A considered ranking of Rihanna’s 50 greatest singles of all time
Plz come back Rihanna we miss you xx
It’s hard to write about Rihanna’s musical legacy without wanting to weep for what we’ve lost. She’s not dead or anything, but even your nan is probably wondering why Robyn Rihanna Fenty is certified MIA in the music landscape. We all chuckle about the jokes saying she quit music to become an Avon lady, but deep down, it hurts. I wish Rihanna well in her business endeavours and there’s no denying she’s smashing it, but my god, I NEED NEW MUSIC. We all do. I can’t think of many artists who can take a five year gap from releasing and still maintain public interest. Everyone cherishes Rihanna, and rightly so. She’s the artist of a generation – soundtracking most of our definitive years. In her illustrious career, she’s carved out a singles discography most artists would sacrifice a Victorian orphan to have. Here are the 50 greatest Rihanna singles, ranked.
50. Live Your Life
A T.I. feature that both samples and interpolates O-Zone’s iconic Moldovan smash Dragostea Din Tei? I mean, sure! It’s a pretty rogue sample, a campy Eurodance vibe mashed up with a rap song, but it’s one that feels majorly cinematic and Rihanna and T.I. trade verses and choruses with electric chemistry.
49. Cockiness (Love It) [Remix]
Cockiness had high schools in a chokehold, thanks to the lyrics “Suck my cockiness / Lick my persuasion” – a Shakespearean turn of phrase that probably deserved a Pulitzer Prize. Facebook profile pictures never recovered from the impact of setting that as your caption – despite the fact we were all children and had certainly never had our cockinesses sucked or our persuasions licked. The single mix has a verse from A$AP Rocky, who is famously now Rihanna’s man. It bangs.
Rihanna was once the reigning monarch when it came to being the featured vocalist on rap tunes, and she brings her iconic voice to Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday banger Fly. Rihanna’s chorus is actually the most irritating bit of the song, but it still deserves a feature because we’re grateful to have these two queens of the industry together on a track that isn’t the terrible Loud single Raining Men.
A criminally unknown and underrated single released as part of the soundtrack for Star Trek: Beyond, Sledgehammer is a witchy, ethereal electronic piano ballad written alongside Sia. It doesn’t sound like anything else Rihanna has ever done, and the post-chorus “You’re just another brick and I’m a sledgehammer” feels really special.
46. Who’s That Chick?
Not many team ups can make dance music this euphoric like the collaborating of Rihanna and David Guetta. On Who’s That Chick, Ri goes full fembot android – vocals are processed to their coldest and most robotic. It’s an empty and vacuous dance track, and that’s what makes it go so hard.
45. We Ride
The third single from Rihanna’s sophomore album A Girl Like Me failed to chart – but it deserved to. It’s got a laidback warmth and easygoing nature that was symbolic of Rihanna’s early music. It’s summery, bright and the weird electro production details in the prechorus are a nice touch.
44. If It’s Lovin That You Want
Released when Rihanna was doing reggae, pure and simple. If It’s Lovin That You Want is good vibes personified; bright, sunny and carefree and Rihanna sounds breezy and blissful. It’s not reinventing the Rihanna wheel, but it’s such a good time.
43. ROCKSTAR 101
(Under)Rated R is Rihanna’s most underrated album, and for its final single Rihanna moves from main pop girl to main rock girl with Slash joining the track on guitar. It doesn’t scream single, but it’s an absolute vibe and the “Big cities / bright lights” sections are brimming with the right amount of attitude.
42. Wait Your Turn
I love the way this Rated R single starts off like a video intro from the 80s, all snarling synths before dropping into that Stargate and Chase & Status production. It’s a song where if you spend too much time listening to the lyrics it feels bland, but the production slaps so hard you won’t care.
41. What Now
Unapologetic as an album is a chaotic mix, like somebody has pressed randomise Sim on genres. But when it’s good, it’s great – and What Now is excellent even if it’s a bit formulaic. Rihanna’s vocals soar – and the way the piano ballad switches up to the drama of the chorus drops with the sonic bombs is a delight. I’ve always been obsessed with the way Rihanna pronounces the word mirror as “mirrargh” on What Now and it deserves a place in her ranked 50 best singles for that alone.
