Flitting from breathless dancehall to hook-laden EDM pop, Rihanna has sharpened a shapeshifting persona to become the definitive 21 st-century megastar

1. Pon de Replay

Released in 2005, Pon de Replays intoxicating mix of dancehall, reggae, electropop and Bajan Creole introduced the world to one of the characterizing daddy stellars of the last decade. One of the few of demos she had recorded in New York after being discovered by creator Evan Rogers in Barbados, the anthems splendor almost expenditure her a addressed with Jay Z, CEO of Def Jam Recordings at that time. When a anthem is that large-scale, its hard[ for a new creator] to come back from, he told MTV. I dont sign psalms, I sign artists. As it happened, he wasnt that bothered supposedly locking her in his office until she signed a six-album deal on the spot. In the end, he had a detail listening back to Pon de Replay now, its amazing how it already enclose so many of the distinct aromas that they are able to become Rihannas singles so incredible. First, and most importantly, theres the tone, a supple, perfect pop instrument that winds its method through the hymn originating both a breathless sexuality and an virtually blank recommendation in which the listener can fill in the colour. Rather than saturate every second with vocal histrionics, the anthem is let space to exhale and expand. It likewise attaches instantly back to her heritage a topic shed return to throughout her discography while continuing the DJ shoutout lyrical topic previously explored by both Madonna( Music) and Jennifer Lopez( Play ).

2. Umbrella( feat Jay Z )

Despite liberating three more US top 10 singles across two reasonably successful books, Rihannas position as a megastar wasnt cemented until 2007 s Umbrella. Even then, she was still having to lower herself to somewhat un-megastarlike practice, appearing on J-Statuss instantly forgettable Roll It exactly a week before Umbrellas US release. What Umbrella did was devote Rihanna her first undeniable, mainstream-piercing megahit, a psalm so favourite( it surfaced the UK charts for 10 weeks) that you exclusively had to say the titular word in public and wait a second before sounding ella, ella hooking talk back at you. In reality, such was its popularity that the Sun alleged it of making the constant cloudburst in the UK that plagued its reign( ahem) at No 1. Built around a strutting hi-hat and container curve co-producer Christopher Tricky Stewart found on GarageBand, which then inspired the chants other creator The-Dream to come up with the main fix, the whole happening was demoed in a couple of hours. Is conscious that they had a global hit on their hands, the pair pitched it to Britney Spearss team, who rejected it because she had too many chants to record for her Blackout comeback, and then to UK also-ran Taio Cruz who, amazingly, couldnt convince his squad he should record it. The psalm was eventually listened by Rihannas people, who were so keen to snap it up they basically swiped the psalm from for the purposes of the snout of Mary J Blige. Like all Rihannas good singles, theres no fat. Even Jay Zs lumpen, literal opening ballad cant dampen( sorry) the psalms laser-guided grandeur, that simple center mantra of you can stand under my umbrella a perfect encapsulation of emotional support. Musically, it also moved her into a somewhat rock-influenced clang one that would come hurtling back on 2009 s Rated R book with the chorus crashing in on a curve of guitars and chunky synths.

MTV
Rihanna performing in 2007. Picture: Kevork Djansezian/ AP/ PA Photos

3. Dont Stop the Music

In the midst of the EDM-ification of popping, its easy to hear Dont Stop the Music the fourth single from her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad as only another crude composite. Back in 2007, however, it was one of the first psalms by a major, R& B-leaning pop star to amply embrace what would become EDM. Elegantly created around a sample of Mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa from Michael Jacksons Wanna Be Startin Somethin( as well as some of his hee-hee ad-libs ), it stands on reasonably negligible foundations, the pounding four-to-the-floor trounce joined by pops greatest weapon, the handclap, a bit flurry of synth aftermaths and Rihannas airy vocal. Lyrically, were in familiar domain Rihannas back to asking the DJ if they might like to keep playing some music but theres something magical about how the constituent parts gel together, the slow erect of the flirtatiou pre-chorus( Do you know what you started? I just came here to party) exploding like light rocket into the chorus. Rather than heavy-handedly chucking the test at the ballad, Jacksons vocals stew gently in the background, frothing up out of the assemble of synths at simply the right moments.

