Top 20 Rihanna Songs

2015 March Madness Music Festival - Day 2
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"Pon De Replay" (2005)

Rihanna - Pon de Replay
Rihanna - "Pon de Replay". Courtesy Def Jam

For Rihanna, it all began with the island dance sounds of "Pon de Replay." It was one of three songs included on her initial demo sent to record labels. The translation of the phrase from Bajan Creole is, "Play it again." Jay-Z was the first executive to respond to the demo and Rihanna was soon signed to Def Jam. The song was a major hit climbing to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the dance chart in the US. It also hit #2 in the UK, but no one new what a big star had been born.

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"SOS" (2006)

Rihanna - SOS
Rihanna - "SOS". Courtesy Def Jam

Rihanna dug deeper into music for the dance floor with "SOS." It incorporates a sample from Soft Cell's new wave classic "Tainted Love." Co-written and co-produced by J.R. Rotem, "SOS" was initially offered to Christina Milian to record, but she turned it down. The song became Rihanna's first #1 pop hit single in the US and also topped the dance chart.

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"Unfaithful" (2006)

Rihanna - Unfaithful
Rihanna - "Unfaithful". Courtesy Def Jam

For "Unfaithful," Rihanna worked with two other major rising talents at Def Jam. Shaffer Smith, aka Ne-Yo, wrote the song, and it was produced by the Norwegian duo StarGate. "Unfaithful" is Rihanna's first big, emotional ballad. It was inspired by the work of rock group Evanescence, and Rihanna worked with music video director Anthony Mandler for the first time on the accompanying clip. "Unfaithful" soared to #6 on the pop singles chart.

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"Umbrella" featuring Jay-Z (2007)

Rihanna - Umbrella featuring Jay-Z
Rihanna - "Umbrella" featuring Jay- Z. Courtesy Def Jam

"Umbrella" was originally written with Britney Spears in mind, but when the song was rejected, it ultimately went to Rihanna instead. The song became an instant classic. Jay-Z's rap helped earn the pair a Grammy Award for Best Rap / Sung Collaboration. "Umbrella" was also nominated for Record and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards. It spent seven consecutive weeks at #1 in the US and has sold more than four million digital copies.

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"Don't Stop the Music" (2007)

Rihanna - Don't Stop the Music
Rihanna - "Don't Stop the Music". Courtesy Def Jam

The powerful dance-pop of "Don't Stop the Music" proved Rihanna had no intention of leaving her club followers behind. The song cleverly interpolates the, "Mama-say, Mama-saw, ma-ma-kos-sa" line from Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." When the songwriting credits left off Manu Dibango, whose "Soul Makossa" was a major influence on "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', he sued both Rihanna and Michael Jackson. "Don't Stop the Music" hit #1 on the pop singles charts in many countries around the world, and it went to #3 in the US.

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"Take a Bow" (2008)

Rihanna - Take a Bow
Rihanna - "Take a Bow". Courtesy Def Jam

Rihanna worked once again with Ne-Yo and StarGate on "Take a Bow." The result was a #1 pop smash. It is a moody break-up song. "Take a Bow" was released as the first new single from the re-release of the Good Girl Gone Bad album titled Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded

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"Disturbia" (2008)

Rihanna - Disturbia
Rihanna - "Disturbia". Courtesy Def Jam

Chris Brown and his songwriting team of Brian Kennedy, Rob A., and Andre Merritt initially wrote "Disturbia" for Chris Brown's re-release of the album Exclusive. However, he believed it would work better from a female perspective and offered the song to Rihanna. The song is an intense depiction of anxiety and confusion. The accompanying Anthony Mandler music video graphically depicts the emotions with bondage and torture imagery. "Disturbia" earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance Recording and soared to #1 on both pop and dance charts in the US.

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"Russian Roulette" (2009)

Rihanna - Russian Roulette
Rihanna - "Russian Roulette". Courtesy Def Jam

The song "Russian Roulette" powerfully deals with the end of an abusive relationship. Although timing suggested that it is about the domestic abuse in Rihanna's relationship with Chris Brown, songwriters Ne-Yo and Chuck Harmony claim that is not the case, and any song Rihanna recorded at that point in her career would be seen as about Chris Brown. The icy, haunting recording received strong critical acclaim, and it reached the pop top 10.

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"Hard" featuring Jeezy (2009)

Rihanna - Hard featuring Jeezy
Rihanna - "Hard" featuring Jeezy. Courtesy Def Jam

Rihanna turned in a hip hop direction on "Hard," and she enlisted the rapping talents of Jeezy to help out. The military themes in the accompanying music video directed by Melina Matsoukas were criticized by some as trivializing war. "Hard" was another top 10 pop smash for Rihanna.

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"Rude Boy" (2010)

Rihanna - Rude Boy
Rihanna - "Rude Boy". Courtesy Def Jam

Working once again with StarGate, Rihanna returned to her Caribbean island background for the sound of "Rude Boy." She taunts an unnamed suitor in the song in a sexually suggestive fashion. The powerful, dominant stance was effective in moving Rihanna's public image away from victim status in the wake of her relationship with Chris Brown. "Rude Boy" became Rihanna's sixth #1 hit single in the US.

