I feel a lot of people forget just how many hits Rihanna has in her catalog. I have also been guilty of having hits amnesia, but her electrifying Super Bowl performance at the State Farm Stadium on Sunday (February 12) was a huge refresher for those of us that may have gone cold on her music library.
The Bajan billionaire is yet to release an album in over six years, and if you have not been paying attention; Motherhood is her life, Fenty is her brand and music is her favorite pass time. Still, the Diamonds singer showed no signs of rustiness in her return to the stage. Fitted in a lush red jumpsuit, the megastar kicked off her set with the attention-demanding “Better Have My Money” as she floated over the football field.
Rih managed to make good use of the time allocated to her, but as we soon found out, 13 minutes is not enough to cover eight albums and over 15 years of music. I found myself feening for more, and it’s no surprise her streams surged by more than 640% after the show, which brings us to why we’re here…
Rihanna has hits!! But I guess we already established that, which is why we’re going to try and rank her 21 biggest songs including collaborations. Not an easy task. Here is Rap Aesthetic’s definitive list of the best Rihanna songs and features, from Pon De Replay To Run This Town.
21. Don’t Stop The Music
Don’t Stop The Music is what some might call a bop. The song samples Michael Jackson on the hook, and astonishingly received complimentary reviews for it.
“FourFiveSeconds,” is a mid-tempo acoustic jam featuring Kanye West and country music legend Paul McCartney on guitar. This wasn’t the sort of record critics expected from an expressive artist like Rihanna, who took the majority of the vocal spots. And to a degree, her vocals were heavily scrutinized, but she managed to hit the required notes beautifully.
19. Cheers (Drink To That)
Rihanna brushes off the haters and celebrates life in the fun Drink To That. The Avril Lavigne-sampling track is a party anthem and one of the happiest songs in her catalog. The video is equally if not more entertaining than the song, and it encourages listeners to reset and enjoy the best life has to offer. I’ll definitely drink to that.
“I love that song. That is one of my favorite songs on the album,” Rihanna told MTV News about the song. “It makes you feel like celebrating. It gives you a great feeling inside like you want to go out and have a drink. … People can’t wait for the weekend. I work all weekend, but I still can’t wait. I still get excited about it being Friday, even though I’m not getting the weekend off. I got to be up at 5 a.m. on Saturday anyway. I just like the fact that it’s Friday. It’s just something that became a habit, so you get that feeling Friday night [and] it doesn’t matter what time you have to wake up on Saturday. You want to get excited about the weekend, you want to go out and have a drink with your girls, who have the weekend off.
18. Only Girl
For Only Girl (In The World) Rihanna once again teamed up with Stargate, the Norwegian duo that constructed her previous hit singles “Hate That I Love You,” “Rude Boy,” and “Don’t Stop The Music.” The singer pours out her heart and demands attention on the Eurodance-pop record.
“I Want you to make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world/ Like I’m the only one that you’ll ever love/ Like I’m the only one who knows your heart/ Only girl in the world,” she sings on the chorus. Only Girl is one of Rihanna’s more popular songs but it ranks low here because it lacks originality and sounds like an alternative version of Don’t Stop The Music.
17. Hate That I Love You
“Hate that I love you,” is a relatable heartbreak tale by Rihanna and Ne-Yo. The third single from Good Girl Gone Bad deals with conflicted love and the unhealthy attachment that comes with spell-bound-esque relationships. You know they’re bad for you but you just can’t let them go.
Regarding the lyrics, Rihanna said, “When you’re in love with someone, even though they keep hurting you, you’re so naive and you love them so much that you put all the negative behind even though you keep getting hurt.
16. Live You Life
Rihanna’s vocals go so well with this song and you can argue it wouldn’t do whatever it did without her input. T.I. said that even before he was able to get Rihanna to feature on this track, he was “just able to ‘hear’ her voice” on the in-progress cut of ‘Live Your Life.’ “Thankfully,” he continued, “she said ‘Yes.'”
15. Man down
This song was surprisingly unpopular when it first arrived and was criticized for its perceived glorification of violence. Described as a murder ballad, Rihanna sings about her guilt of killing her assaulter in Central station. “I didn’t mean to end his life, I know it wasn’t right,” she admits on the song’s opener.
The lyrics can easily get lost in translation but the video does a good job of explaining her actions. She also shared a message for her fans following the song’s release. “Young girls/women all over the world…we are a lot of things!” she wrote. “We’re strong innocent fun flirtatious vulnerable, and sometimes our innocence can cause us to be naive! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us! So ladies be careful.”
14. Take A Bow
With “Take A Bow” Rihanna poetically applauds her unfaithful ex-partner out of her life. She sings from the perspective of a woman no longer held spellbound by love. The song’s lyrics are gloomy and somewhat depressing. This could easily have been a sequel to Unfaithful.
13. Where Have You Been?
You have no idea just how good this song is until you hear it ring out in a stadium. Where Have You Been” is a dance-pop, and dance song, which blends elements of R&B, hip-hop, and house together. It also incorporates elements of trance music.
