Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

BYCourtney Miceli38.3K Views
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Rihanna performing Wild Thoughts
RiRi has dominated the charts with her addictive hit singles for the past decade. We look back on the best of the best, to celebrate the singer's 30th birthday.

Over the past decade, Rihanna has blossomed from an island princess to the modern-day Queen of Pop. Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, she was plucked from her self-made girl group at age 15 when music producer, Evan Rodgers, visited her home island of Barbados and heard her sing. One year later, Rihanna had packed her bags, moved to the U.S. and signed with Def Jam records.

Since her humble beginnings, Rihanna has not only dominated the pop genre, but transcended its traditional boundaries. She has immersed herself in a whirlwind of electro, dance, folk and reggae (to name a few) and spat out hit after hit at an astonishing rate. In 2015, she became the first artist in history to have 100 million singles digitally downloaded and streamed, and was named the top Mainstream Top 40 (two tops!) chart artist of the past two decades by Billboard. Recently, she celebrated 100 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart for her latest studio album Anti, breaking yet another record as a solo female artist.

Her wild success has defined her as one of the hottest collaborators in the industry, and her influence reaches far beyond the radio. At this time, last year, she was accepting Harvard’s prestigious Humanitarian Award for her dedication to girls’ education and her contributions to underprivileged families in Barbados. All the while, she was debuting her new Fenty Beauty line, and piecing together her ninth studio album for release this year.

A character of constant reinvention, Rihanna reveals another complex layer with each album she creates. She’s a woman that’s done it all, but yet, somehow, continues to surprise.

Here are the 25 tracks that we think highlight her fiercest artistic prowess, whether that be as a featured guest or main act. Happy Birthday to THE bad gal!!


Hate That I Love You (ft. Ne-Yo)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

A hit from Good Girl Gone Bad, “Hate That I Love You” nestled its way into the hearts (and heads) of fans with its folky undertones and poetic lyrics. After hearing the heated, harmonious duo of Rihanna and Ne-Yo, many hoped for the announcement of a Ri-Yo relationship down the road. Sadly, this celeb couple never happened, but the labelmates have remained friends throughout their career (and are seriously overdue on another duet!). This song was co-written by Ne-Yo himself and the Norwegian duo, Stargate, who has collaborated with Rihanna on many of her chart toppers, such as “Rude Boy,” “S&M,” and “What’s My Name?”.

Shut Up & Drive

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Parting ways with her characteristic Caribbean flow, Rihanna debuted a new sound in 2007 with the release of Good Girl Gone Bad. “Shut Up & Drive” was a single with a bit of a rock n’ roll edge to it, thanks, in part, to the writing talents of Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, otherwise known as the members of synthy English rock band, New Order. The song samples their 1983 hit “Blue Monday,” but adds layers of punky pop to the mix. Chock-full of car references, the song’s lyrics are a bold innuendo for Rihanna’s body and sexual desires. Matched with equally bold guitar riffs and a new wave vibe, the track offers a side of Rihanna that fans don’t hear often.

If It’s Lovin that You Want

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Although this track didn’t come close to the popularity of her previous single from Music of the Sun, “Pon De Replay,” the hip-sway-inducing rhythm definitely deserves a spot on this list. Rihanna gives listeners a taste of her Caribbean roots with a reggae-influenced beat and fun-loving lyrics. Dancing up a storm beneath the sun, baby-faced Rihanna flirts with the camera in the song’s music video before hopping on a jet-ski to splash through the ocean waves. If they hadn’t already, this video gave pretty much everyone the thirst to be RiRi’s BFF.

The Monster (Eminem ft. Rihanna)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

In a slight hand of foreshadowing, Rihanna teased her fans with a tweet reading, “Just left the studio...Recorded a #monster hit for one of my favourite artists!” The following month, the song hit the radio waves as the singer’s fourth studio collab with rapper Eminem. “The Monster” is an intensely deep and dark track that plays on Eminem and Rihanna’s own personal troubles of the past. The song has a similar feel to the duo’s earlier song, “Love The Way You Lie,” and was met with an equal amount of praise. It won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2015 Grammy Awards and topped the Billboard Hot 100, making Rihanna the fastest solo artist to achieve 13 US chart toppers, with only The Beatles beating her record.  

