If you're glued to social media or media outlets broadcasting celebrity news, you know Rihanna's pregnancy is all anyone's been talking about for the past few months. The Barbadian singer debuted her baby bump back in January while strolling with A$AP Rocky. She's currently in her third trimester, so it's only a matter of time before Bad Gal RiRi becomes Mommy RiRi.
A child is just the latest amazing thing Rihanna will be birthing. In the past, she's created so much more: her Fenty beauty line, humanitarian efforts, iconic fashion looks, and of course, an astounding music career. Rihanna first got started in the music biz back in the early 2000s, when she snagged the world's attention with her boisterous song "Pon De Replay." It was a straight shoot up from there, as she dominated charts with her albums Good Girl Gone Bad, Rated R, Loud, Talk That Talk, Unapologetic, and her last effort so far, ANTI.
Rihanna's work is a perfect blend of pop, R&B, dancehall, EDM, and adult contemporary music. We can't tell you how hard creating this Top 10 list was, considering Rihanna has a plethora of hits to her name. We've even had to exclude songs where she's been featured by other artists, just because she's such a chart-dominator! (Sorry to "Love the Way You Lie" fans.) There are so many underrated jams we didn't get to squeeze in, so perhaps we'll have to make more Rihanna-related Top 10 lists in the future.
Everyone has their personal favorite Rihanna song. But for now, we're trying to shine a spotlight on the best of the best. Here are our picks for Rihanna's 10 greatest songs.
10. "Stay (feat. Mikky Ekko)"
"Stay" is probably Rihanna's only ballad to fare so well commercially. We knew we had to put it on this list, given its outlier status in Rihanna's discography and it's very vulnerable subject matter.
“Stay” is the second single off of Rihanna’s seventh studio album Unapologetic. It features guest vocals from Mikky Ekko and was written by Ekko and Justin Parker. In the song, Rihanna puts an emotional spin on the Chris Brown situation she endured, repeating another theme of the album: failing to resist love. It's full of raw emotion, and honestly, we think she's so brave and inspiring for having the guts to create this track.
Chart-wise, “Stay” was incredibly successful, moving over 10 million units in all. It became Rihanna's third most successful single after “Love the Way You Lie” with Eminem and our #1 pick on this list!
A Halloween party staple, "Disturbia" is Rihanna's creepiest track! And we mean that in a fun way: it's a mix of dark, poppy, hardcore, and heated. It was actually written by Chris Brown (alongside his team, the Graffiti Artizts), and intended for his re-release of 2007’s Exclusive, but he gave it to Rihanna instead. We're very glad he did.
In an interview on This Morning, Rihanna explained “Disturbia” is less about a specific personal experience than it is about the general feelings of mental anguish, anxiety, and confusion. You'll feel like a demon down under listening to this track, but also very human.
Also, according to Songfacts, Def Jam director L.A Reid explained to MTV News that "Disturbia" marked the first time Rihanna took true control in her music career. "It was the first time that Rihanna actually came to me and said, ‘Here’s the song I want to put out,’" he said. "She played me the song. That was her taking control, even on her last album. She understands what hits are, and she knows what she wants to say. She’s at that place where she can do it."
Shine bright like a diamond! We're so nostalgic for the times when this Unapologetic song played everywhere on the radio. “Diamonds” was released as the lead single from the album and became Rihanna's twelfth #1 in the U.S.
Believe it or not, "Diamonds" was actually written by the pop queen Sia, who drafted the hit in just 14 minutes. You can see several of Sia's influences within the song: from the electronic music production to the notes in Rihanna's verses that sound like they could be a distant cousin to the verses in "Chandelier."
Tor Erik Hermansen once revealed the story of how "Diamonds" was made: "Sia came through and worked on a couple different songs," he said, "and the last thing she did before walking out the door was “Diamonds.” The car was waiting outside. She had her coat on, she had her purse in her lap. We just played her the music, and the first thing out of her mouth was, 'Shine bright like a diamond.' She put her vocal down in about 12 minutes while the car was waiting and then left."
