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In 2009, when Rihanna declared “I’m a rock star,” it seemed like a stretch (even if she did get Slash and Travis Barker to give her a few pointers on the subject). After all, though she’d recently dirtied up her image with theRated R album, RihRih was still the girl best known for songs like “Umbrella,” “SOS” and “Pon de Replay” … three hits that, while omnipresent, rocked about as hard as Death Cab For Cutie at an NPR convention.

Fast forward three years, however, and that statement seems strangely prescient. Because at the end of 2012, Rihanna is basically the last rock star standing. This was, of course, due in no small part to the continued de-fanging of rock itself (the year’s biggest-selling bands? Mumford & Sons and Fun.), though really, over the past 12 months, Rihanna has given the Axls and Diamond Daves a genuine run for their money. Hers was a year of audacious attitude, salacious singles, extreme excess and downright defiant deeds … she did what she wanted, with whomever she wanted, and didn’t give a single, solitary f— about any of it. She flaunted her blunt-rolling abilities, posed nude more times than we can possibly count, re-connected with her controversial ex and led 150 journalists on a seven-day death-march around the globe. Shoot, she even found time to release Unapologetic, an album that, in hindsight, seems like a mission statement. READ MORE

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