Pon De Replay

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

When you think of baby RiRi, this is probably the tune that trickles into your mind. “Pon De Replay” was on the demo tape that landed Rihanna a deal with Def Jam Records at age 16, and it eventually became her first hit single. It evokes those classic island vibes with a playful rhythm and Bajan prose (“pon de replay” is Bajan for “play it again”). Rumor has it, that this song is responsible for Drake’s long-lasting crush on the Barbadian beauty. The Canadian rapper said he first met Rihanna on the set of the “Pon De Replay” music video, which was directed by Director X in Toronto. Who knew that years later, the two would meet again in the same place, with the same director, but under more heated circumstances for the song, “Work.”

Run This Town (Jay-Z ft. Rihanna & Kanye West)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

This song makes the chart because, apart from being a killer tune, the track has a complexity that appeals to more than one genre. It boasts the hardness of a rap song, the beat of a hip-hop hit and the chorus of a pop chart topper. The song took home two awards at the 2010 Grammys, one for Best Rap Song and the other for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, and was Rihanna’s first audio appearance following her abuse case with ex-boyfriend, Chris Brown. In a radio interview with Tim Westwood, Jay-Z noted, “We basically run this town. It’s myself, Rihanna and Kanye. It’s pretty much it.” And the trio took this idea to the extreme in their apocalyptic music video, set in what looks like the set for Mad Max, where Hova, Yeezy and RiRi end up being the last surviving humans on earth...Imagine that. 

Where Have You Been

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

In 1959, Australian songwriter Geoff Mack wrote a folky tune called “I’ve Been Everywhere.” It was covered by more than 130 artists from all over the globe, including Johnny Cash, in the decades following. But it wasn’t until Rihanna’s team got their hand on those iconic lyrics that it transformed into a dance-pop banger. Co-written and co-produced by Scottish artist Calvin Harris, “Where Have You Been” took bits of Mack’s classic lyrics and layered them with tough synths and powerful bass. Complete with hints of trance and an electro-pop build-up, this Rihanna song took dancefloors around the world by storm. RiRi amplified the hype when she dropped the music video, which follows her on a journey to find a man that can please her. Jumping from swampy waters to goddess-inhabited skies, Rihanna pulled viewers through her world of desire and offered some of her most intense choreography of the time. The video garnered 4.9 million views in the first 24 hours of release, setting a Vevo record.

Live your Life (T.I. ft. Rihanna)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Another hit made great by a RiRi hook, T.I.’s “Live Your Life.” This track first appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 80, and in just one week, made an astronomical jump to number one. At the time, it broke the record for the chart’s highest jump to number one in history (although it was beat weeks later by Britney Spears’ “Womanizer”). Perhaps this is due, in part, to the clever sample that kicks off the song. Some of you may know it as “Dragostea Din Tei,” but most of you will probably recognize it as the song from the Internet’s viral "Numa Numa" kid video. Added is a heartwarming shout out to the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and an overall uplifting message that’s magnified by Ri’s hearty chorus.

All of the Lights (Kanye West ft. Rihanna & Kid Cudi)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Although Rihanna made the cut for being listed as a contributing artist on this Yeezy track, there was an entire star-spangled crew that helped propel this tune through the charts. “All of the Lights” became known as a “celeb-studded” masterpiece upon its release in 2010. Kanye pulled talent from some of the best in the business, including Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Drake, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Elly Jackson and Sir Elton John, among others. It remained in the spotlight until winning recognition at the 2012 Grammy Awards two years after its release. And before you check out the music video below, interpret the title literally. Directed by Hype Williams, the video is an overwhelming ambush of strobing lights...so much so, that they had to issue a discretionary warning noting the video could potentially trigger a seizure for someone with photosensitive epilepsy.

