Unapologetic received generally mixed reviews from critics, with some reviewers describing its music as interesting, while others criticized its lyrical content and rushed nature. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2014 ceremony. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 238,000 copies, becoming Rihanna's first number one album on the chart and best-selling debut week of her career. The album also became the singer's third, fourth, and fifth consecutive number one album in the United Kingdom, Norway, and Switzerland, respectively. As of December 2014, Unapologetic has sold over four million copies worldwide.
The album produced seven singles including the international hits "Diamonds" and "Stay". The former peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100 where it became Rihanna's twelfth number one song, tying her with Madonna and The Supremes for fourth most number one songs in the history of the chart. Prior to its release, Rihanna promoted the album with the 777 Tour which consisted of a seven-date promotional tour in which she performed seven concerts each in a different city in North America and Europe in seven days. To further promote Unapologetic, Rihanna embarked on her fourth worldwide tour entitled the Diamonds World Tour.
In November 2011, Rihanna released her sixth studio album Talk That Talk. The album was rooted in pop, dance and R&B but also incorporated a variety of other musical genres such as hip hop, electro house, dancehall, and dubstep, a genre which was prominent on her fourth studio album Rated R (2009). Talk That Talk received generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics upon its release. It was a commercial success and reached the top ten in over twenty national charts, including number one on the UK Albums Chart and number three on the US Billboard 200. The album produced six singles including the worldwide hits "We Found Love" and "Where Have You Been". "We Found Love" topped the charts in over 25 countries and sold over 9 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. In March 2012, Rihanna revealed that although she had not yet begun recording, she started "working on the new sound" for her seventh studio album.
On June 20, 2012, Rihanna began recording her seventh studio album, working with Nicky Romero and Burns. Rihanna and Burns booked three days in a studio in London while Rihanna was performing at Radio 1's Hackney Weekend. It was also confirmed that Rihanna worked with Eric Bellinger, Sean Garrett, and Swedish House Mafia for her seventh album. On July 6, 2012, Def Jam executive No I.D. revealed that he had begun working with Rihanna on the album saying "Im going in next week for about a week". On July 10, 2012, British singer and producer Labrinth revealed to Capital FM that he had been working with Rihanna on the album saying "I'm supposed to be working with her soon hopefully so I've spoke to her managers, I think she's currently working on some stuff so everybody's in there at the moment and she's working in certain studios so it seems like it's very exciting. She's not in my studio [yet] but hopefully I'll have some hot ones on her album." On July 17, 2012, it was reported that Rihanna would be working with R&B singer Ne-Yo and N-Dubz member Fazer. In an interview with Capital FM Ne-Yo spoke on working with Rihanna on the album saying "I just recently went in to do some stuff for Rihanna, you know. Shes the hardest working woman in showbiz right now. She's in the process of putting together a new album as we speak, I got in with StarGate and David Guetta and a few other people for that project.
Sean Garrett confirmed in July 2012 that he had been in the studio with French DJ David Guetta working on Rihanna's album saying "I was in the studio with David doing some stuff for Rihanna recently. He finds inspiration in the things I don't like, and I get excited by the things he doesn't like. He wants to be more urban and I want to be more international, so we push each other, I try to help Rihanna. She works hard and it's cool to write for someone who is so open-minded." On August 21, American songwriter Claude Kelly revealed that he had been writing songs for Rihanna while she was performing in London. Kelly spoke on the songs that he had written for Rihanna saying; "Rihanna's a worldwide superstar at this point and she's performing in stadiums and arenas now, so I wanted songs that reflected her audience, when I was in London she was performing at a festival in front of like 30,000 to 40,000 people. So I didn't want small songs that only worked on radio, so I tried to do anthemic big stadium-themed songs." On August 16, 2012, British R&B singer-songwriter Angel revealed that he had been writing for Rihanna's album saying "I love writing songs and it's good to pitch tracks to other artists. A couple of weeks ago I was doing some writing for Rihanna". In September 2012, Ne-Yo confirmed his involvement the album saying "I did go in the studio with her, I know I got one or two on the album that she's definitely keeping."