4. Hard( stunt Jeezy )

Rihannas 2009 book Rated R is impossible to digest outside its context. After the DayGlobuoyancy of Good Girl Gone Bad had laid the foundations for her megastardom, Rated R via the use of stone, dubstep and hip-hop compositions was a much starker thought of her personal life, its antagonistic lyrical tropes manifesting the fallout from the assault by her then boyfriend Chris Brown. While launching the book with the ballad Russian roulette( Im scared, but Im not leaving flows the chorus) was word enough, perhaps the books true-life important turning point is Hard, a barrelling, confrontational partnerships with rapper Jeezy that takes aim at any- and everyone are seeking to take her down or come for her crown( Where them girls talking scrap? she requests ). At the time, it was a fairly outraging addition to being able to Rihannas persona, her previous endeavor at wrath and strife being 2007 s Breakin Dishes. Hards brilliance is that it showcases Rihannas ultimate manoeuvre of effortlessly scooting between genres and personas while stamping her own identity over the entire thought. When she barks no sorenes is forever and tougher than a lion over those deep, low-rumbling trumpets, you place the song in different contexts of her life, but theres too a laid-back feel to her give, the line brilliant, resilient, fan forward from 27 million said with a knowing glint. This bravado would have morass any other mainstream pa artist at that time, but Hard, like all of Rated R, is an experiment that works, sometimes strictly due to oblige of will. Hard likewise paved the method for Rihanna to become more experimental with her epitome, the lyrics clear denial of child victims narrative numerous were applicable only to her life opening up a new creative shop for her anger.

5. Fire Bomb

Pops shortcut for connoting a sense of peril is to grub as many electrical guitars at a song as is practicable and see what happens. That seems to be the case with two ways on Rated R; the Slash-featuring Rockstar 101, which in fact feels like it would be a better song without all the guitar histrionics, and the superb, should-have-been-a-single Fire Bomb. Opening with a chugging guitar riff, Fire Bomb about a formerly unstoppable affair igniting spectacularly to cinders is one of the books simpler melodic times, the hymn mostly undoing like an 80 s rock ballad, all bluster and bellying neck veins.( Those oh, oh flecks in the chorus dont initially seem to be within Rihannas vocal comfort zone, but ultimately thats what realizes it such a great singalong hymn .) Theres such belief throughout that the surprisingly stark words smack like a mallet, the sung careening through the splendid pre-chorus like an out-of-control lorry. Its crowning glory is the bridge that moves in at the three-minute differentiate, Rihannas icy monotone unexpectedly clicking into genuine despondency as she sings Baby we therefore killin em/ They couldnt handle the millionth degree before concepts get so personal you virtually need to look away( As we therefore igniting, countries around the world called the police ). A proper, hands-aloft anthem.

6. Man Down

Released less than a year after Rated R, 2010 s Loud was, even from the claim and the vibrant cherry-red artwork, the antithesis to its precedes emotional heaviness. Announcing the book to broadcaster Ryan Seacrest, she said: Im just gonna be me, precisely being normal , normal for me is raucous! Sassy, merriment, flirty, energetic. All those peculiarities were gloriously embraced in the albums result single, Only Girl( In the World ), helmed by Norwegian duo StarGate, an escapist slice of EDM with more than a travel smell of Dont Stop the Music. While Louds early singles are all gold-plated graph maulers Merely Girl( In The World ), Whats My Name ? and S& M all topped the US maps there was also pockets of experimentation littered throughout the book, specifically the Enya-sampling Fading, the erotic Skin and the albums fifth single and, inexplicably, merely real map flop Man Down. Inspired by the idea of creating a form of Bob Marleys I Shot the Sheriff from a female position, the bittersweet Man Down fuses reggae with a number of aspects of ragga and light-footed electronic signatures, generate a modern slaughter ballad( in a nifty reference to Jay Zs All I Need, Rihannas weapon is also called Peggy Sue) whose premier secure is Rum ba-ba-bum, rum ba-ba-bum, rum ba-ba-bum. Formerly again, Rihanna depicts her versatility, that immaculate pop voice now bouncing its space through the rhythms of reggae, the tumbling, increasingly frantic melodics in the connection expertly dashed off with a strong Caribbean lilt. And any lyric that shapes implement of an airhorn is immediately on its way to greatness.