Stay (ft. Mikky Ekko)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Bring out the tissues. “Stay” packs the power of a classic piano ballad and, matched with Rihanna’s soothing voice, it’s definitely a song that will stay in your soul. Standing amongst her other tunes of 2012, such as “Numb” and “Pour It Up,” this heart-wrenching track shows a more vulnerable side of Rihanna and contrasts the Unapologetic feel of her 2012 studio album. In an interview with Gigwise, collaborator and writer Mikky Ekko said, “It speaks to such an intimate side of her that is so rare and so far removed from what people think of her.” Toning down the glitz and glamour, we see Rihanna in the music video bearing a natural face and tousled hair, as she croons her emotions while submerged in a bathtub.It’s the recognizable scene of heartbreak, and perhaps the rawest glimpse of RiRi we’ve seen yet. 

Needed Me

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

One of Rihanna’s newest songs, “Needed Me” is a savoury, downtempo number that reminds us all how much of a badass RiRi truly is. The raw and sensual beat of the song translates to a hypnotic music video, released on 4/20, that highlights the singer in her true gangster form, smoking a spliff and hunting down a guy that did her wrong. Pistols, strippers and motorcycles are all features you’d expect in a gritty male-centric rap video, but some critics praised Ri for repurposing these symbols and reversing the usual gender roles. “Needed Me” is the singer’s longest-running song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at a 42-week lifespan. It also placed her parallel to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, with a whopping 29 Hot 100 top 10 hits.

Wild Thoughts (DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Rihanna’s a force to be reckoned with, and it seems like every artist in the biz knows it. So here comes...anotha one. Collaborating with DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller, Rihanna brought a fierce presence to “Wild Thoughts.” Alternating between Rihanna’s demanding vocals and the sensuous twang of an electric guitar, it’s hard to not become entirely enveloped in this Latin-inspired tune. The track samples a recognizable chart topper from the late 90s- Carlos Santana’s “Maria Maria”- yet brings a fresh appeal to its addictive rhythm. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Khaled said he’d been trying to work with Rihanna for the past seven or eight years. Luckily, their long-overdue hit has made Santana happy, and fans even happier.

Disturbia

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

For some reason, I couldn’t help but think of this song when I heard that Rihanna was cast in the thriller series, Bates Motel. Maybe it's the neurotic lyrics or the extremely eerie music video, but either way this song is bound to send a shiver down your spine. The dark and edgy hit was co-written by Rihanna’s ex- boyfriend, Chris Brown, and has those rock n’ roll vocals that were heard previously on Ri’s “Shut Up & Drive.” The lyrics describe a state of mental torment and confusion, and were chillingly adapted in Dave LaChapelle’s music video, which jumps between scenes that were seemingly plucked from a pop-style version of your nightmares. Even the repetitive “bum bum de-bum, bum bum de-bum bum” sounds like an upbeat mockery of the classic horror movie theme.

Love the Way You Lie (Eminem ft. Rihanna)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

In 2009, Rihanna made headlines, not for her music, but for an argument with her then-boyfriend, Chris Brown, which escalated to physical violence and an assault charge against Brown. The news spread across the world with photos that showed the physical injuries on Rihanna’s face. One year later, rapper Eminem approached the singer with “Love the Way You Lie,” and, as Rihanna told Access Hollywood, she felt an instant connection to the track. Eminem was inspired by his own abusive past relationship with his ex-wife, Kimberly Mathers, while writing the verses. It soon became Eminem’s best-selling single and was nominated for five Grammy Awards, including Best Short Form Music Video, which starred Hollywood starlet, Megan Fox. Rihanna went on to record a part II to the hit song for her album Loud, which was told from the singer’s own perspective with featured vocals from Eminem.

