Rihanna got more and more excited as she heard the names of the stars who will join her Monday at Xcel Energy Center for KDWB's annual Jingle Ball.
There's T.I., the rapper with whom she collaborated on the No. 1 smash "Live Your Life."
"I didn't know that he was on the bill," said the 20-year-old pop-soul diva, who has had more No. 1 pop hits in the '00s than any other female star.
How 'bout Shontelle, her homegirl from Barbados? "Oh, sweet. I had no idea," Rihanna gushed. "We used to hang out in Barbados when I was living there. It's a pretty exciting bill."
There's also "American Idol" runner-up David Archuleta, dance diva Lady GaGa and pop-rockers Boys Like Girls, not to mention an extra-special late addition: Chris Brown of "Kiss Kiss" and "Run It" renown -- who happens to be Rihanna's boyfriend.
When Brown's name comes up, however, she has precious little to say. Will Rihanna get extra stage time with him and T.I. on the program?
"Um, maybe," she said. "I would love to perform with T.I. 'Live Your Life' is really inspiring. When I perform it, I just feel people's energy. It's an anthem for people. It's a good motto to go by."
Rihanna and Brown, 19, just completed a tour of Australia and New Zealand where he joined her nightly for a rendition of her biggest single, "Umbrella." While she acknowledged that they shared the stage, she has made a practice of not commenting about their nonmusical relationship, which reportedly has lasted three years.
If Beyoncé can get away with not commenting about her hubby Jay-Z, well, then Rihanna can kiss (we're assuming, now) and not tell, too.
In the tradition of Madonna and Janet Jackson, Rihanna has become the video vixen of the '00s. Beyoncé may have more big-budget glamour, but Rihanna has perfected the pout, the long-legged strut and trend-setting hairdos that keep women and men alike checking her out on YouTube.
Many of her hit videos have featured famous male co-stars. Her latest, "Rehab," spotlights Justin Timberlake in a California desert.
"We had so many things working against us," she recalled, explaining the limited daylight because these huge rock formations blocked the sun. "We had to get Justin out of there on time. We never stopped working. But we had fun doing it."
What was it like shooting "Disturbia," which walks the line between a Tim Burton horror flick and S&M?
"We thought it was going to be the last single off the album and we wanted to make the video really special and not have any restrictions," Rihanna said. "We wanted to make a dark, creepy video in these weird random setups. I got to play so many different characters and wear different costumes and headpieces and wigs and contacts."
The first time Rihanna heard "Disturbia," she coveted it. Its songwriter, her pal Mr. Brown, played it for her. Here's her version of the story:
"I started to visualize different things and I had to have this song. I wanted to make a great video for it. He was willing to give it up because he didn't have anybody in mind. I just happened to be there. I pretty much stole it. I claimed it."
Just happened to be there. Hmmmm.
The polar opposite of "Disturbia" is "Hate That I Love You," Rihanna's hit ballad featuring Ne-Yo.
"Our visual inspiration for that [video] was Marilyn Monroe," Rihanna explained. "I wanted to do something a little softer because I'd been doing more hard-core rock 'n' roll stuff. In terms of image and apparel, I wanted this to be pretty and beautiful. Even the fashion was very vintage."
This year, Rihanna was featured in "If I Never See Your Face Again" with Maroon 5's Adam Levine. It's actually Maroon 5's song but she's clearly the star of the video, which takes place in a corporate boardroom.
"I love the concept of it because you couldn't really tell if we loved each other, hated each other, if we were just sleeping with each other," she said. "There was just a chemistry and a tension at the same time. It was very playful and it was a very flirtatious type video."
Her swagger grew from hairdo
Robyn Rihanna Fenty grew up in Barbados dreaming of becoming a singer. But she didn't perform in public until a school talent show when she was 16, singing Mariah Carey's "Hero." A couple months later she signed a contract with a New York producer who'd worked with 'N Sync and Kelly Clarkson and happened to be vacationing in Barbados.
"It was really, really quick," Rihanna said. "I was thrown into the whole music business without any kind of experience. But I love paying attention and observing and learning and taking different things I learn for my next step."
In 2006, her island-flavored single "Pon de Replay" reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart. Her second album, "A Girl Like Me," led to her first No. 1 tune, "SOS."
With her third album, 2007's "Good Girl Gone Bad," and its second incarnation "Reloaded" (with three additional tracks), she has ended up releasing eight singles from the project. That puts "Gone Bad" in the select company of such multi-hit blockbusters as Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller."
With "Disturbia" reaching No. 1 this summer, Rihanna now has more Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers -- five, including the hit with T.I. -- than any other female artist this decade.
"That definitely is awesome," she said. "It's really cool to have fun facts like that about yourself. I had no clue about that. It feels really good to be making musical history."
In what ways did this good girl go bad?
"Before, you probably remember, the image wasn't very authentic or sincere because it wasn't what I really wanted to do. So I got rebellious. I got tired of doing what people wanted me to do. I wanted to do things my way, of course. It just changed everything. It changed my career. It changed my image.
"My hair definitely inspired different things like how I dress, the swagger. I became more confident and more comfortable with myself."
Next: Movies, fashion line
Ah, the hair. That bob cut she sported in the 2007 video for "Umbrella" sent young women scurrying to salons for that new Rihanna 'do.
"I don't go into it trying to make trends for people," she said. "I just like doing things differently. I like to have an edge to it, no matter what it is that I'm doing. It's really cool when I see people in the audience with the same hair as I have. It's very flattering. Not too long ago I was that person in the audience."
A spokesmodel for Gucci's UNICEF campaign, Rihanna plans to release her own line of clothes, possibly in 2009. She also talks about appearing in movies next year. However, reports of her role in "Mama Black Widow" with Mos Def and Macy Gray -- about a family from Mississippi that migrates to Chicago in the 1930s -- are "rumors," she said. "I've never been involved in that movie and I probably won't be."
One thing that's certain for 2009 is that she'll begin work on a new album. Will she have a duet with Brown on it?
"I don't know. You never know. Maybe," she said, sounding as evasive as ever about her alleged beau. "I have a few people I want to work with. He's definitely on the list."
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719