7. We Found Love( accomplishment Calvin Harris )

On a roll by this time, Rihanna exhausted her sixth studio album, Talk That Talk, a year later , now amply ensconced in the hertz of book, tour, record-the-next-album-while-on-tour. The immaculate range of singles didnt seem like stopping anytime soon, with 2011 s We Found Love perhaps overtaking Umbrella as the definitive Rihanna moment. Initially submit a report to a number of lower-tier dad starrings Leona Lewis recorded it as a ballad, while Nicole Scherzinger said no We Found Loves brilliance lies in its clarity. The chorus, for example, is one amazing way We ascertained affection in a hopeless plaza repeated over Harriss joyful electronic riff. Amply ushering in the EDM wave that would crash over pop music, We Found Love is the perfect lesson of all the categories constituent parts the build, the discontinue, the fairly themes, the pared-back lyrical ornaments wreaking while continuing to allowing the sungs pure melodic fortitude to reflect through. It is also heightened by the matrimony of chant with master. Rihannas voice, her relationship travails and her ownership given the fact that she shouldnt be held up as a role model blend to give the chant, and its video, an additional rank of escapist glee. Watch any live performance of We Found Love specifically this splendid auto crash from The X Factor and you realise that Rihannas action is mostly simply a reflection of the acces everyone else plays it; careening around, limbs flailing, massive grin on your face, “ve lost” the moment.

Minimal
Minimal subtlety BBHMM. Image: Youtube

8. Bitch Better Have My Money

Burned out by the album-a-year number, Rihannas seventh album, 2012 s Unapologetic, was the phone of a singles artist mumbling her channel through another Cd in order to go on another tour. It had its moments Stay and lead single Diamonds, specifically but it was obvious situations needed to change. Early 2015 read her return with the creaky folk of FourFiveSeconds, a anthem with contributions from an eclectic selection of music idols: Paul McCartney and Kanye West boasted, while writing ascribes went to the likes of Ty Dolla$ ign, Dallas Austin and Dirty Projectors Dave Longstreth. The campfire singalong was a red herring , not just for future directions she was going in but too for the consequence the sung was ushering in a brand-new book( by this phase thered been a three-year gap between books ). February arrived with Towards the Sun, a dessert psalm from the animated movie Home, while March bought with it the boldly narked, Bitch Better Have My Money, co-produced by Kanye West. While the entire Unapologetic campaign failed to live up to that epithet, hobbled by tirednes, here was a carol that showcased a freshly energised artist whose articulation had abruptly taken on a growl of invasion and delicious bile. “There wasnt” subtleties when it comes to the meaning behind Bitch Better Have My Money; the massive echo chamber of beat allows the unequivocal words to ricochet around, have become increasingly more glowering as the song rollings on. It likewise slams harder than anything shes done since, well, Hard that final hour or so only a single clattering container clap crusading it out with an oddly detuned vocal.

9. Work( feat Drake )

Rihannas eighth book, Anti, was ultimately heralded in a year ago by Work, her fourth collaboration with sometime boyfriend Drake. Anti would feature none of the three palette-cleansing singles that preceded it( FourFiveSeconds, Bitch Better Have My Money and the blustery American Oxygen ), so the focus was on Work to glint a light on what Rihanna had been working on for what seemed like a decade. Gone was EDM, replaced instead by comfort-zone dancehall and reggae, the anthem built around a 1998 Jamaican riddim called Sail Away. Job is Rihanna at her loosest, the chants hypnotic hook provided through a sweaty coating. Every course become a rob or a slogan in and of itself( why someone didnt shape Nothing stroke me in the righteous/ nothing text me in a crisis into a T-shirt Ill never know ). Its likewise so much more than precisely that chorus, the melodics to the verses touching on a somewhat standard theme( females struggling to keep an indifferent boy glad) but reaching it feel potent again: I believed all of your reveries, worship/ You took my heart and my keys and my fortitude/ You took my mettle on my sleeve for trinket/ You correct my desire I delivered for you for foundation. Its a pity, then, that Drakes guest rap is so leaden, participate in the designation to literally necessitate the workplace( You need to get done, done, done, done at work, come over) and temporarily thwarting the whole situation. Thankfully, its good enough to withstand him, its undulating vortex a steady intoxication.

Rihanna
Rihanna performs at the 2016 MTV video music apportions in New York. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/ Getty Images

10. Kiss It Better

As an album, Anti did exactly what it needed to for Rihannas career. It highlighted the fact that she was more than just a singles artist, and it put her reference back into the music. Most importantly, it announced like these kinds of music she experiences listening to. It was in its softer instants that the book truly shone, the exemplar being the Prince-esque majesty of Kiss It Better. Gloriously epic, it opens with the sort of guitar riff youd have expected to hear Slash perform on a hilltop in the early 90 s, before brandishes of throwback R& B and soft rock. Lyrically its about the spot when you know a relationship is destructive, youve descended out, but youd quite is ready to swallow your pride and get back to some dessert, sweet lovemaking. Despite the initial conviction that Anti was short on choruses, Kiss It Betters is one of Rihannas excellent, a blooming bud that opens the way to and sways in the gust before her frustration kicks back in and that lonely guitar weep roars out again.

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