He continued: "Rihanna heard it and loved it straight away. Rihanna really went to work on that song because she wanted to capture that character that Sia has in her voice. I think she spent two or three days recording that song, which is very rare. Normally you do it in a day or half a day."
7. "What's My Name? (feat. Drake)"
Every Drake and Rihanna collaboration is straight fire, but this track from Loud will forever be our favorite. On “What’s My Name?” Drake and Rihanna contribute romantic bars about their lovers. In the music video, they even play love interests for each other. Production-wise, the song is playfully synthy, bubbly, and even a little euphoric. It perfectly captures the feeling of falling head over heels for someone.
The collaboration of Rihanna and Drake on "What's My Name" was originally planned to be a remix with the solo version on Loud. However, their collab was so good, it made the final cut of the record. Ester Dean originally wrote a demo for the song before it was sent to Rihanna to be re-recorded for Loud. The song became an instant hit, eventually giving Rihanna her eighth #1 and Drake his very first #1! (Given all of Drake's success, we can't believe it either.) "What's My Name" is also certified 6x platinum by the RIAA.
Will we ever get tired of playing this bop out loud? As Rihanna would say, "oh nah-nah."
6. "Only Girl (In the World)"
Although Rihanna sings to a boy in this track, "Only Girl (In the World)" feels like it was made for the ladies. A song about being dominant in a relationship, it's got high-energy magic with an explosive chorus that reaches out to the heavens.
While most feel this song is just a romantic bop about getting attention from a partner, an alternate take suggests "Only Girl (In the World)" is about Rihanna wanting to feel like Eve in the Garden of Eden myth. There's definitely evidence to support this, as Eve was literally the only girl in the world during the time of Eden, Rihanna sings, "Like I'm the only one who knows your heart," which could be a reference to Eve being made out of one of Adam's ribs, and of course, that flowery outdoor music video.
Speaking of the music video, we think it's one of the most iconic in Rihanna's catalogue. Those stunning pink and red colors with the ultra-feminine outfits and that huge rose prop that looks like it came straight out of a perfume commercial? Gorgeous.
5. "Rude Boy"
A fan-favorite! "Rude Boy" comes from Rihanna's fourth studio album Rated R and was released in 2010. Although it's thematically similar to several other Rihanna songs about taking control during sex, it feels different due to the catchy lyrics, the West Indian influence, and its interesting pace.
According to Songfacts, Rihanna told Q Magazine in January 2010 that the song "is about the kind of street, bad boy that girls sometimes like. There’s a danger and a swagger there." Likewise, the track does have a certain tough, addictive danger and swagger. It's so easy to replay.
Other than that, there's not much else to say about "Rude Boy": it's just a really good song. We're not sure if it's Rihanna's best track of all time, but we certainly think it's her most classic.
Yup, we're going in with the deep cuts, folks. We remember first getting a whiff of this song during the Now That's What I Call Music days! Good times, good times.
Even though "SOS" is one of Rihanna's oldest tracks, we believe it's still one of her most underrated. It's the danceable lead single from A Girl Like Me, and contains a narrative about a girl falling deeply in love. However, the masterful sonar sample from Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" suggests there's more than meets the eye. There's a certain dangerous undertone to Rihanna's lovesick lyrics. Listening to this is like being trapped on a dark, sinking ship...but somehow smiling as it descends.
Now, let's briefly talk about the absolutely incredible and overlooked songwriting on this track by Evan Bogart! First off, Rihanna makes several references to 70s and 80s songs, including Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," “Take On Me” by a-ha, and “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson. There's even a few bars all in the 2nd verse where she makes six 80s song references in a row. Wow.
