A global mega popstar, a fashion icon, an actress, a CEO, and a philanthropist – Rihanna will sure outshine all diamonds in the sky.
We’re pretty sure that all of us are asking, “Where’s the album?” And we cannot blame you. It was 2016 when the icon released the universally loved Anti. After a couple of droplet single, we never really hear from her again.
As we wait for the next album to arrive, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look into the best Rihanna songs of all time (of course, based on our humble opinion). Some of her best songs include the cult classic “We Found Love”, “Umbrella”, “Diamonds”, “Pon de Replay”, and “Disturbia”. Check out the list to see if we got your favorite Rihanna hit covered!
Who is Rihanna as an artist?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two decades, it would be near impossible that you haven’t heard of the name “Rihanna.”
Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born in Barbados along the eastern Caribbean – an excellent explanation of the sonic influences of many songs which she released. Despite the glitz and glamor of Rihanna, we know today, her childhood was not necessarily the greatest.
At age 14, she experienced her parents’ divorce due to his father’s problem with alcoholism. During the time, music became her escape and her heavy past was a heavy lyrical inspiration. She eventually got noticed by the American producer Evan Rogers in 2003.
“The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn’t exist,” Rogers said when describing Rihanna’s audition.
She was then invited to the United States to record a handful of tracks – one of which is Pon de Replay. The song and her voice eventually caught the attention of Jay Z and his team, leading to a six-album deal. Pon de Replay was released as the lead single off of Rihanna’s debut album Music of the Sun in 2005, earning her a number two hit in the US – amazing for a debut single!
She continued the Caribbean-infused music in her second studio album A Girl Like Me, which spawned her first of many US chart-toppers SOS. However, the best was yet to come.
In 2007, she released Umbrella from her breakthrough album Good Girl Gone Bad. It topped the US charts and became a signature hit. She eventually went into a hiatus after releasing her eighth and massively successful album, Anti, in 2016.
Today, she is one of the best-selling artists of all time with 250 million records sold. She had earned 14 number one hits, nine Grammys, and a spot in Times most influential people in the world. She is the CEO of Fenty Beauty and is now worth a whopping 1.7 billion dollars.
Best Rihanna Hits of All Time
Choosing only 25 songs to feature was a near-impossible task. Rihanna has released eight studio albums, 52 tracks as a lead artist, and 18 songs as a featured artist – and a huge chunk of them are certified hits.
We chose these songs based on their commercial and critical impact, alongside our subjective taste for lyricism and sound. Well, let’s get started (in no particular order):
1. We Found Love (feat. Calvin Harris)
Let’s start off this list strong with a cult classic. We Found Love is an up-tempo, electro dance-pop track from Rihanna’s 2011 album Talk That Talk. The immaculately produced track features lyrics on “half-baked” romance exemplified by Rihanna’s repetition of the hook (the song’s title).
Nicole Scherzinger was initially eyed for the song, but later rejected it – and boy, did she miss out big time. The track, at the time of its release, was Rihanna’s biggest hit, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 charts for 10 consecutive weeks. Billboard revealed it to be the 27th biggest hit single of all time. It also topped the charts of 25 other countries!
You can jam your hearts out to this song here:
2. Umbrella (feat. Jay Z.)
Of course, this one should be a no-brainer – definitely, a signature hit. If you haven’t heard this song, you’ve probably been living in a cave… just kidding.
Featuring a big industry name Jay Z, Umbrella is surely a highlight from the equally iconic 2007 album Good Girl Gone Bad. Sonically, the song is an addicting blend of pop, R&B, and hip hop. Lyrically, it talks about how strong a bond is in a relationship (whether that be platonic or romantic is up to your interpretation).
Just like We Found Love, Umbrella was first offered to another artist – this time Britney Spears, herself. The song eventually peaked at number one in the US Hot 100. It also helped Rihanna bag tons of critical acclaim and accolade, including three Grammy – two of which are the sought-after Record of the Year and Song of the Year!
Listen to this bop here:
Read also: The 8 Best Chill Lo-fi Songs for You
Rihanna just doesn’t run out of classics in her catalog, does she?