You Da One

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Again, bringing in some reggae flavours, “You Da One” plays on Rihanna’s classic use of Caribbean rhythms and mixes it with her dominance of pop. The song’s mid-tempo pace feels a bit more laidback than some of her other electro-heavy beats on Talk That Talk, such as “Where Have You Been” and “We Found Love.” The artsy music video, directed by Melina Matsoukas, was inspired by the Stanley Kubrick film, A Clockwork Orange, but gained some heat in the press after photographer Sølve Sundsbø accused Rihanna and her team of plagiarizing one of his works. Although Rihanna made it her own with the added touch of crotch grabs and air humping, the claim stirred up quite the controversy.

Diamonds

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

This song has you swimming in emotions for its entire three minutes and 45 seconds of play time, and miraculously, it was written in just under 15 minutes. According to Australian singer and songwriter Sia Furler, who’s penned lyrics for Beyonce and Britney Spears, among others, she sat down and wrote “Diamonds” from start to finish in 14 minutes. Rihanna’s powerful vocals propelled the song to number one, while simultaneously, her full studio album Unapologetic became her first to reach the number one spot on the US Billboard 200.

S&M

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

In a huge f$^k you to the media, Rihanna released the raunchy “S&M” as a single from her album Loud in 2011. While the song (and music video) are full of sexual references, naughty bedroom talk, ball-gags and cracking whips, Rihanna told Spin Magazine that the lyrics shouldn’t be taken too literally. Instead, the song is meant to be metaphorical of her sadomasochistic relationship with the press and her ability to stand her ground. In an act of sweet revenge, she parades the notorious tabloid blogger, Perez Hilton, around on a leash in the song’s risque music video. Shockingly, due it’s overt sexual content, the video was immediately banned in 11 countries upon release. "They watched Umbrella," the singer later tweeted. "I was full nude." ...The girl's got a point. 

Pour It Up

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Ri flaunts everything she’s got in “Pour It Up.” This slow and sizzling trap beat is all about her worth and she’s not afraid to show it off. Just like her video for “Needed Me,” Rihanna takes the setting of a strip club and shows it through an entirely badass, female-focused lens. And, as if she’s not seductive enough already, the singer picked up some pole-dancing lessons from LA’s Nicole “The Pole” Williams prior to the shoot.

Only Girl (In The World)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Upon Queen RiRi’s request, music-production duo Stargate, who had previously worked with the singer on songs like “Rude Boy” and “Don’t Stop the Music,” crafted a high-tempo dance song to appease her hunger for fun. Contrasting the somewhat ominous tone of her former album, Rated R, “Only Girl (In The World)” was a refreshing turnaround and a foreshadow of some of her hits to come. This eurodance-inspired track quickly became a staple at top 40 nightclubs and offered a moment of rave-esque euphoria on dancefloors around the world.

We Found Love (ft. Calvin Harris)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

When Rihanna and Calvin Harris get together, magic happens. The electronic mastermind produced this electro-house banger and watched it soar through the charts with Rihanna’s vocals. The hit supposedly passed by both Leona Lewis and Nicole Scherzinger before landing in Rihanna’s lap- a twist of fate that Harris was ecstatic about in the end. In an interview with MTV news, he said, “‘We Found Love’ is the most successful thing I’ve ever done. It’s not strictly a song by me, obviously, it’s by Rihanna...No one could have taken it as far as she did.” During the initial filming for the music video in an Irish field, Rihanna and her crew were kicked off site after the land’s farmer stumbled upon RiRi naked in his grass. The final cut, co-starring English heartthrob Dudley O’Shaughnessy, provoked backlash from critics for its references to drug use and violence. Although, it didn’t stop the song from hogging the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for a record-breaking eight consecutive weeks.

