Following her historic halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVII in Arizona last night, what better time to familiarise yourself withRihanna’s hit-laden back catalogue?
"Without her 'Stylist,' she would be NOTHING. Bad everything, and NO TALENT!" Donald Trump declared on social media ahead of the performance, and how wrong could he be?
Rihanna wowed State Farm Stadium and millions around the world during her first live performance since 2018 with songs such as ‘Umbrella’, ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘Only Girl (In The World).
If you think Rihanna became one of the best-selling artists of the last 25 years with 9 Grammys and 14 US No.1 singles to her name on the back of her stylist and choreographers, then you are sadly mistaken. With an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion, Rihanna is the wealthiest female musician in the world.
From the Island-centric early sound of ‘Music Of The Sun’ to the gut-wrenching ‘Rated R’ and the dancefloor ready beats of ‘Good Girl Gone Bad‘ to the sprawling ‘Anti’, Rihanna aka Robyn Fenty has soundtracked the 21st century, collaborating with artists such asKendrick Lamar,Coldplay,Eminem and Jay-Z and lending her talents to franchises such as Star Trek andBlack Panther.
The world was introduced to superstar-in-waiting Rihanna with the release of her debut album ‘Music Of The Sun’ in 2005.
At just 17, Rihanna landed in the upper echelons of music charts across the world with her debut single ‘Pon de Replay’, which roughly translates to play it again, reaching No. 2 in the US and the UK and going one better in New Zealand and Ireland.
It was obvious that Def Jam, newly under the stewardship of Jay-Z, had a star on their hands.
‘Music Of The Sun’ saw the reggae and dance-hall music of Rihanna’s Island combined successfully with modern US R’N’B production techniques.
The album featured Caribbean stars such as Vybes Kartel on the Dawn Penn sampling ‘You Don’t Love Me (No,No, No)’ and J Status on ’Here I Go Again’ but the standout moments such as 'If It's Lovin' You Want' arrive when Rihanna is front and centre.
A Girl Like Me
Eager to build on the worldwide success of ‘Pon de Replay', Rihanna set to work on her second album ‘A Girl Like Me’ straight away.
It continued to emphasise the Island-centric sound of its predecessor while introducing a more international chart sound to the mix.
Lead single ‘SOS’ sampled Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love,’ offering a glimpse into Rihanna’s pop future, and became her first Billboard No.1.
‘Unfaithful’, penned by R’N’B sensation Ne-Yo and Norwegian producers Stargate, placed Rihanna in ‘80s piano ballad territory, while she landed her first superstar collab with Sean Paul by appearing on ‘Break It Off’, which she co-wrote with the Jamaican rapper.
Having served her apprenticeship, Rihanna entered the big leagues in 2008 with the release of her third album ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’.
The album received seven Grammy nominations, with lead single ’Umbrella’ winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ sees Rihanna leave her early career ‘teen-pop-sensation’ tag behind in favour of a more mature sound.
To help her realise this vision, she continued to collaborate with Ne-Yo who produced several tracks and lent his voice to hit single ‘Hate That I Love You’.
Superstar producer Timbaland was also drafted in to work on several songs including single ‘Rehab’, which was co-written by and features vocals from Justin Timberlake.
However, there’s no denying the standout moments on the album. The disco barrage of ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’, featuring the clever use of a Michael Jackson sample, can still be regularly heard in nightclubs around the world.
‘Umbrella’ feat. Jay-Z, which was originally turned down by Britney Spears, went on to become one of the biggest hits of the century – one of only 362 songs to have over a billion streams on Spotify – and it isn’t even her biggest song!
Following the unprecedented success of ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’, it emerged that Rihanna was the victim of domestic abuse from then boyfriend Chris Brown, who received community service following a guilty plea.
Following this ordeal, it was unsurprising that Rihanna would pursue a darker sound on her next album, 2009’s ‘Rated R’.
Infusing rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop into her sound, this was Rihanna as you’d never heard her before.
Guns ‘N’ Roses’ guitarist Slash guests on ‘Rockstar 101’ while ‘Firebomb’ has a metal chug. Lead single ‘Russian Roulette’ is the highlight of this darker side of Rihanna, but it’s the return of her Caribbean influences on songs such as ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘Te Amo’ where she sounds most at home.
2010’s ‘Loud’ saw Rihanna return to the upbeat sound that made ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ such a success while continuing to explore her Caribbean roots on songs such as ‘Man Down’ and the exuberant ‘What’s My Name?’ featuringDrake.
Lead single ‘Only Girl in The World’ announced the return of ‘fun Rihanna’ with aplomb, later winning her the Grammy for Best Dance Recording.
The sexual nature of opening track ‘S&M’ proved controversial upon release but has proved to be the album’s most enduring track.
Rihanna has displayed a masterful knack of knowing when a sample will work throughout her career and this continued with the effective use of elements ofAvril Lavigne’s forlorn ballad ‘I’m With You’ by remoulding them into the uptempo drinking song ‘Cheers (Drink to That)’.
Talk That Talk
Buoyed by the success of ‘Loud’, Rihanna continued to embrace up-tempo songs on ‘Talk That Talk’, her sixth album in six years.
Lead single ‘We Found Love’ featuringCalvin Harris became a global smash hit and the undisputed feel-good hit of 2011, spending 10 weeks at No.1 in America.
The Northern Ireland shot video for ‘We Found Love’ became an international comedic moment when the owner of a field being used in the video requested that filming be stopped because Rihanna was wearing a bikini. Despite this setback, the video would go on to win a Grammy.
Other highlights on the album include title track ‘Talk That Talk’, which sees Rihanna and Jay-Z appear on a Rihanna album for the first time since ‘Umbrella’, and dance track ‘Where Have You Been’.
After several years of producing dancefloor-ready hits, ‘Unapologetic’ saw Rihanna lean into more mid-paced material. Introducing balladry to the mix proved a good move for the artist and yielded two mega hits.
The Sia penned ‘Diamonds’ went to No. 1 all over the world and was followed up by the sparse piano-led track ‘Stay’ featuring US singer Mikkey Ekko.
The album proved controversial due to the appearance of Chris Brown on ‘Nobody’s Business’, the pair having rekindled their controversial relationship. However, it didn’t last and Rihanna is now in a happy relationship with rap star A$ap Rocky. The pair had a child together in 2022. And after last night’s performance it was confirmed that the couple are expecting a second child.