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Rihanna’s 30 Greatest Songs, Ranked

From “Pon de Replay” to “Umbrella”

Rihanna’s tossed-off vibe and DGAF openness disguise both her musical gifts and remarkable work ethic, borne out in a cascade of hits. Who knew that the young Barbadian singer behind 2005’s “Pon de Replay” would eventually sell more digital singles than any other artist (100 million–plus)? Or that she trails only Elvis, the Beatles and Madonna in Top 10s? Here, in honor of the star’s 30th birthday, we wade through that robust, history-making catalog, taking stock of her best tracks to date.

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“Umbrella” (feat. Jay-Z) (2007)

Thank Britney Spears for the song that changed everything for Rihanna: The “Toxic” singer’s label turned down what would become a megahit for the Barbadian star, transforming her into a full-fledged pop heavyweight. Co-written by Tricky Stewart, Kuk Harrell and The-Dream, the song is a unique piece of music: a song that marries a heavy rock undercurrent to vibrant rhythm guitar and a perfectly catchy R&B-pop hook. The song ended up being Rihanna’s first Grammy win and a Number One hit in many countries — but at a price. Many claimed there was a “Rihanna curse” as the U.K., New Zealand and Romania were hit with heavy storms as soon as the single topped the charts in each country.

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“We Found Love” (feat. Calvin Harris) (2010)

The original Calvin Harris demo for this rave epic floated around for months: Leona Lewis recorded a version but didn’t release it, and Nicole Scherzinger rejected it, before Rihanna turned it into a global phenomenon that topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks. “I slept on it,” Scherzinger admitted to U.K. magazine Notion in 2013. But in all fairness to the former Pussycat Doll, no one could have brought the same Technicolor joie de vivre to this big room extravaganza as Rihanna, whose near-falsetto voice summons peak-time memories on the dance floor. The chorus – “We found love in a hopeless place” – got a literal interpretation in Melina Matsuoka’s controversial video, which found Rihanna lost in a tumultuous and toxic relationship.

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