Second, there's a rare triple entendre within the chorus! The line "Y-O-U are makin' this hard" has three meanings. First, Rihanna uses the 'y' as a homonym and makes it sound like 'way.' 'Way' connects with the previous lyrics, as if to say, "It's not healthy for me to feel this way." Second, it can also be interpreted as Rihanna saying “why? Oh, you are making this hard,” showing off her distress. Finally, the way it reads, it spells YOU - as in the boy she is referring to. It continues the theme of individual letters in the song, although SOS is an actual acronym.
3. "Don't Stop the Music"
Not only is "SOS" a great Rihanna song featuring a cool sample of a classic 80s track, so is "Don't Stop the Music." It builds off of Michael Jackson's 1982 classic "Wanna Be Startin' Something." It's also an energetic dance-pop romp about forgetting the stresses of life and just dancing to the music. Simple, yet so effective.
"Don't Stop the Music" was the fourth single off Good Girl Gone Bad and was released on September 7, 2007. Maybe "Don't Stop the Music" isn't the most complicated of Rihanna's hits, but when we think of that sweet early 2000s pop sound and what was popular at the time, "Don't Stop the Music" feels like a time capsule in four minutes and 27 seconds.
The single peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and sold over four million copies in the U.S. Unfortunately, it did face some copyright issues due to the "Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa" ending found in both "Wanna Be Startin' Something" and Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango's song "Soul Makossa." Dibango sued both Rihanna and Michael Jackson for using his lyrics without permission. Jackson had already admitted to using Dibango’s lyrics and settled the case out of court, but when Rihanna asked Jackson’s permission to sample his song, he allegedly agreed without consulting Dibango first.
2. "Umbrella (feat. JAY-Z)"
Another astounding track on Good Girl Gone Bad, and the song we all think about every time we need to grab an umbrella to go out in the rain. With a feature from JAY-Z and some sick drum beats, this song immediately became a household hit. And also an unforgettable Vine. And also a song forever associated with Tom Holland's Lip Sync Battle performance.
In "Umbrella," Rihanna comforts her lover by telling him she will be there for him, in good times and bad. Yes - the umbrella is just a metaphor for her moral support. “Umbrella” remained on top of the U.K. Singles Chart for 10 consecutive weeks, longer than any other single that decade. In the U.S., it stayed put for seven consecutive weeks.
In 2008, “Umbrella” won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, and was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It also won two MTV Video Music Awards in 2007.
Fun fact: this song was actually written for Mary J. Blige, but since she was so busy at the time, Rihanna beat her to the punch and recorded it first. We'd love to hear the Mary J. Blige cut in an alternate universe, but we're still so happy this is Rihanna's jam.
1. "We Found Love (feat. Calvin Harris)"
Ethereal and mighty in sound and theme, "We Found Love" is both a commercial and critical success. It was a single off Rihanna's sixth studio album Talk that Talk, and included on 18 Months, the third album from Scottish music producer Calvin Harris, who penned the lyrics.
"We Found Love" is Rihanna’s longest-running single on the top of the charts, outlasting her smash hit “Umbrella” on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also Harris' first time on the Hot 100, and became a huge boost to his career.
Harris was able to tap Rihanna for the song after opening for her on a leg of her Loud tour in 2011. The original demo of the song was actually recorded by U.K. singer Leona Lewis. She told the U.K.'s Daily Star in 2012, "It was a bit annoying to see how big a hit it was but if I’d released it maybe it wouldn’t have done as well." In the interview, she also said she'd never leak her version. We're so sorry, Leona.
Anyway, the success of "We Found Love" and its super danceable beat drop cannot be understated. Throughout pop culture, it's been featured in a memorable scene in Andrea Arnold's hit indie movie American Honey, in the third season of Glee, and has been covered and remixed numerous times.
Looking past the stellar music production, iconic music video, and Rihanna's killer vocals, we believe "We Found Love" has endured due to its hopeful message. It says that no matter what kind of darkness you're going through, you can always find someone who will be by your side through the thick of it.
Check out our selection of free stations streaming Rihanna music at Live365.com.
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