Rihanna is back! With her new single "Lift Me Up" and the announcement of her 2023 Super Bowl performance, the Barbadian songstress is once again in the spotlight. Rihanna's mix of R&B and pop has always helped to highlight the landscape of popular music. We've already talked about her 10 best tracks of all time. Now, we're taking things up a notch and ranking her eight studio albums.
Rihanna has been in the music business since the aughts. Just like the time periods she has performed in, her albums have grown and matured with pop culture events and trends. Rihanna is an artist who learns from her sonic mistakes. She'll put out music that heads in one direction, then after a few years, pivot in a daring new direction that gives her more credibility as an artist. As you'll see in this list, Rihanna's talent has only developed more and more over the years, and that improvement is reflected in her albums.
That's enough for introductions – we're ready to Talk That Talk and get Loud with our Unapologetic opinions! We hope you take a trip down memory lane as you view our definitive ranking of Rihanna's albums.
8. A Girl Like Me (2006)
Sure – "SOS" was awesome. But besides that, Rihanna's sophomore record A Girl Like Me was a forgettable hot mess. It was released only 8 months after her debut, so we have a feeling some elements were rushed. Tracks like "Unfaithful," "We Ride," and "Break It Off" are nice, but there is also a slew of underwhelming ballads. The peeled-back music production is what contributes to the album's demise. Because of it, Rihanna's still-immature vocals were put under a microscope. Fortunately, she survived the singing growing pains and is now considered one of the most talented vocalists ever. Putting the music aside...we also really dislike A Girl Like Me's album cover. We're sorry, we just think it's pretty bland with the now-outdated font and the standard close-up shot that's not giving us any emotion. And the hairstylist did not pick a look for Rihanna that suits her. Half of her face is covered!
7. Music of the Sun (2005)
This album and A Girl Like Me are basically interchangeable for the last two slots on the list. But we're ranking Music of the Sun higher purely because of "Pon De Replay." And maybe because this album was an impressive debut from a 17-year-old Rihanna that exuded summer island vibes. It refreshingly embraced her Barbadian roots through cool reggae sounds, and made for a decent introduction. Besides "Pon De Replay," other standouts on this LP include "Here I Go Again," "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)," and "If It's Lovin' That You Want."
6. Rated R (2009)
Rihanna's dark, vampy, and edgy phase! Overall, Rated R is musically undercooked. However, this thing does have some really good singles. The electric "Hard," seductive romantic number "Te Amo," the chilling "Russian Roulette", and of course, the wonderfully raunchy "Rude Boy" help raise Rated R's reputation. It was a cool moment for Rihanna. But just like A Girl Like Me and Music of the Sun, it's kind of forgettable compared to the juggernauts in her discography. Next!
5. Unapologetic (2012)
Now for the good stuff. Rihanna's seventh studio album is Unapologetic, and while it could have done without a few tracks (especially the Chris Brown-assisted "Nobody's Business" – ouch), this LP is good in a chaotic way. There are some excellent pop moments. "Phresh Out The Runway," "Pour It Up," and "Right Now" are upbeat club tracks, while "What Now" and "Half Of Me" are some of the most gorgeous balladic-EDM-hybrid bops ever. This thing also boasts the Rihanna classics "Diamonds" and "Stay" featuring Mikky Ekko, which are timeless numbers that deserve all the replays. Oh, and Rihanna continues to collaborate with Eminem on Unapologetic with the catchy song "Numb."
4. Talk That Talk (2011)
Talk That Talk is a pumped-up playlist that will surely get you dancing! There's a mix of raunchy bangers like "Cockiness (Love It)," "Birthday Cake," and the title track. Then there are peppy romance bops like "You Da One" and "Where Have You Been." Finally, Talk That Talk features the dreamy and electric "We Found Love," which is an undisputed masterpiece in Rihanna's discography. If we had to pick an album where Rihanna feels the most comfortable in her skin, it would be Talk That Talk. It was the kind of record where she found what fans wanted, and gave them more of it.
3. Good Girl Gone Bad (2007)
After Music of the Sun and A Girl Like Me, this album saved Rihanna from pop culture obscurity. It's filled with classics only Rihanna could pull off and sees our songstress taking welcome risks. Sure, there are some arbitrary tracks. But you don't really think about those when you've got hits like "Umbrella," "Take a Bow," the criminally-underrated "Shut Up and Drive," the Halloween staple "Disturbia," and the punchy ballad "Rehab" that features none other than Justin Timberlake. Even the Maroon 5-assisted closer "If I Never See Your Face Again" is a pleasant surprise that gives the album some extra rock pizzazz. Good Girl Gone Bad put Rihanna on the map, and for that, we give it our respect with the #3 spot on this list. It's required listening for any Rihanna fan!
2. Loud (2010)
Man, we really miss the red-haired Rihanna era. We firmly believe Loud helped kick off the 2010s pop-heavy music landscape. Loud is polished, organized, and restrained in a smart kind of way. It's got massive radio appeal with hits like "What's My Name?" (which helped boost Drake's popularity) and the vivid "Only Girl (In The World)." Then there are touching singles like "California King Bed" and the snappy reggae-infused "Man Down." If Good Girl Gone Bad is the album that put Rihanna in the mainstream, Loud is the album that proved she had every right to be there. There's a song for everyone on this LP. Loud is an album we would gladly play on full blast!
1. ANTI (2016)
ANTI is not simply a record full of good songs – like every great album, it's an experience. This thing has no skips, and every song attains a consistent quality. "B---h Better Have My Money" and "Work" are the standout singles everyone knows. But songs like the cheeky "Kiss It Better," "Yeah, I Said It," the "Stay"-like piano ballad "Close To You," and the instrumentally overwrought "Woo" and "Needed Me" all prove to be just as good. Rihanna even takes some sonic risks that pay off. And by that, we mean the psychedelic "Same Ol' Mistakes" (a cover of Tame Impala's "New Person, Same Old Mistakes") and the underrated "Desperado" that totally gives moxie-filled outlaw vibes. ANTI is Rihanna's latest album, so we have faith the next record she puts out will have the same mastery-of-craft as this R&B/pop jewel.
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Article Image: Rihanna holds up a CD cover of her album "Rated R" while at a Best Buy promotional event in 2009. (Everett Collection via Shutterstock.)