Flitting from breathless dancehall to hook-laden EDM pop, Rihanna has sharpened a shapeshifting persona to became 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 popping virtuosoes of the last decade. One of the few of demos she had recorded in New York after being discovered by producer Evan Rogers in Barbados, the sungs grandeur almost expenditure her a deal with Jay Z, CEO of Def Jam Recordings at that time. When a sung is that large-scale, its hard[ for a brand-new artist] to come back from, he told MTV. I dont signed ballads, I sign masters. As it happened, he wasnt that inconvenienced reportedly fastening her in his office until she signed a six-album deal on the spot. In the end, he had a object listening back to Pon de Replay now, its amazing how it already contains so many of the distinct feelings that would build Rihannas singles so incredible. First, and most importantly, theres the tone, a supple, perfect pop instrument that winds its route through the psalm starting both a breathless virility and an nearly blank recommendation in which the listener can fill in the colouring. Rather than saturate every second with vocal histrionics, the carol is tolerated seat to gasp and expand. It also relates directly back to her heritage a topic molted return to throughout her discography while continuing the DJ shoutout lyrical topic previously examined by both Madonna( Music) and Jennifer Lopez( Play ).

2. Umbrella( feat Jay Z )

Despite liberating three more US top 10 singles across two somewhat successful albums, 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 immediately forgettable Roll It exactly a week before Umbrellas US release. What Umbrella did was hold Rihanna her first undeniable, mainstream-piercing megahit, a anthem so favourite( it topped the UK graphs for 10 weeks) that you merely had to say the titular statement in public and wait a second before discovering ella, ella rob sung back at you. In happening, such was its notoriety that the Sun alleged it of effecting the constant downpours in the UK that plagued its predominate( ahem) at No 1. Built around a strut hi-hat and container curve co-producer Christopher Tricky Stewart found on GarageBand, which then induced the anthems other make The-Dream to come up with the main fasten, the whole concept was demoed in a couple of hours. Aware 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 hymns to evidence for her Blackout comeback, and then to UK also-ran Taio Cruz who, amazingly, couldnt persuasion his team he should preserve it. The anthem was eventually sounded by Rihannas beings, who were so keen to snarl it up they virtually swiped the ballad from for the purposes of the snout of Mary J Blige. Like all Rihannas excellent singles, theres no fatty. Even Jay Zs lumpen, literal opening lyric cant dampen( sorry) the anthems laser-guided brilliance, that simple center mantra of they are able to countenance under my umbrella a perfect encapsulation of emotional support. Musically, the committee is also moved her into a slightly rock-influenced resound one that would come hurtling back on 2009 s Rated R book with the chorus disintegrating in on a brandish of guitars and chunky synths.

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

3. Dont Stop the Music

In the midst of the EDM-ification of dad, its easy to hear Dont Stop the Music the fourth single from her third book, Good Girl Gone Bad as simply another petroleum composite. Back in 2007, however, it was one of the first chants by a major, R& B-leaning pop star to fully cuddle what would become EDM. Elegantly erected 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 digests on somewhat minimal foundations, the pounding four-to-the-floor beat joined by pops greatest weapon, the handclap, a little flurry of synth upshots and Rihannas airy vocal. Lyrically, is now in familiar country Rihannas back to expecting the DJ if they might like to keep playing some music but theres something supernatural about how the constituent parts gel together, the slow construct of the coy pre-chorus( Do you know what you started? I just came here to defendant) exploding like light rocket into the chorus. Rather than heavy-handedly chucking the sample at the chant, Jacksons vocals stew gently in the background, bubbling up out of the cluster of synths at exactly the right moments.