Rude Boy

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Bad gal RiRi sings about an irresistible bad boy in this steamy tune, co-written by singer/songwriter Ester Dean. We hear Caribbean influences in the lyrics, with “rude boy” being Jamaican slang for a lawless, cool guy, and Rihanna brings her flare to the music video with choreography and outfits inspired by dancehall queens. According to The Boombox, Dean said she was inspired by Rihanna’s rough and edgy alter ego, who isn’t afraid to do or say whatever she wants. You may know the alter ego she’s talking about...think “Bitch Better Have My Money,” or “Pour It Up." Luckily, at the time, this is exactly the image that the singer wanted to portray. Following her highly publicized abuse scandal with Chris Brown, Rihanna later told Rolling Stone, "I didn't want people to see me cry. I didn't want people to feel bad for me. It was a very vulnerable time in my life, and I refused to let that be the image. I wanted them to see me as, 'I'm fine, I'm tough.' I put that up until it felt real." 

What’s My Name? (ft. Drake)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

Ahh, the Drake/Rihanna love affair continues into spot number four on our list. The duo supposedly had a romantic fling a year or so before this hit track was recorded, so when Ri first presented the song to Drake while backstage at an event, he snagged it right away (any opportunity to work with the Barbadian bombshell, probably?). The natural spark between the pair translated beautifully throughout the song and music video, landing the tune a number one spot on the UK singles chart. With this standing, Rihanna became the first female solo artist in chart history to achieve number one singles in five consecutive years. The last, and only other, artist to conquer such a feat before her was Elvis Presley.

Work (ft. Drake)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

On her third collab with Toronto boy Drake, Rihanna work-work-worked her way up the charts with this dancehall-inspired beat. "Work" was the lead hit single from her eighth studio album, Anti. The track samples a two-decades old dancehall rhythm from Richie Stephens’ song, “Sail Away” and features lyrics in Creole and Jamaican Patois. The song had two music videos, one shot in a Foot Locker in LA and the other shot on Canadian turf, at a Jamaican restaurant in Toronto. The steamy videos play up that lustful connection between Ri and Drake with close encounters and a lil bit of grinding. The fact that the word “work” is repeated 79 times throughout the song could give reason to why this comes in as one of Rihanna’s catchiest songs.  

Bitch Better Have My Money

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

This trap anthem features bad gal RiRi in her prime. The sinister song portrays Rihanna as the ultimate boss ass bitch, demanding she gets paid what she’s owed. And after watching the seven-minute-long music video, you’ll know she isn’t someone you want to fuck with. Co-directed by Rihanna herself, alongside the French filmmaking troupe, Megaforce, the grimey video depicts Ri torturing a wealthy socialite who’s done her wrong. The song is rumored to have been inspired by Rihanna’s own financial mishaps in 2009 while under the advisory of an accountant. After nearing close to bankruptcy, the singer filed a lawsuit against the firm in 2012 for mismanaging her money. Thankfully, those bitches had her money and she won $10 million, and a dope track to channel her fury.

Umbrella (ft. Jay-Z)

Top 25 Best Rihanna Songs

"Umbrella" lands the number one spot because it’s probably Rihanna’s catchiest song, and arguably, even one of the most memorable pop songs of the decade. The hit was originally offered to both Mary J. Blige and Britney Spears who both declined. When Rihanna had her shot at recording the song with Jay-Z, she nailed the “ella, ella, ellas” like no one else could.

The song lyrics themselves actually sync beautifully with Rihanna’s own journey. The singer told media that the umbrella acts as a metaphor, providing protection in vulnerable situations. The rain-soaked video won Music Video of the Year at the 2007 MTV Awards and the song spent a record-breaking 10 weeks at the top of the UK charts. Strangely enough, the UK had their wettest summer on record the year that "Umbrella" was released, which caused major flooding across the island. The Sun, an English newspaper, suggested that clubgoers were perhaps doing an unintentional rain dance when grooving to the catchy beat. Sure, that looping chorus can get quite irritating after hearing it on the radio twelve times a day, but if one thing’s for sure, it’s that RiRi’s weather-inspired tune will always be burned in our millennial noggins.

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