Rihanna has named Madonna as her idol and biggest influence. She said that she wanted to be the “black Madonna”.
“I think that Madonna was a great inspiration for me, especially on my earlier work. If I had to examine her evolution through time, I think she reinvented her clothing style and music with success every single time. And at the same time remained a real force in entertainment in the whole world.”
She also cites Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion as major influences and idols. Of Janet Jackson, Rihanna has commented that “she was one of the first female pop icons that I could relate to.” Rihanna has said the late R&B singer Aaliyah has a huge impact on her style and also complimented on the singers artistry as well. Rihanna was inspired to start her career after watching Beyoncé on television with Destiny’s Child.
Rihanna commented that Marilyn Monroe and vintage clothing served as visual inspiration for the music video “Hate That I Love You” and “Rehab”. The “dark, creepy” scenes of “Disturbia” have been compared to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Other musical influences include Alicia Keys, Fefe Dobson, Brandy, and Gwen Stefani. Jon Bream of the Star Tribune commented “in the tradition of Madonna and Janet Jackson, Rihanna has become the video vixen of the ’00s … Rihanna has perfected the pout, the long-legged strut and trend-setting hairdos that keep women and men alike checking her out on YouTube.” George Epaminondas of InStyle considers Rihanna’s music videos to be “cinematic” due to her “blend of lush island rhythms and swinging pop and … mischievous sensuality.”
Rihanna’s music contains strong influences of Caribbean music, including reggae and dancehall. The video for “Rude Boy” was inspired by her Caribbean roots. She stated that while growing up in Barbados she listened to reggae music, and when she came to the United States she was exposed to many different types of music. Rihanna is heavily influenced by the Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley. She stated, “he’s one of my favorite artists of all time […] he really paved the way for every other artist out of the Caribbean”. She built a shrine in her home dedicated to Marley. Rihanna has covered Marley’s “Is This Love” and Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “Redemption Song” several times. She has also covered Madonna’s “Vogue”.