This priceless hit is a single off of Rihanna’s seventh full-length album Unapologetic released in 2012. Unknown to many, the mid-tempo Electropop-R&B ballad track was written by the musical genius, Sia. It featured an odd mixture (but in the best way possible) of orchestral instruments, electronic beats, and heavy 80s synths.
The track talks about love, a stark departure from her darker themes at the time. It eventually topped the US Hot 100 chart as Rihanna’s 12th number one single. Aside from that, it also clinches the top spot in 19 other countries. The EDM classic is regarded now as one of the best-selling singles of all time.
Jam-along to this track here:
4. Only Girl (in the World)
“Want you to make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world” – we reckon that you’ve either heard that in your head or just plain out sang it.
Only Girl (in the World) is the lead single off of the iconic 2010 album Loud – and was actually one of the first tracks recorded for the album! The cult classic talked about wanting more physical affection from a lover backed up by heavy synths, a deep and strong base, alongside an easily recognizable electro-dance pop beat (reminiscent of what we usually hear from Rihanna).
Just like all the songs listed so far, this track peaked at the number one spot of the US Hot 100 (and was later replaced by another track from Rihanna after two weeks).
You can listen to this song here:
Read also: 10 Best Post-Rock Songs
5. Love the Way You Lie (with Eminem)
We’ll never get tired of saying that Rihanna would never run out of bops, and this one, in particular, has a strong message behind it.
Unlike the songs listed above, this track is not from a Rihanna album – it is actually in Eminem’s Recovery (2010). What gave the two an amazing chemistry is their shared experiences of abusive relationships, which was the lyrical focus of the song. The mid-tempo song featured a pop chorus backed by elements of ballad and hip hop.
The track claimed critical and commercial success, bagging nominations from the recording academy and topping the US Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks!
Curious? Listen to the song here:
6. Pon de Replay
Now we’re getting into some classic classics.
It would be a crime to not mention the song that put Rihanna on the map. Pon de Replay is Rihanna’s debut single in her 2005 debut album Music of the Sun. the lead single is a fusion of multiple genres – R&B, dancehall, and pop with hints of reggae. It’s a feel-good anthem that talks about having your favorite bop played louder.
For a debut single, the song did exceedingly well, catching the eye of critics and the general public. It received generally positive reviews and eventually topped the charts in New Zealand. It also peaked at number two in the US Hot 100.
Re-experience song here:
Read also: Top 10 Songs About Sisters
7. Don’t Stop the Music
You sure won’t be stopping the music when this jive’s on.
Don’t Stop the Music is the fourth single off of the 2007 full-length album Good Girl Gone Bad. The song is a Rihanna staple that features her signature sonic elements such as a hip-hop beat and thumping dance-pop feels.
Again, the song piqued the interest of critics, earning Rihanna a Grammy nomination. It also reached the top 3 of the US Hot 100 – pretty solid for a fourth single!
Check the song out here:
8. This Is What You Came For (with Calvin Harris)
Let’s now jump into something relatively recent – and let us tell you, the team behind this hit is star-studded!
Unlike everything listed so far, this track was released as a droplet single (basically, not a song off of a full-length album). The hit song was produced by Scottish EDM wizard Calvin Harris and written by the music pop icon Taylor Swift (initially under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg).
The track featured an EDM sound with dance-pop elements that are reminiscent of Rihanna’s earlier works – and this is to no surprise as Rihanna collaborated with Harris in Loud. To date, it is Harris’ highest-peaking single, clinching the number three spot in the US Hot 100.
Get ready to blast this song all night here:
9. Stay (feat Mikky Ekko)
You’ll surely stay for more once this hits the radio.
Ballad is not new territory for Rihanna, but this track did not fail to end up as one of Rihanna’s most emotional. It was released as the second single off of Unapologetic in 2012, highlighting how difficult it is to say “no” to true love.
The song was regarded as an album highlight by musical critics. It clinched the top three spot in the US Hot 100 and conquered the top 5 of 24 other countries. It became Rihanna’s 24th top 10 hits at the time!
Listen to the track here:
10. Work (feat. Drake)
Back in 2016, this mega-hit would be inescapable!