40. Take A Bow
Absolutely butchered within an inch of its life by Lea Michele on Glee, Take A Bow is a weird beast because it sounds fuck all like a Rihanna song. It sounds like an offcut from Beyoncé’s I Am Sasha Fierce album, and that’s both its biggest strength and greatest weakness. It’s very of its time, a mid tempo ballad with finger clicks and all. It feels too safe and soft for a Rihanna single, but it’s still iconic in its own right.
39. Pour It Up
Strip clubs and dolla bills is the order of service for Pour It Up, an infectious, grimy, instantly danceable single from Unapologetic that sounds like the filthiest, sexiest dance with a random stranger in a nightclub at 3am in the best way possible. In hindsight, Pour It Up feels like an early precursor to sounds Rihanna explored further on Anti. It’s a banger.
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off” is a great way to open a track, and this collab between Rihanna and N.E.R.D. is fizzing with that unmistakable Pharrell production. The song is good, and then Rihanna’s verse bursts in and it evolves to great. “You can catch me / Rih / in the new Le Ferrar” – stunning. Truly impossible to not dance to.
Rated R never lets up the heat, and the drama of Hard is absolutely spectacular. The swagger of this track is so bombastic, it’s superstar behaviour. The production and the bragging lyrics of “That Rihanna reign just don’t let up” make it an album highlight.
Whilst most people clearly come to Rihanna for her bangers, her ballads honestly really hit just as hard. What makes Rihanna so special is that she can do dance bangers, pure hip hop, reggae, rock and balladry with seamless ease. Stay had the world in a chokehold in 2012 – her vocals are wonderful and despite a bland feature from Mikky Ekko it’s maintained its popularity nearly 10 years later.
Right, all Sia written songs sound the same. Why do we allow this? The same thumping beat, the same melodic structure to the verses and the same soaring choruses. Change it up Ms Furler I BEG. Diamonds was a moment in time – and spectacular at the time, so I’m honouring it with a fair showing amongst ranked Rihanna singles. This song structure has aged like milk in my opinion, but the verses are still pretty spectacular and I will always cherish the live X Factor performance she did as water showered down on her. There may be outcry that this isn’t ranked higher amongst Rihanna singles, but to that I say you look back on Diamonds with rose-tinted glasses.
34. Rude Boy
Rihanna asking me if I can get it up? More likely than you’d think! Rude Boy is a dance floor essential. End of. The middle eight (“I like the way you touch me there / I like the way you pull my hair”) is euphoric filth and makes the song ascend to a higher plane. A Rated R classic methinks.
33. California King Bed
Only Rihanna could pull off a ballad built around a big bed and make it feel emotional. “In this California king bed we’re 10,000 miles apart” is an extraordinarily visceral lyric, and it’s a ballad on an album of bangers that really hits. It was voted to be a single by fans on Twitter, and they made the correct choice.
32. This Is What You Came For
Calvin Harris and Rihanna did what they had to do on This Is What You Came For, soundtracking the clubs for the entirety of 2016’s tail end. Cowritten by Taylor Swift, in the peak of her and Harris’ relationship, This Is What You Came For also features background vocals from Taylor who originally was credited under a pseudonym as she didn’t want her relationship with Calvin Harris to overshadow the tune. No chance of that happening; This Is What You Came For is too good in its own right to allow itself to be overshadowed.
31. Can’t Remember To Forget You
A banger I fear has been somewhat lost to the ether is Shakira and Rihanna’s 2014 team up Can’t Remember To Forget You, a delicious fusion of new wave, reggae and pop rock that slaps HARD. Both pop icons come at us with both barrels, and released a deeply sexy music video just to kill the rest of us off who managed to live through the slay of the song. I need to see a resurgence of love for this classic!