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"Love the Way You Lie" with Eminem (2010)

Eminem - Love the Way You Lie featuring Rihanna
Eminem - "Love the Way You Lie" featuring Rihanna. Courtesy Interscope

Singer-songwriter Skylar Grey wrote and recorded the demo of "Love the Way You Lie" based on her experiences in what she believed was an abusive relationship with the music industry. Eminem heard the song and chose to record it for his album Recovery.  He chose Rihanna to collaborate in part based on both of them having past experience with difficult relationships. The result was a powerful, critically acclaimed #1 pop hit. It spent seven weeks at the top and has sold more than six million copies. "Love the Way You Lie" earned five Grammy Award nominations including for Record and Song of the Year.

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"Only Girl (In the World)" (2010)

Rihanna - Only Girl (In the World)
Rihanna - "Only Girl (In the World)". Courtesy Def Jam

The released of "Only Girl (In the World)" signaled Rihanna's move away from the dark themes of her Rated R album. It was the first single released from the album . Rihanna herself stated she wanted to go back to making, "Happy and up-tempo records." "Only Girl (In the World)" was a #1 pop hit in most countries in the world.  However, in the US it accomplished the unique feat of reaching the top after the second single from Loud, "What's My Name," had already reached the top.  This song earned the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording.

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"What's My Name?" featuring Drake (2010)

Rihanna - What's My Name featuring Drake
Rihanna - "What's My Name" featuring Drake. Courtesy Def Jam

"What's My Name?" is one of Rihanna's most unabashedly romantic songs. It also incorporates direct allusions to sex in the lyrics. Red hot Canadian rapper Drake collaborated with Rihanna, and together they soared to #1 on the US pop singles chart after only three weeks of release. "What's My Name?" earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap / Sung Collaboration.

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"S&M" (2011)

Rihanna - S&M
Rihanna - "S&M". Courtesy Def Jam

StarGate, Sandy Vee, and Ester Dean collaborated on the songwriting of "S&M." The recording samples the synthesizer line from Depeche Mode's sadomasochism themed 1980s hit "Master and Servant." Rihanna stated that she had a personal interest in the sexual activities described in the song. Despite the overtly sexual material, the song "S&M" faced little resistance and censorship from mainstream pop radio. Ultimately, it topped the radio chart.  However, the accompanying music video was banned in some countries and flagged by YouTube as suitable only to viewers over 18.  A remix featuring Britney Spears helped boost "S&M" to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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"Cheers (Drink To That)" (2011)

Rihanna - Cheers (Drink To That)
Rihanna - "Cheers (Drink To That)". Courtesy Def Jam

"Cheers (Drink To That)" is a straightforward party and drinking song from Rihanna. It was released as the final single from the Loud album. The recording samples Avril Lavigne's hit single "I'm With You." The catchy song struck a chord with pop fans and climbed to #7 becoming Rihanna's 19th top 10 pop hit. 

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"We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris (2011)

Rihanna - We Found Love featuring Calvin Harris
Rihanna - "We Found Love" featuring Calvin Harris. Courtesy Def Jam

On "We Found Love," the collaboration between Rihanna and Calvin Harris sounds like a dance music match made in heaven. The song quickly rose to #1 and spent 10 weeks at the top becoming Rihanna's longest reigning #1 hit. Critical response was somewhat muted, but the song was an instant success with pop fans. "We Found Love" reached #1 around the world and ultimately sold over 10 million copies worldwide making it one of the bestselling pop hits of all time.

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"Where Have You Been?" (2012)

Rihanna - Where Have You Been?
Rihanna - "Where Have You Been?". Courtesy Def Jam

"Where Have You Been?" is the second collaboration between Rihanna and Calvin Harris on her album. The single is particularly notable for its accompanying Dave Meyers directed music video. Rihanna dives deeper into extended dance than on most previous videos. "Where Have You Been?" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance.

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"Diamonds" (2012)

Rihanna - Diamonds
Rihanna - "Diamonds". Courtesy Def Jam

Australian singer-songwriter Sia says that she wrote the lyrics to "Diamonds" in 14 minutes. She was called in to write words for a song put together by StarGate and Benny Blanco. Rihanna loved what she heard and was eager to record the song. The result was Rihanna's 12th #1 hit single which tied her with Madonna and the Supremes for fifth place on the overall list of artists with most chart-topping pop hits.

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"Stay" featuring Mikky Ekko (2013)

Rihanna - Stay featuring Mikky Ekko
Rihanna - "Stay" featuring Mikky Ekko. Courtesy Def Jam

Rising singer Mikky Ekko and producer Justin Parker were among the musicians recruited to work on Rihanna's album Unapologetic. The duet vocals by Rihanna and Mikky Ekko were recorded at two different locations. The song reached #3 and became the chart debut for Mikky Ekko while it was Rihanna's 24th top 10 pop smash.

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"FourFiveSeconds" with Kanye West and Paul McCartney (2015)

Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney - FourFiveSeconds
Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney - "FourFiveSeconds". Courtesy Roc Nation

This unlikely superstar trio came together for a folk-inflected singalong. Between them, Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney are three of the most accomplished pop musicians of all time. The song instantly entered the Billboard Hot 100.