Rihanna paid a marvelous tribute to her heritage in this track, which served as the lead single off of her fan-favorite studio album Anti. The track blended elements of reggae, pop, and dancehall. Lyrically, it delved into subjects of working to earn money.
Despite the mixed critical reviews, the track was able to secure two Grammy nominations. It was also a commercial blockbuster, topping the US Hot 100 for nine consecutive weeks – which bagged Rihanna her 14th number one single and only behind The Beatles, Mariah Carey, and Elvis Presley for the most chart-toppers at the time.
Get a good taste of the song here:
Read also: Top 10 Songs About Working Hard
Now, let’s get back to the originals.
Do you know what made this song special? It was Rihanna’s first number one hit, giving the icon an additional boost to stardom. The song is part of the tracklist of A Girl Like Me released back in 2006. It had comparable elements to Rihanna’s debut single Pon de Replay, featuring elements of dance-pop.
It was generally praised by critics. Again, it topped the charts for a consecutive three weeks and was later on certified Platinum by the US RIAA.
Groove to this track here:
12. Take a Bow
Good Girl Gone Bad was definitely a monumental album for Rihanna, spawning hit after hit! This one’s no exemption
The song was part of the re-released of the mentioned studio album in 2008. It delved deeper into the R&B territory without losing a grasp of a pop identity. The song was considered a highlight thanks to its lyricism and sheer emotional power.
The song topped the charts of six countries, including that of the US. This gave Rihanna her third number one at the time, and another Platinum certification under her belt.
Listen to the song here:
13. Where Have You Been
This is one of those tracks that’ll surely play in your head as soon as you’ve read the title.
The track is the fifth single off of the 2011 studio album Talk That Talk. The song was written and produced by a roster of well-respected names in the music industry. Again, this track interpolated Rihanna’s most common genres of dance-pop and R&B with elements of trance, techno-pop, and hip-hop.
It was surely well-loved by both critics and general music listeners. It eventually reached the number five spot in the Hot 100 charts.
Get a taste of this hit here:
Read also: 11 Songs About Growing Up
14. Wild Thoughts (with DJ Khaled, Bryson Tiller)
Now we’re getting into the last few songs Rihanna released prior to her hiatus.
Sampling a 90s song by Wyclef Jean and Carlos Santana, the single from DJ Khaled’s Grateful (2017) surely did captivate the ears of many. It featured sensual lyricism backed by a sexy Latin beat (and acoustic guitar!).
The song, later on, topped the UK charts and peaked at number two in the US Hot 100. At the time, it became Rihanna’s 31st top 10 single.
Bop to this song here:
15. Needed Me
“I was good on my own, that’s the way it was…” the song’s first line surely summarizes the message of the track well.
Needed Me was released a single off of the well-received studio album Anti (2016). Unlike Rihanna’s past hits, this track was much more mellow while still retaining the electro-R&B flare that Rihanna is very much known for. Lyrically, it talked about rejecting love and being able to be independent.
The track became a modest hit, peaking at number 7 in the US Hot 100. It was also critically loved as it received a Grammy nomination.
Check it out here:
16. Love on the Brain
This, for sure, will give you the feels!
The song was pretty far from tracks that Rihanna did in the past. The Anti track is inspired by 50’s doo-wop with strong elements of a soul ballad. The song put Rihanna’s vocal abilities under a completely different light. It talked about the rollercoasters that is the sweet and bitter of a toxic relationship.
The song earned Rihanna her 22nd top five hits when it peaked at number five in the US Hot 100. Despite being the final single off of the album, it was still critically praised.
Indulge in the greatness of this song here:
Read also: Top 10 Songs About Jenny
17. Loyalty (with Kendrick Lamar)
Of course, Rihanna has a collab with the equally genius Kendrick Lamar.
The song was a fun highlight of the 2016 critically loved album by Kendrick, DAMN. Despite some pretty questionable lyrics, Rihanna still pushed out a bop thanks to her innate charisma. As the title implies, it focuses on the importance of loyalty and truth in relationships.
The song eventually ended up winning a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Performance.
Give the track a listen here:
18. FourFiveSeconds (with Paul McCartney, Kanye West)
This song is literally the definition of a collaboration we never knew we needed.
