From selling clothes at a street stall in Barbados to being one of the most successful and well-known singers in modern history, Robyn Rihanna Fenty, better known as Rihanna, is the quintessential international superstar.
After being discovered by American producer Evan Rogers in her home country of Barbados, Rihanna went to the US to record demos with him. Some of which would end up on her debut album, Music Of The Sun.
One of her demos reached the ears of the newly appointed CEO of Def Jam Recordings, Jay-Z. After hearing her perform in person, he made Rihanna wait until three in the morning in the offices so his lawyers could draft up a six-album recording contract.
The rest is history…
Rihanna is now one of the biggest-selling music artists of all time, with sales of over 250 million units worldwide. She has had fourteen #1 singles in the US. As well as a total of sixty-one #1 entries into the main international top ten charts – thirty-one are in the US and thirty in the United Kingdom.
She has won nine Grammy Awards and thirteen American Music Awards, including the Icon award. So, now that’s all covered, here are my picks for the best Rihanna songs of all time…
Top 50 Best Rihanna Songs of All Time
Lemon (With N.E.R.D)
Album: NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES
This was to be N.E.R.D’s first single in seven years, which was already a surprise since Pharrell had such incredible success in the 2010s. Yet, fans were delighted, and they did not disappoint.
The song was political, featuring quotes by journalist Gloria Steinem and was a negation of hate in a very aggressive but not negative way. The vocals are laid over bass-heavy grooves, and then suddenly, we hear a super swaggering verse by Rihanna.
Originally, the song was meant to go to producer Sean “Diddy” Combs. But, N.E.R.D decided to keep it for themselves. It was Rihanna’s 50th entry into the Top 40.
Album: Good Girl Gone Bad
Chris Brown originally penned this dark, enticing number and intended it to be part of a re-release of his second studio album. But, he ended up going with another song called “Forever.”
He reasoned that “Disturbia” would better suit a female singer with great range and a lot of attitude. Well, no one has more than Rihanna, and she made this monster of a tune completely her own. This is evident in the fact that it has become a staple of her live shows.
Showing her range and rage…
The song sounds as if it’s trying to be a fizzy pop number. But, it’s imbued with such angst and darkness that it somehow gets smothered and transformed into something else.
The lyrics being the darkest part of the entire song, are made even more haunting by Rihanna’s trademark “in character” delivery. She sounds like the song feels. And it is one of Rihanna’s most popular songs.
“Disturbia” was a massive hit, peaking at #1 in Belgium and New Zealand, and becoming a top-ten hit in more than twenty countries, including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It was the third #1 single from the album and was at the #1 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks.
Hate That I Love You (feat. Ne-Yo)
Album: Good Girl Gone Bad
“The best way to express an emotion like love is through storytelling. It makes it more, ‘I can relate to this character in this song because I’ve been through something similar.’”
This is how co-writer of this and a few other songs off Rihanna’s mammoth third studio album, Ne-Yo described “Hate That I Love You” to Vibe in 2008.
When Rihanna was nineteen…
She described him as a genius, and it would appear she knew what she was talking about. This song was perfectly chosen for the landscape of R&B and pop music at the time. The fantastic production, music video, and vocal performances made this song a smash hit.
“Hate That I Love You” spent a total of 26 weeks on the US Billboard Top 100 and peaked at #3 on the US Pop Songs Chart. The track was also nominated for a Grammy.
Pon De Replay
Album: Music Of The Sun
I would probably be strangled for not including this song merely for its historical importance in Rihanna’s career. However, I’m actually including it simply because it is a great tune to listen to and has aged like fine wine in the consciousness of Rihanna fans since its release more than ten years ago.
There is an almost old-school 30s-style swing rhythm to this song. It’s not a very complex track. There’s a rhythm part, Rihanna’s exquisite voice, and a synth to add decoration to the high-end. Then again, that’s the point; you can dig in with every listen.
Listening to it all these years later, it still stands up against anything else. And, you can see how producers thought a seventeen-year-old could build a musical career based on this. As a result, it is one of the best Rihanna songs of all time.
FourFiveSeconds (feat. Paul McCartney, Kanye West)
For me, this ranks as one of Rihanna’s best songs ever, especially her vocals. The true power of her voice is given enough room to flex into the higher register. But, even then, she retains that beautiful low-mid hum, like a cello.
The sum of its parts…
The beautiful guitar by Paul McCartney’s seasoned fingers dances perfectly around the sonic space. Thanks to great musicianship and fantastic production. The minimal style of the arrangement makes the star of the show have to shine so much brighter. And, shine, she did.
The song also peaked at #1 on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart and at #4 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It’s still one of Rihanna’s best selling songs.
Aside from that stellar performance in the US, “FourFiveSeconds” was a #1 hit in Australia, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden. In Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the song made it to the top three.
Love The Way You Lie (feat. Eminem)
This song was named the best of 2010 by some publications and critics. Written by singer-songwriter Skylar Grey and recorded as a demo, the song originally sprung from Grey’s feelings of being abused by the music industry.