30. American Oxygen
The third of Rihanna’s stellar trio of 2015 standalone singles is American Oxygen, a cynical reflection on life living in the United States that feels like it gets more poignant year after year. Produced by Kanye West, American Oxygen reflects on the chasing of the American Dream and what that means in today’s landscape.
29. Wild Thoughts
ANOTHER ONE! Rihanna’s 2017 collab with DJ Khaled is the definition of sound of the summer, a sangria soaked and sunburnt banger. When you emit the horrifying and repetitive squawks of “DJ KHALED, ANOTHER ONE”, it’s a Latin pop essential, and if your hips aren’t swayed by that electrifying guitar riff then I don’t know what to tell you. Just listening to Wild Thoughts makes me perspire.
28. Te Amo
An unexpected Latin tinged Rated R gem, that tells the story of a woman in love with Rihanna who fails to get her feelings reciprocated. Interesting lyrical content, and one done well. This song is responsible for teaching the entire world Spanish and for that we must applaud it.
27. Where Have You Been?
Where Have You Been, a mammoth single from Talk That Talk, is Rihanna making dance music at its most danceable. The song builds gently, layering on its LOUD production before brimming into that huge crescendo of an electro drop that has enough power to wake the dead. It’s huge. This song is up their with Tangfastics in the list of things that could have killed off Prince Philip.
Just missing out on a spot ranked amongst the top 25 Rihanna singles ever is Good Girl Gone Bad’s Rehab. Sounding very 00s in the best ways possible, Rehab is a Justin Timberlake and Timbaland collaboration that ended up in the hands of Rihanna and kept some final backing vocals from Justin in near the end. It’s got all the magic of that Timbaland production that has continued to age like a fine wine. The best bit is the first verse, with the melody on “You were like my lover and my best friend / All wrapped into onewitharibbononit!” being a particular highlight.
25. You Da One
You Da One up next, a carefree little bop from Talk That Talk. I love when Rihanna leans back into the early days reggae sound of hers, her vocals suit it SO much. You Da One has immaculate vibes in an era where a lot of Rihanna’s music had a harder electronic edge. Bliss, and it’s the perfect way to kick off the top 25 ranked Rihanna singles.
24. Talk That Talk
The title track and third single from Rihanna’s sixth album has an irresistible groove to the verses that’s hard to not be infatuated with. It’s got perfect synergy between production and vocals, and Jay-Z’s appearance is as expected, excellent. A sure fire hit at literally any party.
23. What’s My Name?
Loud is an album that’s famously all killer, no filler – and second single What’s My Name delivered consistency on the excellence of the lead single before it in spade loads. Drake and Rihanna collaborating is a guaranteed success – and on What’s My Name the two thrive. It shot to number one in the US and the UK and was inescapable. Nothing is more powerful than red-headed Rihanna.
22. Russian Roulette
I have such distinct memories of hearing Russian Roulette for the first time and being in disbelief that I was listening to Rihanna. A concept single about a tense game of Russian roulette is a strange choice for a lead single, but it’s one that garnered critical acclaim for its dark themes and excellent use of tension. Rihanna sounds stellar, and that final chorus is a knockout.
21. Too Good
The spiritual successor to Work, and coming from the same sessions in which that banger was birthed, Too Good is yet another entry to the immaculate Drake and Rihanna canon. You’d be honestly hard pressed to find two artists who compliment each other better than they do. Too Good is a dancehall essential.
20. Cheers (Drink To That)
A truly ridiculous song, but one I cannot get enough of. Sorry. With lyrics as poetic as “Got my Raybans on and I’m feeling hella cool tonight” and a sampled vocal section from the best Avril Lavigne song of all time, you simply cannot go wrong. Pop heaven.
Unfaithful is the first ever big Rihanna ballad, and to this day remains ranked as one of her greatest singles. Whilst I wish it retained its original title of Murderer, it really gave the world a different glimpse at the Barbadian singer beyond the reggae and dancehall bangers we’d got up to this point. It’s melodramatic in that 00s ballad way, but I think it sounds nostalgic and has aged well over the more cringe ageing of ballads like Take A Bow.