12. What’s My Name
Rihanna teamed up with Drake for the sexually inclined What’s My Name. The two displayed great chemistry as they not so subtlety hinted about their sexual yearnings. Legend has it Drake still dreams of going Down Town with Rihanna.
11. Rude Boy
When this song came out Rihanna revealed she had no idea how “disgusting” the lyrics were. “I just ran in there with one of the writers and started coming up with this in the studio and now when people read it back to me like that, ‘Come here rude boy, is you big enough’? it does sound so disgusting!”
Makeba Riddick, who co-wrote the song with Rihanna and Ester Dean told US Weekly about the song’s provocative lyrics: “I was listening to the words and me and [Rihanna] and we were just laughing and talking about so many situations that have happened in the past and that happen to women everywhere. By the time we were done of course, we were laughing and giggling about the lyrics – surprisingly everybody went nuts over the song.”
10. Love The Way You Lie
Eminem’s unhealthy obsession with crafting pop hits led him to Rihanna. Or maybe it was her past with Chris Brown? “It’s one of those tracks that I felt like only she could pull it off,” Em said about his decision to feature the Barbadian singer.
Love The Way You Lie showcases a domestic violence dispute between an inebriated couple. Em, who is no stranger to abuse turned in an Oscar-worthy illustrative performance full of rage and regret. Rihanna had her own issues with abuse in the past and seemed disappointed that her toxic partner was not doing enough to save their relationship.
Apparently, the song almost didn’t happen, and Eminem’s best mate, Skylar Grey was supposed to be the feature. Fortunately, Skylar Grey, who wrote the hook for the song, was touring in Dublin, Ireland at the time and couldn’t find a studio to re-record her demo vocals.
“Unfaithful” is another one of Ne-Yo’s creations. The heartbreak ballad was a shift from her usual dance cuts and her role as the scorned female. Here, Rih was the abuser. It showed an accountable side to Rih, who later revealed the song was birthed out of a relationship she outgrew when she was fourteen”.
8. Pon De Replay
It was 2005 and without knowing it, Rihanna was about to take over pop culture for the foreseeable future. This was the moment when it all began to get massive.
7. Wild Thoughts
“Wild Thoughts| is lifted from DJ Khaled’s Grateful album. The mid-tempo pop song also featuring Bryson Tiller samples guitar riffs of Santana’s iconic hit ‘Maria Maria’ from 1999. Rihanna turns up the sexy and gets explicit with her lyrics, swerving between innuendos. “I hope you know I’m for the takin’/You know this cookie is for the baking (ugh)/Kitty, kitty, baby give that thing some rest.”
6. Run This Town
“Run This Town” would forever be iconic. Flanked by two of her biggest musical influences at the time, Rihanna brought her A game with a well-crafted hook that basically puts the track on Autopilot. All Jay-Z and Kanye West had to do was show up because Rihanna already guaranteed the song was going to be a hit.
It’s also manifesting that they bragged about being top dawgs and all three ended up becoming billionaires. Jay would go on to rap about it on DJ Khaled s God Did. Maybe the illuminati rumors were true.
Umbrella was the song that officially announced Rihanna’s arrival on the big stage. In retrospect, there was really nothing special about the lyrics, but fans gobbled it up.
4. B-tch Better Have My Money
“Better Have My Money” is a threatening song about revenge. Lyrically, the song features an angrier tone than “Rihanna’s usual oeuvre”, “Every time I drop I am the only thing y’all playing, Don’t act like you forgot, I call the shots” proclaimed along with “machine-gun ad-libs.”
3. We Found Love
“We Found Love” was an instant hit when it arrived in 2011. It still holds its weight to this day. The Calvin Harris-assisted song is a club anthem, that celebrates finding love in the dark.
2. All Of The Lights
All of The Lights Is one of the greatest recordings by Rihanna. It’s not an original song by the Barbadian, but you cannot take away her contributions. The song’s position might be controversial, and I do believe this is the best hook in all of the hooks she’s done.
In a 2013 interview with The Breakfast Club, West said that the song took two years to finish, and detailed the creation and process of the song; “‘All The Lights’ is a futurist song that started out as a Jeezy record with horns on it, then we put in another bridge, then Dream wrote the hook, then Rihanna sang it, and by the time you got it, it was to the level of like, the Nike Flyknit or something like that.”
During the 2010 MTV Europe Music Awards, on November 10, 2010, Rihanna explained to MTV News’ that All of the Lights” was one of her favorite songs. “When he asked me to come up to the studio at 2 o’clock in the morning, I had to, because I loved it, I knew it was that song,” she said.
“Diamonds” may not be Rihanna’s biggest song, but it’s undeniably the most well-written. It’s not a dance cut, it’s not a love ballad, and it doesn’t possess any of the forced provocative sex languages she’d been known for. It’s just Rihanna making good use of her vocal cords. The song’s message is powerful and delves into self-worth. Rihanna said the song is different from her other releases. “It gives me such a great feeling when I listen to it,” she told Elvis Duran. “The lyrics are very hopeful and positive. But it’s about love. I just think the gears are a little different than what people would expect me. I’m excited to surprise them sonically.”
It’s unsurprising that Diamonds is her most viewed video on YouTube with over 2B views.