Rihanna’s Unapologetic: These Critics Can’t Hold Her Back

Superstar checks off an 'SNL' gig, GQ cover and a globe-trotting tour on the way to her seventh album release.

As timelines go, promo for Rihanna’s brand-new album, Unapologetic, kicked off in November, ramping up with a jet-setting 777 Tour the same month the LP was shipped to stores. But as super-unofficial countdowns go, we’d say it started a month or so ago, with the release of a video titled “The Real Chris Brown.”

In a brief clip, the “Don’t Judge Me Singer” — admittedly a little tipsy in the backseat of a car — confesses he’s in love with “two people”: long-suffering girlfriend Karreuche Tran and the megastar ex who he was convicted of assaulting one dark weekend in 2009. “I love Karrueche very much but I don’t want to see her hurt over my friendship with Rihanna,” he announced to MTV News in a statement explaining his breakup from Tran.

There was backlash, of course, but Rihanna was quick to remind the public that she can only go one way: her own. Her personal life was “Nobodies Business,” and she and Brown would use the occasion of Unapologetic to make that known. Moreover, it became increasingly clear that the most-liked girl on Facebook really didn’t care if you liked her (“Poor dat,” as she often says).

“My story is definitely going to be a happily ever after, no matter what,” she told MTV News earlier this month in that clipped Bajan accent.

Get a first-hand account of what went down on the 777 Flight between Berlin and London!

Indeed, the leggy beauty has made a habit of bypassing the P.R. spin and record label interference to talk that talk directly to the Rihanna Navy; they are legion, and she comforts, chastises and, most important, connects deeply to them. In return, they’ve held her down, a global force that has consumed her mind-boggling seven albums in as many years by the millions.

But the 24-year-old is as tireless as she is fearless, and she set out to make the delivery of this album an EVENT. Her soulful November 3 appearance on “SNL” and the release of her atmospheric “Diamonds” video a few days later were just preludes. Last Wednesday, the international star grabbed her leather backpack and boarded a Boeing twinjet with an itinerary of seven cities in seven days. Journalists, her entourage and, of course, a few lucky fans were recruited for the ride.

Go Behind the Scenes of Rihanna’s 777 Tour!

And as standout performances from the quickie jaunt hit the Net each day — slow-burning ballad “Stay,” club-stomper “Phresh Out the Runway” — the talk shifted from her much-scrutinized love life and those magazine covers and circled back to the music. Now, with her hotly anticipated album finally out, it’s a conversation we’re looking forward to having.

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