Rihanna is always a topic of conversation. Whether making headlines for her Super Bowl Halftime performance, expecting baby number 2, or rocking up to the Met Gala in a dramatic Valentino gown 4 hours late, the Bajan singer has a loyal fanbase who is sticking by her even though we still haven’t received that highly anticipated new album.
While we patiently wait for the alleged album to drop (we are losing hope at this point), let’s take a look back at some of her best songs, and there are plenty that are absolute bangers.
PON DE REPLAY
Only 17 at the time of her debut album release “Music of the Sun”, the vibrant and high-energy Pon De Replay still remains a go-to song to play at any function. Peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, Rihanna’s entry to music defined her entire career to come: she was here and she was on top.
During that time, RiRi matched her fun musical style with playful fashion, often seen in plunging neckline crop tops and low-rise jeans. Her event appearances matched the vibe she showed off in her music video, tapping into the Y2K aesthetic before it was even called that. Now on moodboards for early 2000s fashion inspiration, the singer, consciously or not, was already garnering the power of clothing, something that would stay a constant in Rihanna’s public image.
With now 2 albums under her belt, her third album “Good Girl Gone Bad” saw Rihanna tap into a sultrier side of herself, the singer now being in her early 20s. With hit songs like Umbrella, Disturbia, Shut Up And Drive, it’s hard to pick just one song to highlight this era. Umbrella though became a defining hit for her, not only topping the charts once again, winning her first Grammy award, but also collaborating with one of music’s giants, Jay Z.
In the music video that brought Rihanna into superstardom, the singer can be seen wearing a leather maid-style bodysuit accessorised with an umbrella, of course. This more revealing approach to dressing was emulated through other music videos and live performances, and later on inspired the Tom Holland to dress the part on his Lip Sync Battle performance, paying homage to Rihanna’s wider cultural impact.
If 2008 Rihanna was considered sexy, well the singer amped it up for her next two albums, “Rated R” and “Loud”. With songs like S&M and Rude Boy which were so obviously about sex – though not so obvious to pre-teen us singing along to it next to our parents – Rihanna still maintained her pop culture status with her enticing voice and catchy beats.
One song that stands out from her 2010 red hair red lip era is Man Down, which was still constantly played on the radio despite it being a song clearly about homicide. “Oh mama, mama, I just shot a man down”, the Barbados native sings, accompanied by a reggae pop sound. In the music video, we saw Rihanna go back to the Caribbean (though not in Barbados, rather Jamaica), showcasing her neighbouring culture to the Western world.
By 2012 on her album “Unapologetic”, Rihanna took a much softer approach as opposed to her raunchier style of the past, with songs like Stay and Diamonds showcasing her vulnerable side while highlighting the power of her voice. Now sporting the half-shaved hair look, Rihanna’s vulnerability is further showcased in her music videos, oftentimes completely stripped back and nude and other times wearing just a simple, soft sweater.
This was also reflected in the album’s cover, where the singer posed naked, covered by handwritten words. Though Rihanna took this time to reflect on deeper, intimate issues, she still gave us party-worthy hits like Pour It Up. Her explored themes of nudity while remaining classy all lead up to her 2014 CFDA Swarovski crystal dress that broke the internet before Kim Kardashian ever did.
LOVE ON THE BRAIN
The last album we’ve been treated to by RiRi, 2016’s “Anti” gave us a Drake reunion for the first time in 5 years, from What’s My Name to the catchy Work, as well as a cover of Tame Impala’s Same Old Mistakes (Rihanna’s version drops the ‘d’) and the dark sounding Desperado. Her standout song from this album remains Love On The Brain, as Rihanna dives into her obsessional love on a ballad style piece inspired by 50s and 60s blues.
The first album cover not to feature an image of her, Rihanna’s Anti era was definitely one for the history books. Her tour outfits fit perfectly with 2016’s earthy tone trend, opting for body suits matched with her hybrid chap-heels piece. By this time, Rihanna knew how to absolutely nail a red carpet event, from her Cannes Festival appearance in 2017 wearing couture Dior to her Met Gala looks that never disappoint.
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