4. Hard( accomplishment Jeezy )

Rihannas 2009 book Rated R is impossible to grasp outside its context. After the DayGlobuoyancy of Good Girl Gone Bad had laid the foundations for her megastardom, Rated R via the use of boulder, dubstep and hip-hop textures was a much starker reflection of her personal life, its pugnacious lyrical tropes reflecting the fallout from the assault by her then boyfriend Chris Brown. While propelling the book with the ballad Russian roulette( Im scared, but Im not leaving leads the chorus) was announcement enough, perhaps the books genuine turning point is Hard, a barrelling, confrontational collaboration with rapper Jeezy that takes aim at any- and everyone trying to take her down or come for her treetop( Where them girls talking litter? she asks ). At the time, it was a reasonably stunning addition to being able to Rihannas persona, her previous assault at wrath and struggle being 2007 s Breakin Dishes. Hards brilliance is that it showcases Rihannas eventual gimmick of effortlessly scooting between genres and personas while embossing her own identity over the entire thought. When she barks no pain is eternally and tougher than a lion over those deep, low-rumbling trumpets, you residence the hymn in the context of her life, but theres likewise a laid-back find to her delivery, the line bright, resilient, fan forward from 27 million said with a knowing wink. This bravado would have marsh any other mainstream papa artist at that time, but Hard, like all of Rated R, is an experiment that the project works, sometimes strictly due to patrol of will. Hard too paved the channel for Rihanna to become more experimental with her likenes, the ballads clear denial of the victim narrative numerous were applicable only to their own lives opening up a new innovative outlet for her anger.

5. Fire Bomb

Pops shortcut for denoting a sense of chance is to grub as numerous electrical guitars at a song as possible and see what happens. That seems to be the case with two ways on Rated R; the Slash-featuring Rockstar 101, which in fact is like it would be a better sung without all the guitar histrionics, and the good, should-have-been-a-single Fire Bomb. Opening with a chugging guitar riff, Fire Bomb about a formerly unstoppable tie-in igniting spectacularly to cinders is one of the books simpler melodic times, the hymn basically undoing like an 80 s boulder ballad, all bluster and projection neck veins.( Those oh, oh fragments in the chorus dont initially seem to be within Rihannas vocal comfort zone, but eventually thats what shapes it such a great singalong lyric .) Theres such conviction throughout that the surprisingly stark words reach like a mallet, the ballad careening through the splendid pre-chorus like an out-of-control lorry. Its crowning glory is the connection that slips in at the three-minute line, Rihannas icy monotone suddenly clicking into sincere despondency as she sings Baby we were killin em/ They couldnt manage the millionth degree before acts get so personal you almost need to look away( As we were igniting, 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 title and the vibrant red-faced artwork, the antithesis to its predecessors emotional heaviness. Announcing the book to broadcaster Ryan Seacrest, she said: Im just gonna be me, merely being ordinary , normal for me is thunderous! Sassy, merriment, flirty, energetic. All those properties were gloriously encompassed in the albums result single, Only Girl( In the World ), helmed by Norwegian duo StarGate, an escapist slice of EDM with more than a run gust of Dont Stop the Music. While Louds early singles are all gold-plated map maulers Only Girl( In The World ), Whats My Name ? and S& M all topped the US graphs there were still pockets of experimentation littered in all areas of the album, specific the Enya-sampling Fading, the sensual Skin and the albums fifth single and, inexplicably, merely real plot flop Man Down. Inspired by the idea of creating a form of Bob Marleys I Kill the Sheriff from a female position, the bittersweet Man Down fuses reggae with elements of ragga and light electronic contacts, generate a modern carnage ballad( in a nifty including references to Jay Zs All I Require, Rihannas weapon is also called Peggy Sue) whose leader hook is Rum ba-ba-bum, rum ba-ba-bum, rum ba-ba-bum. Once again, Rihanna demo her versatility, that immaculate pop spokesperson now bouncing its road through the cadences of reggae, the topple, increasingly frantic lyrics in the bridge expertly dashed off with a strong Caribbean lilt. And any carol that becomes give 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 book, Talk That Talk, a year later , now amply ensconced in the repetition of book, tour, record-the-next-album-while-on-tour. The immaculate running of singles didnt looks a lot like terminate anytime soon, with 2011 s We Found Love perhaps overtaking Umbrella as the definitive Rihanna moment. Initially offered to a number of lower-tier popping idols Leona Lewis preserved it as a ballad, while Nicole Scherzinger said no We Found Loves brilliance lies in its simplicity. The chorus, for example, is one amazing route We discovered desire in a hopeless residence repeated over Harriss rapturous electronic riff. Fully ushering in the EDM wave that would crash over pop music, We Found Love is the perfect illustration of all the categories constituent parts the build, the descend, the fairly songs, the pared-back lyrical decorations labor while continuing to allowing the songs pure melodic strength to reflect through. It is likewise hoisted by the marriage of ballad with creator. Rihannas voice, her affair travails and her possession of the fact that she shouldnt be held up as a role model integrate to give the anthem, and its video, an extra grade of escapist joy. Watch any live rendition of We Found Love specifically this glorious car crash from The X Factor and you realise that Rihannas accomplishment is basically just a reflection of the road everybody else plays it; careening around, forearms flailing, massive grin on your face, “ve lost” the moment.

