleship" in May. If she wants to be taken seriously as a multimedia star, she needs to prove her mettle by bringing in big box office receipts.
It shouldn't come as any surprise that Rihanna's see-through stunt came only a day before Universal released a new trailer for the flick, which also stars Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skaarsgard and Brooklyn Decker.
"She needs to attract her audience and then some in order to sell tickets," Hollywood image consultant Michael Sands told The Huffington Post. "For the next several months, Rihanna wants to be on every magazine cover and will say anything and act in any way to get to numero uno at the box office.”
Roc-A-Fella recording artist Rihanna performs at the Teen People Listening Lounge hosted by Jay - Z at the Key Club on July 14, 2005 in West Hollywood, California.
Roc-A-Fella recording artist Rihanna is featured at the Teen People Listening Lounge hosted by Jay - Z at the Key Club on July 14, 2005 in West Hollywood, California.
Rihanna poses for a picture at the Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter Hosts Teen People Listening Lounge at the Canal Room on July 20, 2005 in New York City.
Singer Rihanna poses backstage during a MTV Networks Tempo Channel launch event at The Plantation & Garden Theater October 22, 2005 Christ Church, Barbados, W.I.
Rihanna poses for a portrait before a party to celebrate the release of her new album 'A Girl Like Me' in her hometown on April 22, 2006 in St. Michael, Barbados.
Rihanna performs on stage during the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards at Yoyogi National Athletic Stadium on May 27, 2006 in Tokyo, Japan.
Singer Rihanna attends the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall August 31, 2006 in New York City.
Singer Rihanna performs on stage during the 2006 World Music Awards at Earls Court on November 15, 2006 in London.
Singer Rihanna arrives at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on February 11, 2007 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rhianna attends the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala 'Poiret: King Of Fashion' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2007 in New York City.
Singer Rihanna performs during 'The Dome 42' music show at the TUI Arena on May 25, 2007 in Hanover, Germany.
Singer Rihanna arrives at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards held at The Palms Hotel and Casino on September 9, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Singer Rihanna signs autographs at H&M for the launch of Fashion Against AIDS Collection on January 31, 2008 in New York City.
Singer Rihanna arrives at the 50th annual Grammy awards held at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna performs on stage at the RDS on February 27, 2008 in Dublin Ireland.
Singer Rihanna arrives at the 2008 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 24, 2008 in Los Angeles, California
Singer Rihanna performs onstage at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards on the Paramount Studios lot on September 7, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
Singers Miley Cyrus and Rihanna attend the 2009 GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons honoring Clive Davis at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 7, 2009 in Bevery Hills, California.
Rihanna attends DKMS' 3rd Annual Star-Studded Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 7, 2009 in New York City.
Rihanna and Singer Justin Bieber attend the Island Def Jam Spring Collection party at Stephen Weiss Studio on May 20, 2009 in New York City.
Singer Rihanna attends the World of Giuseppe Zanotti during Fashion's Night Out at the Giuseppe Zanotti Boutique on September 10, 2009 in New York City.
Singer Rihanna arrives at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Singers Rihanna attends Cleveland Caveliers and Los Angeles Clippers NBA basketball game at Staples Center on January 16, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna and Katy Perry in the audience during the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on January 31, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna performs onstage at Nickelodeon's 23rd Annual Kids' Choice Awards held at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on March 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna attends the exclusive after party for Rihanna's LA show hosted by Asics and Drai's Hollywood at Drai's Hollywood on July 21, 2010 in Hollywood, California.
Rihanna turns on the Westfield Shopping Centre Christmas lights on November 4, 2010 in London, England.
Singer Rihanna arrives at the 2010 American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna arrives at The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna performs during the 2011 NBA All-Star game halftime show at Staples Center on February 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna attends the DKMS' 5th Annual Gala: Linked Against Leukemia honoring Rihanna & Michael Clinton hosted by Katharina Harf at Cipriani Wall Street on April 28, 2011 in New York City.
Recording artist Rihanna arrives at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 22, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Singers Britney Spears and Rihanna perform during the 2011 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 22, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Singer Rihanna performs at the Staples Center on June 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna poses at the Los Angeles premiere of Michael Jackson 'THE IMMORTAL' World Tour at Staples Center on January 27, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Recording artist Rihanna attends the Roc Nation Pre-GRAMMY Brunch at the Soho House on February 11, 2012 in West Hollywood, California.
Singer Rihanna arrives at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Singers Rihanna and Katy Perry in the audience at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna performs onstage at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival held at The Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, California.
Rihanna attends the TIME 100 Gala celebrating TIME'S 100 Most Influential People In The World at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, 2012 in New York City.
Rihanna attends the 'Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations' Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2012 in New York City.
Actress/singer Rihanna arrives at the premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Battleship' at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on May 10, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Rihanna performs onstage during Fox's 'American Idol 2012' results show at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on May 23, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Rihanna performs at Barclaycard Wireless Festival at Hyde Park on July 8, 2012 in London, England.