18. Don’t Stop The Music
What an absolute BLAST Don’t Stop The Music is! Its Michael Jackson sampling “Mama say, mama sa ma-ma-ko-ssa” is absolutely inspired, and the thumping production is a call to the dance floor like pretty much only Rihanna can do. Don’t Stop The Music is unrelenting in the best possible way. It’s the night out you never want to end.
17. Needed Me
MUSTARD! ON THE! BEAT! Indeed! If Anti is by some way the last album Rihanna ever releases, at least she went out on one of the best albums ever recorded. Needed Me is Rihanna’s longest charting single of all time, spending SIXTEEN WEEKS in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and honestly? It’s that magic combination of her star quality with DJ Mustard’s unmistakable production sound that dominated 2016. Pure brilliance.
I just think it’s outrageously iconic of Rihanna to come stomping through with the lead single of her sophomore album completely abandoning the reggae influenced sound of her debut and instead favouring an 80s sound with a PERFECT sampling of Tainted Love by Soft Cell. Her first number one single on the Hot 100, and with good reason. It is truly anthemic.
15. We Found Love
I remember so distinctly hearing We Found Love for the first time in my mum’s kitchen and nearly dropping my plate of toast because it slapped my tits so hard. We Found Love is a gargantuan, Calvin Harris assisted banger – a song that defined dance music and the chart landscape of the 2010s with ridiculous ease. The drop is dated, the song is a piece of history.
14. Bitch Better Have My Money
The hardest any Rihanna single has ever gone. When you go to watch it on YouTube, it gives you a warning about its content. Everything about Bitch Better Have My Money feels completely formidable. It’s a song that felt a bit mystifying in 2015, but only made more sense the more you listened to it. At this point, it’s a bonafide classic and deserving to be ranked amongst the best of the best Rihanna singles. Pitchfork rightly named it one of the best songs of the last decade. I mean, come on.
13. Man Down
Man Down stands out on both Loud and in her discography as a whole because it’s so distinct in its style. Rih goes full reggae, writing the song with fellow Barbadian singer Shontelle and features her singing the lyrics in a broad West Indian accent. It’s an old school reggae murder ballad that tells its story so charismatically. If it’s not one of your fave Rihanna songs ever, I don’t know what to tell you.
12. Kiss It Better
Rihanna doing synth rock? I could NOT believe it. Kiss It Better is quite simply heaven on earth. The best aspects of 80s and 90s synthy balladry all crafted into a Rihanna single of the highest order. Anti is full of songs and singles that all could have been the lead, and Kiss It Better showcases that supremely. A highlight of 2016.
11. Shut Up And Drive
It’s crazy how a song can change its significance over time. Shut Up And Drive used to be a bit of a campy misfire in Rihanna’s catalogue, a lyrically goofy weird single filled with car jargon. But anyone even remotely affiliated with RuPaul’s Drag Race will associate Shut Up And Drive with one of the greatest lip syncs of all time: All Stars 2’s Alyssa Edwards Vs Tatianna. The queens’ performance brought a new layer of cultural relevance to Shut Up And Drive, and it’s shot up the list of ranked Rihanna singles because of it. It’s ESSENTIAL.
If the most crazy, whirlwind of a horror film you’ve ever seen was a pop banger, Disturbia is a tour de force Rihanna single. If it’s a Rihanna tune built around a non-word motif like Disturbia’s “bom bom be dom” you know you’re likely to be in for an impeccable pop time. A deserved megahit, absolutely CLASSIC Rihanna and the best way imaginable to kick off her top 10 singles ranked.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me” is Rihanna scripture if ever there was. S&M, either with the Britney Spears feature or not, is Rihanna at her pure-pop best. Generating the perfect amount of controversy and with a music video that was just the right amount of BANNED, S&M proves that we’re glad the good girl went bad after all.
