Barbadian beauty Rihanna holds the record for most number one hits on the Billboard Hot Dance Airplay chart. With the November release of her fifth studio album, it’s the perfect time to look back at her evolutionand revolutionsover the years.
- “Pon de Replay”, Music of the Sun (2005): This was Rihanna’s first single, released when she was just 16. The song was acclaimed for its blend of dancehall reggae vocals and American dance pop. In particular, it garnered comparisons to Beyonce’s “Baby Boy,” as well as hits by Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow.
- “SOS”, A Girl Like Me (2006): For her second number one, Rihanna sampled Soft Cell’s 1981 hit “Tainted Love.” The lyrics also referenced other popular 80′s songs like A-Ha’s “Take On Me,” Tears for Fears’s “Head Over Heels,” and Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” among others.
- “Unfaithful”, A Girl Like Me (2006): The second single from her second album proved just as successful as “SOS”, but with a vastly different tone. The song is a piano-driven ballad that also features a string orchestra. The song would later appear in the video game Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore.
- “Umbrella (feat. Jay Z)”, Good Girl Gone Bad (2007): This lead single from Rihanna’s 3rd album became her signature hit, covered by artists including the Manic Street Preachers, Jamie Cullum, Mike Shinoda, the Plain White T’s, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, and plenty more. The song passed through a number of possible performers (Britney Spears, Taio Cruz, Mary J. Blige) before reaching Rihanna. Hearing it now, it seems meant for her.
- “Don’t Stop the Music,” Good Girl Gone Bad (2007): This is one of Rihanna’s most straightforward house/techno songs, and critics were impressed with how easily the singer slipped into the genre. One critic feared that “its repetitive nature as dance music may not work as well on radio,” but listeners didn’t seem to think so.
- “Disturbia,” Good Girl Gone Bad (2008): Good Girl Gone Bad was the album that just kept on giving, for both Rihanna and her listeners. This horror-themed third single from the album’s re-release was applauded for touching on the dark themes of mental anguish and anxiety. The video is a must-see, and the second video Rihanna directed herself (the first was “Don’t Stop the Music”).
- “Rude Boy,” Rated R (2010): On this song, Rihanna revisited her reggae dancehall roots, also incorporating a tinge of ska. The song was seen as Rihanna’s definitive triumph over her previous difficult relationship issues. The song was produced by Rob Swire from the drum and bass group Pendulum.
- “Only Girl (In the World)”, Loud (2010): The first single from Rihanna’s new album, “Only Girl” is another house hit, similar to “Don’t Stop the Music.” We’re expecting big things from the rest of the album.