All eight Rihanna albums, definitively ranked from worst to best

Weeping eternally that we haven’t had a new one since 2016

Yep, Rihanna’s pregnant. And not in the Lady Gaga “Rumours I’m pregnant? Yeah I’m pregnant with #LG6” way, in the full on baby bump way. It’s very exciting. The fan pages and gossip sites must be having a field day, considering there are whispers on the streets every two weeks that the queen of Barbados is expecting. I’m so happy for Rihanna, and she’s glowing. But today is about reflecting on the eight babies she’s already given us – her immaculate discography of bangers. Eight Rihanna albums, eight eras – here’s every Rihanna album ranked from worst to best.

8. Music of the Sun

Rihanna albums ranked

With Rihanna’s first album, nobody is having a bad time. Our Ri sounds like she’s just happy to be here, doing her record, making some bops that do exactly what the title says: Sound gorgeous in the sunshine. It’s dancehall island vibes to the max, and it’s a nice listen. Pon De Replay carries it – a sweaty dance floor anthem that still stands amongst her best to this day, but there’s a lot of filler here and not much experimentation.

7. A Girl Like Me

Rihanna albums ranked

It’s quite hard to pick which is the better of the two between Music Of The Sun and A Girl Like Me when getting Rihanna albums ranked, because her first two albums are two sides of the same coin. Coming out only eight months after Music of the Sun, it’s more of the same but with a bit of balladry thrown in for good measure. The single power is increased substantially, which raises the album slightly ahead of its predecessor for me. SOS ensured Rihanna had no sophomore slump, its Tainted Love sample a complete departure from the last record’s sound. Unfaithful had 10 year old me weeping for an affair I’d never had.

6. Unapologetic

Rihanna albums ranked

Rihanna’s 2012 album Unapologetic came at the height of her face on a Topman t-shirt era, and it’s an album that’s very reflective of the Guetta-esque EDM that was hammered into us from the charts at the time. It’s her most unfocussed album by a mile, a messily produced album that lacks cohesion and finesse. But Unapologetic is true to its title, and much that Rihanna dabbles with her works really well. The darker direction of songs like Pour It Up hint at the sounds Rih would be exploring more on Anti and Bitch Better Have My Money. The ballads are strong, the big singles did what they needed to do.

There’s a disconnect on Unapologetic – things work individually well but rarely in cohesion. In any case, Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary sits amongst the greatest non-singles of Rihanna’s career. A tremendous, near seven minute long double song that deserves your attention if you’ve never listened before.

5. Talk That Talk

Whilst Loud was an incredibly strong album, it was Rihanna at the poppiest she’s ever been. With Talk That Talk, Rihanna took her sound back to one that was cool. More mysterious, more risqué lyrics, more varied production. Talk That Talk is chock full of great album tracks and mega singles – Rihanna feels like such a superstar across the whole record. Sonically, it feels like a fusion of the darkness of Rated R with the heavy hitter single vibes of Loud.

The five track run opening of You Da One, Where Have You Been, We Found Love, Talk That Talk and Cockiness (Love It) is one most pop stars would sacrifice a Victorian orphan to have. Best album track goes to Drunk On Love, which uses the instrumental of Intro by The xx and gives it lyrics and a Rihanna vocal. Sublime.

4. Good Girl Gone Bad

Rihanna albums ranked

Rihanna’s first album was her first great record, the first album she released as an undoubtable superstar. Lead by the titanic power of Umbrella, it was a perfect introduction to one of the most iconic of all the ranked Rihanna albums. Hit after hit, exciting decisions made one after the other. Don’t Stop The Music, with its MJ sample, is for the history books. Shut Up And Drive is camp and stupid, but has taken on a life of its own thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race icons Tatianna and Alyssa Edwards. Rehab is a Timbaland tinged 00s masterpiece, Disturbia a spooky classic. The hits just keep coming.

The album tracks stand up their with Rihanna’s very best. The title track is good enough to be one of her very best singles, and Breakin’ Dishes had bowls around the world cowering in fear in case Rihanna fans smashed them on the kitchen floor when bopping to that absolute titslapper.

3. Rated R

Rated R is a formidable album. Darker in tone than anything Rihanna had dabbled in before, bursting with atmosphere, more exciting production choices and an instant mature evolution. The lead single Russian Roulette feels like a murder ballad, so woven in plot it borders on theatrical and Rihanna’s vocals are sensational. Rih goes full rock, with Slash joining her to play guitar on ROCKSTAR 101 or she goes full dancehall with Rude Boy, takes you on holiday with Te Amo. Songs like Hard and Wait Your Turn have a gritty angst to them Rihanna hadn’t really dabbled in up until this point.

Rated R is often overshadowed by some of her other records, but it’s one that rewards repeated listens.

2. Loud

Rihanna albums ranked

I love pop music with all my heart and soul, and therefore my adoration for Loud knows no bounds. Loud by name, Loud by nature. I can’t think of a more iconic way to open a pop album than with the unrelenting force of S&M – a dirty little masterpiece that I get my life to every time I hear it. Only Girl In The World and What’s My Name deserved every inch of their huge success – two of the greatest songs of Rihanna’s career. If you want hits, Loud has nothing but. Seven of its 11 tracks were singles, and even non-singles like Fading are still absolutely excellent.

California King Bed is ludicrous but I adore it. And Man Down? MAN DOWN? One of THEE songs of Rihanna’s career. The girls that get it, get it, and the girls that don’t, don’t.

1. Anti

Whilst every album ranked here has merit, and some Rihanna albums are genuinely spectacular, Anti takes the top spot with so much effortless ease it’s almost a slap in the face to the rest. It is 10 times better than them all in every way – an album that is artistically, lyrically, vocally and sonically an improvement on everything Rihanna has ever done. Every track is pretty much a masterpiece. Rihanna runs the gauntlet of genres like the seasoned pro she is – dancehall, dance, throwback 50s balladry, electronic. Every song here earns its place. Even the bonus tracks knock it out of the park.

Anti isn’t just Rihanna’s best album, it’s the best album of 2016. It stands toe to toe with Lorde’s Melodrama as the best album of the entire 2010s. If we get another Rihanna album, Anti will be near impossible to beat. It’s her magnum opus. If it is the last Rihanna album we ever get, she went out as one of the very best artists pop music has ever seen.

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