8. All Of The Lights
Kind of like the music equivalent of Avengers: Endgame. Kanye West’s All Of The Lights features Drake, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, La Roux and Elton John but MOST IMPORTANTLY: Rihanna. It’s West’s song, but All Of The Lights would be nothing without Rihanna. She elevates the song into the piece of history that it is. It’s event music at its most impactful.
I weep every day that Rihanna never popped FourFiveSeconds somewhere on Anti, because it deserves to have a home. A standalone supergroup single collaboration with Kanye West and Paul McCartney, FourFiveSeconds really feels like it’s taking us RIGHT to church. It’s acoustic, it’s folk, it’s got a big honking organ in it. All three of them work perfectly together. We needed a full album in this style. It’s not too late.
6. Only Girl (In The World)
If Rated R was a dark album, Loud was a complete shift into the light. It’s back to back euphoria, pure pop and dance in all its glory. What better way to kick off such an era than with a lead single like Only Girl (In The World), a titanic, StarGate produced rammer on all counts. Listening to Only Girl (In The World) feels like your head might explode and that after it did you’d call up Rihanna to say thank you. You’ve not known pleasure until you’ve driven around the world of Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto V with Only Girl (In The World) blasting out of Non Stop Pop FM.
5. Take Care
On the second greatest song of their many collaborations, Drake and Rihanna trade verses over a prominent sample of I’ll Take Care Of You. It’s so likeable and irresistible – a song bursting with chemistry that is hard to fake. It toes the line perfectly between a heartfelt duet and a club banger, and makes such a feat look easy. It’s a song that defined the 2010s. I can’t think of a time on a night out where it would come on to anything other than cheers and and a boogie.
4. Pon De Replay
With Pon De Replay, the world got their first experience of Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the young Barbadian pop star who would go on to become one of the biggest artists of all time. Nearly 17 years after its release, Pon De Replay remains ranked as one of the top five greatest Rihanna singles. Its title means “play it again” in Bajan Creole, the everyday spoken language in Barbados, and with its infectious beat and unmistakable star quality filled vocal lead from Rih, Pon De Replay made sure everyone was following the instructions of its title.
Work was the first dancehall song to make the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 since Sean Paul’s Temperature all the way back in 2006, and that’s a significant achievement. I will always think of my friend’s words on why he loved Work so much. He theorised that it was a song in which lyrical content didn’t matter, the song is a feeling. The chorus is in Jamaican patois, but as Jon Caramanica said on the song for The New York Times, Rihanna “barely even relies on words, truncating her syllables past patois to something far less exact.” It’s the sound of a party at its peak, the moment every person there is having their best time of the night. Drake is equally as spectacular as Rihanna and Work is their crowning achievement. It’s a song I’m always in the mood for, a song I can never feel unhappy listening to and the perfect lead single for Anti. A masterpiece.
2. Love On The Brain
Rihanna has dallied with many genres across her career, but one that I never expected her to tackle and achieve with such finesse is the 50s soul and doo-wop found on Love On The Brain. It’s Anti’s showstopper – almost musical theatre level storytelling and a woozy vocal performance that positions Rihanna sounding like a faded starlet performing her final ever show. The way Rih’s voice rasps and croaks through pure power gives me goosebumps. It’s spectacular, like nothing she’s ever done before and feels like a full evolution from her early days to a legend of the industry. Every live performance is for the history books, too.
Rihanna’s career can be split into two eras: Before Umbrella, and after. Good Girl Gone Bad’s lead single changed everything. Up to this point, Rihanna was a promising and successful pop star. After Umbrella, she became a superstar. A legend who was going nowhere but remaining steadfast in the top 10 of music charts across the globe. The presence of Jay-Z kicks Umbrella off to a full throttle start, the production dramatic in its use of silence. The music video and THAT haircut heightened the successes even further. Umbrella was an instant hit, and is clearly Rihanna’s signature song.
In a career full of “mama say, mama sa, ma-ma-ko-ssas” and “bum bum be dums”, it’s Umbrella’s iconic “ella-ella-ella-ay” that the world will be gently humming until the end of time. Umbrella was both the making and the solidification of an icon. Plz come back Rihanna. Music misses you.