Rihanna and Eminem chose to do what artists do and made the song their own by drawing on their personal experiences of being in abusive relationships. Eminem wrote the verses and chose Rihanna to sing the chorus.
“Love The Way You Lie” sold over twelve million copies in the US and is one of Rihanna’s biggest songs ever released. It won a myriad of music awards and also gained five Grammy nominations.
All of The Lights (feat. Kanye West)
Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
In total, over fourteen artists lent their voices to this masterpiece of a song from Kanye West’s 2016 monster album. Some of these included Elton John, Alicia Keys, Drake, and John Legend. Yet, it’s Rihanna who sings the hook, and that should already tell you everything you need to know.
Rihanna was played the song by West while he was busy with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. She noted that “All Of The Lights” was one of her favorites.
Subsequently, she was phoned and asked by Kanye to come to the studio at two in the morning to record her part. According to an interview with MTV in 2010, Rihanna could not refuse “… I had to because I loved it. I knew it was that song.”
Cheers (Drink To That)
This song is chilled and elated at the same time. It contains buoyancy and a laid-back vibe, and can essentially be played on any night out, whether it be a crazy or chilled one. And that’s what makes it a truly enduring party anthem.
The song revolves around using the most popular quick-fix method for forgetting one’s troubles. However, it does so without negative energy. Not something you hear too often.
“People are going to talk about you, you can’t stop that. You just have to be super-strong and know who you are so that stuff just bounces off.”
This is what Rihanna told Spin when asked about her reaction and control over public scrutiny of her life. “S&M” seems to be the bold, musical assertion that she is untouched by such things. This came just over a year after her ex-boyfriend assaulted her.
Dealing with pain…
Written by Ester Dean, “S&M” features some intoxicating instrumental hooks, but nothing stands up to those super-distorted bouncy-sounding keyboards. This one makes everyone in the club get excited, no matter what mood they’re in.
“S&M” reached #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Another version featuring Britney Spears was released, which was also a massive commercial success. Aside from the US, the song was a #1 hit in ten countries.
“S&M” has been certified quintuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and sextuple platinum in Australia.
Written by Sia, “Diamonds” is a song that you wouldn’t consider for anthem status when you hear the recipe on paper. A mid-tempo sort of somber-sounding song that gives the impression of reaching further than one has been told one can get to.
This low-key power ballad came in the wake of a string of EDM, Rap, and Hip-Hop influenced hits which also played a lot on her status as one of the world’s biggest sex symbols. Despite that, the song has become a titanic piece of music.
“Diamonds” was an international hit topping the charts in over twenty countries and became Rihanna’s twelfth #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. Furthermore, this tied her with Madonna for the fifth-most #1 chart songs in history.
Umbrella (feat. Jay-Z)
Album: Good Girl Gone Bad
Rihanna fans were probably thanking Britney Spears and her management for turning down this absolute mega-hit. As a result, it landed on Rihanna’s doorstep, and boy did she run with it. This is the one that got her into the big leagues and is the most successful Rihanna song ever.
Using a heavy Rock n Roll foundation and combining it with a full-on R&B hook was an idea that came so far out of left field that it simply had to work. So, when Rihanna laid down the somewhat cheesy lyrics, everyone in the mixing room could hear the weight of what was being created.
“Umbrella” earned Rihanna and Jay-Z a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, in addition to nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The song topped the charts in Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
We Found Love (feat. Calvin Harris)
What’s My Name? (feat. Drake)
Stay (feat. Mikky Ekko)
Don’t Stop the Music
Take a Bow
Kiss It Better
Bitch Better Have My Money
Pon De Replay
Love on the Brain
Pour It Up
Umbrella (feat. Jay-Z)
Shut Up and Drive
Cheers (Drink to That)
Cockiness (Love It)
Birthday Cake (feat. Chris Brown)
You Da One
Wild Thoughts (with DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller)
Lemon (with N.E.R.D)
All of the Lights (with Kanye West)
FourFiveSeconds (with Paul McCartney and Kanye West)
Selfish (with Future)
Love the Way You Lie (with Eminem)
Loyalty (with Kendrick Lamar)
Consideration (feat. SZA)
Break It Off (feat. Sean Paul)
Princess of China (with Coldplay)
Famous (with Kanye West)
Hate That I Love You (Remix) (feat. David Bisbal)
Work (feat. Drake)
Only Girl (In the World)
Want to Find More Awesome Songs?
We have you covered. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best John Legend Songs of All Time, the Best Mary J. Blige Songs of All-Time, the Best Sia Songs of All Time, the Best Alanis Morissette Songs of All Time, and the Best Kanye West Songs of All Time for more great song selections.
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Best Rihanna Songs of All Time – Conclusion
“Pon De Replay” represents the beginning of a musical storm that would eventually conquer the entire world. Yet, when you listen to every single track that Rihanna has released and sung on since, you see that she retains the same soul, one which is teeming with delicate beauty and fierce power.
When you see her perform this one live now, you can see she is not planning on letting that spirit go, and it brings joy to your heart.
Until next time, happy listening.