The song incorporated elements of folk, pop, and soul, proving yet again Rihanna’s versatility. It was released as a droplet in a single in 2015. Again, the track featured raw musical instrumentation that was scarce at the time.
Critics loved the song, giving emphasis to Rihanna’s vocal performances. Eventually, the single penetrated the top five of the US Hot 100, peaking at number four.
Listen to the track here:
19. All of the Lights (with Kanye West, Kid Cudi)
Yet again, another Kanye West collab in our list.
This song was nothing but grand – it just featured a marvelous choir studded by stars such as Drake, John Legend, Elton John, Alicia Keys, and more. Rihanna was credited as she sang the song’s chorus. The track was the fourth single from Kanye’s 2010 full-length album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
The song received immense acclaim from critics due to its grandiose feel and attention to detail. Aside from being a commercial success, the song eventually bagged a Grammy nomination.
Give the track a try here:
Read also: Top 10 Songs About Cowboys
20. Man Down
“What started out as a simple altercation turned into a real sticky situation.” This line basically summarizes the rationale behind the track – a story of a crime and regret.
The song was released as a single off of Loud, and was heavily inspired by the 1973 song I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley. The song fused elements of reggae and electropop, a few of the Rihanna staples.
The song was a modest hit, reaching the top 60 of the US Hot 100. What makes the song more memorable is its heavily controversial music video.
Watch the song’s video here:
21. Russian Roulette
The song was released as the lead single off of Rihanna’s 2009 studio album Rated R. It effectively set the sonic expectation for the album, incorporating dark and atmospheric pop and R&B ballad. It incorporated heavy synths, and even a guitar solo prior to the final chorus. Lyrically, it tackled domestic violence.
What made the song much more iconic is its music video – which is much more tense and violent than what’s expected for a pop star.
Check the music video out here:
22. What’s My Name? (feat. Drake)
We know that reggae and dancehall is a Rihanna staple, but Drake’s presence in this track makes it a standout.
The electro-R&B track served as the second single off of 2010’s Loud. The song talks about love and sexual intimacy incorporated into an EDM beat that was prominent in the album. “Sultry” would be an understatement to describe this bop.
The song eventually bagged Rihanna’s third number-one single in the US Hot 100 at the time.
Listen to the track here:
Read also: Top 10 Songs About Ice Cream
“It’s a thief in the night to come and grab you.”
From the lyrics, alone, it’s easy to see how the song continued with the darker themes that Rihanna started delving into in 2007. It served as the third single off of the re-release of Good Girl Gone Bad. The up-tempo electropop track talks about anxiety and paranoia.
The song eventually got a Grammy nomination.
You can check out the song here:
24. Hard (feat. Young Jeezy)
And we are back with another Rated R (2009) track!
The hit single incorporated typical hip-hop elements such as sharp beats and synths with a unique touch of military horns. It was released as the second single off of the said album, earning Rihanna her 13th top ten hit in the US at the time.
Jam out to the song here:
25. Kiss It Better
We will be ending this list with a Grammy-nominated track.
The song was a track from Rihanna’s last full-length album prior to her hiatus, Anti (2016). The song blended synth-pop, rock, and R&B, which is sonically reminiscent to another Anti single, Needed Me.
Despite only peaking at number 62 in the US Hot 100, the song bagged a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song.
Give the song a try here:
Ranking Rihanna’s catalog and deciding which songs to put in this list gave us a headache (because, well, she got numerous hits it’s hard to choose!), but we made it possible.
We’ve put so much appreciation to Rihanna’s song and her persona as an artist. Now, we would be shining the limelight on Rihanna as a human.
Amid the sea of pop stars, what makes Rihanna a cut above the rest is her initiative to use her fame, influence, and resources into good use. She founded charitable foundations and pursued campaigns for terminally ill children and the battle against AIDS. She was hailed as a national hero of Barbados – not solely because of her career as a pop star, but also her endeavor as a caring human being.
Joyce Ann graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies at New Era University. She especially enjoyed her journalism class and was nominated for Photojournalist of the Year. Joyce Anne loves music; she is a self-taught piano player. When she's not writing (or baking or watching documentaries), she's probably playing songs on the piano, mostly by ear.