Rihanna is one of pop's biggest hitmakers, but her recently released eighth album Anti proves that she has the ability to successfully depart from that chart-topping streak to create music that is both weird and vulnerable. Not only has her chart dominance been successful, but the quality and trailblazing nature of her singles have been just as consistent. In honor of Rih's long-awaited new material, we asked our readers to vote for the 10 best songs by the Barbadian pop star. Here are the results.
The second Rihanna-Calvin Harris collaboration proves that lightning can strike twice, especially when there is a Dr. Luke-assist involved. Following in the vein of "We Found Love," "Where Have You Been" has a much harder edge, with the beats building up to the wildly satisfying drop following the chorus.
The Barbadian pop star has always thrived with dancehall, and "Rude Boy" may be the most exceptional example of her abilities in the genre. The sexy, assertive track was the perfect re-introduction of Rihanna's unfiltered and much-naughtier side.
Rihanna goes doo-wop on "Love on the Brain," which may be the most shocking genre-shift of her career. Along the way, she shows off how much her vocal abilities have grown since she began her career as a teen pop act. She shines particularly bright in the second half when she starts hitting her raspy upper-register in one of Anti's most soulful moments.
The performer's first big foray into EDM party hits was with the Michael Jackson-sampling "Don't Stop the Music." The bass-heavy dance hit utilizes the "mama-say, mama-sa, ma-ma-koo-sa" of Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin" and embraces all the hypnotic potential of the line.
Off Rihanna's eighth album Anti, "Higher" was one of the songs from long-awaited LP she previewed early via her Instagram. In full, the track delivered with its soulful tone and her bluesy, raw vocal performances. Above nothing more than strings, Rih croons lyrics such as "this whiskey's got me feelin' pretty" as if she were a lounge singer instead of one the biggest pop stars in the world.
Rihanna transitioned from the darker-themed Rated R to the more colorful and optimistic Loud with the help of the the flirty, upbeat "Only Girl." The Europop hit helped Rihanna return quickly to the charts following the more intense tracks she released off the previous album, like "Rated R" and the Slash-assisted "Rockstar 101." Instead, "Only Girl" showcases the lightest possible hue of Rih's personality and musicality.
After Harris opened for Rihanna on her Loud tour, the DJ ended up producing one of Rihanna's biggest show-stopping club hits of her career. With over 10 million copies sold, the electrifying track is also Rihanna's best-selling single and the song that helped push Harris into the mainstream as a superstar DJ. "It changed absolutely everything," Harris told The Sun in 2012. "Career-wise it was the best thing that could ever have happened. For example, in America my tune 'Feel So Close' came out about three months before. But when 'We Found Love' came out, the radio started playing 'Feel So Close' like it was the single after. Then that did really well, it charted well and sold a lot of copies."
The shimmering, Sia-penned "Diamonds" may be one of Rihanna brightest pure-pop moments. The romantic song has the singer belting over a simple drum beat and a delicately assembled combination of synths and orchestral instrumentation. In an interview with The Source, producer Benny Blanco noted that he produced the song as if "Kanye can rap on it." He explained further: "We weren't thinking of Rihanna at all and [it's] the one that turned into the Rihanna record."
The soaring "Stay" is the finest ballad of Rihanna's career, presenting a type of vulnerability that had been rarely seen in her career prior and completely embraced on her eighth album, Anti. The piano-driven song has Rihanna singing alongside Mikky Ekko, a superb vocal companion whose higher range perfectly complements Rihanna's mezz0-soprano. With "Stay," Rihanna proved that simplicity suits her just as well as club excess.
Rihanna's career has been marked by her ability to easily top the charts, but "Umbrella" is undoubtedly her most recognizable and iconic single. Joined by Jay Z, Rihanna officially made the transition from teen pop star to R&B's reigning princess with this fun, sexy single. She's also never been catchier than with the track's unforgettable "under my umbrella, ella, ella, a, a, a" of the hook above booming, joyful synth. As naturally as the track fits into the trajectory of Rihanna's career, rumor has it that the song was originally meant for Britney Spears.