Minimal subtlety BBHMM. Picture: Youtube

8. Bitch Better Have My Money

Burned out by the album-a-year number, Rihannas seventh album, 2012 s Unapologetic, was the sound of a singles creator mumbling her practice through another Cd in order to go on another tour. It had its minutes Stay and lead single Diamonds, specific but it was obvious events needed to change. Early 2015 ascertained her income with the creaky tribe of FourFiveSeconds, a carol with input from an eclectic selection of music idols: Paul McCartney and Kanye West boasted, while writing recognitions 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 also for the deduction the hymn was ushering in a brand-new album( by this object thered been a three-year spread between books ). February arrived with Towards the Sun, a sugary song 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 name, hobbled by wearines, here was a chant that showcased a newly energised artist whose articulation had unexpectedly taken on a growling of aggression and delicious bile. “There wasnt” subtleties when it comes to the representing behind Bitch Better Have My Money; the massive echo enclosure of beat allows the unequivocal melodics to bounce around, growing more and more glowering as the anthem rotations on. It too slams harder than anything shes done since, well, Hard that final hour or so only a single clattering container clap pushing it out with an oddly detuned vocal.

9. Work( feat Drake )

Rihannas eighth book, Anti, was eventually ushered in a year ago by Work, her fourth partnerships 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 gleam 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 lyric built around a 1998 Jamaican riddim announced Sail Away. Make is Rihanna at her loosest, the chants hypnotic fasten delivered through a sweaty coat. Every path becomes a fix or a slogan in and of itself( why someone didnt clear None stroke me in the righteous/ nobody text me in a crisis into a T-shirt Ill never know ). Its also so much more than exactly that chorus, the lyrics to the ballads touching on a reasonably standard topic( wives struggling to keep an uninterested person joyous) but realise it detect potent again: I felt all of your daydreams, worship/ You took my heart and my keys and my patience/ You took my soul on my sleeve for emblem/ You mistaken my passion I delivered for you for foot. Its a dishonor, then, that Drakes guest rap is so leaden, taking the deed to literally intend the workplace( You need to to get out of here, done, done, done at work, “re coming”) and temporarily derailing the whole happen. Thankfully, its good enough to withstand him, its undulating whirl a steady intoxication.

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

10. Kiss It Better

As an album, Anti did exactly what it needed to for Rihannas career. It foreground the facts of the case that she was more than just a singles creator, and it gave her attribute back into the music. Most importantly, it announced like the kind of music she enjoys listening to. It was in its softer moments that the book truly shone, the exemplar being the Prince-esque majesty of Kiss It Better. Gloriously epic, it opens with the kind of guitar riff youd have expected to hear Slash perform on a hilltop in the early 90 s, before movements of throwback R& B and soft rock. Lyrically its about the place when you know a relationship is destructive, youve fallen out, but youd quite like to swallow your pride and get back to some sweet, sweet lovemaking. Despite the initial finding that Anti was short on choruses, Kiss It Betters is one of Rihannas best, a blooming heyday that opens up and sways in the breath before her thwarting kicks back in and that lonely guitar wail pealings out again.


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