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A glance over some of the best pop songs of the new millennium could also effectively function as a list of the best Rihanna songs. With eight studio albums and 14 years of indelible hits under her belt, Bad Girl RiRi has become a cultural cornerstone, a bona fide icon who has soundtracked the better part of a generation.

While juggling a burgeoning career in Hollywood, acting as muse for the fashion world, launching and overseeing a hugely successful beauty brand, and being a social media savage (let alone continual meme-fodder) on top of her career mark her as a true multi-hyphenate, Rihanna’s music has always conveyed multitudes. Never is this more apparent than when ranking her catalogue – how, for instance, can one possibly compare a hedonistic club-stomper like “We Found Love” to a gut-wrenching emotional ballad like “Stay” to a darkly futurist take on soul like “Needed Me?”

So in compiling this list of the best Rihanna songs, we strove not to judge one classic against another, but to orderly assemble which Rihanna songs were the most Rihanna, the tracks that bolstered our inner sense of being a bad bitch with style, grace, and profound feeling.

These are the 25 Best Rihanna Songs:

25. “Where Have You Been”

Every pop star has that ONE song that gets everyone clapping in sync at the club and this is Rihanna’s. – S

24. “Diamonds”

Rihanna knows her worth and nobody will dim her shine. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen by her as a lover, she’ll make you feel valuable too. – S

23. “Disturbia”

Ri delivered the drama with “Disturbia,” taking a dark new direction that didn’t even need a spooky music video to drive that point home. Claustrophobic, anxious lyrics are paired with a relentlessly floor-stomping beat; paranoia has rarely sounded more enticing. – J

22. “Man Down”

Rihanna delivering classic dancehall will forever be the perfect summer vibe. This gem from Loud packs a serious emotional wallop by song’s end, finishing with a gorgeous falsetto coda. We knew it before but it bears repeating – girl’s got the range. – J

21. “SOS”

New wave classic “Tainted Love” got an extreme makeover on this early Rihanna essential. It’s no game-changer, but its ability to wholly jam your brain’s pleasure center is the sort of quality pop stars can spend a life time chasing. Ri got it downpat barely two albums in. – J

20. “Pour It Up”

The accompanying music video is one of the best things that Rihanna has ever done, period. As for the song itself, Rihanna reminds everyone that she’s a big spender and has the leverage to do whatever the fuck she wants with all of her money, honey. – S

19. “Drunk on Love”

In case you need a reminder that Rihanna can seriously belt when she wants to. The xx’s beloved track “Intro” becomes exponentially more bombastic in her hands, dripping with the rush of her heart on the sleeve yearning. – J

18. “Birthday Cake”

Because it’s delicious and we all know it, no need to say more. Smooches! – S

17. “Sex With Me”

There’s honestly nothing better than a self-love anthem that boasts your Grade A skills in the bedroom. Whether or not you have a partner at this current time, RiRi would definitely encourage you to practice safe masturbation while dripping in SAVAGE X FENTY. – S

16. “Love on the Brain”

In which Rihanna tries out an old school doo-wop number and knocks it out of the park, solidifying her status as a diva for all occasions – slow dancing in the living room with boo included. – J

15. “Higher”

Ask any man about how ANTI impacted their lives and I guarantee they’ll get choked up talking about this track. The way that Rihanna’s voice cracks in the chorus could kill a man on the spot. If your ex isn’t drunk dialing you and profusely apologizing with this much passion in their voice, hang up and put them on block. – S

14. “Kiss It Better”

A clear-eyed kiss off laced with Prince-esque guitars that is somehow not even the best song on the hit-laden ANTI, “Kiss It Better” could earn a place on this list for the venomous delivery of the line “Man, fuck your pride” alone. A true anthem for scorned lovers everywhere. – J

13. “Stay” ft. Mikky Ekko

Yes, we know she’s a savage and a beast. But Rihanna completely turned the tables and obliterated our feels with this quietly devastating ballad. “Stay” is a testament to the power that comes in vulnerability, and Ri has never let us in to this extent, either before or since. – J

12. “What’s My Name?” ft. Drake

Once upon a time, Rihanna and Drake made duets together and the world was a better place. RIP to wholesome memories from 2010 before we all found out that the friend zone is a toxic trap that has no place in our lives. This track also marks the moment where Drake invented math with his fun fact about the square root of 69… nice. – S

11. “Don’t Stop the Music”

A classic club cut about keeping the party going is hardly breaking new ground in pop music, but Rihanna managed to wring new pleasures out of the the age-old adage from the sheer quality of her melody (that and an ingenious interpolation of Thriller-era MJ). There is no way this you aren’t still getting turnt to this song. – J

10. “Same Ol’ Mistakes”

Of the many surprises that awaited us when Rihanna first dropped ANTI, the biggest was surely this extremely casual Tame Impala cover. Indie fans were aghast that she was audacious enough to lift the track with singer Kevin Parker’s backing vocals still intact, but they failed to grasp what was obvious from the get-go: this is how the song should have sounded all along. – J

9. “Pon de Replay”

The one that started it all. Rihanna’s arrival on the pop music scene was heralded by the massive, massive beat of “Pon de Replay,” a globular, fast-paced thumper that’s impossible to ignore in any setting. Ri strides it with skill, acting as a holy vessel for all our dancefloor dreams. – J

8. “Only Girl (In the World)”

Loud was the phase where Rihanna gave us catchy Top 40 club bangers that were often overplayed, but never under-appreciated. All she wants on this song is to be prioritized, is that really too much to ask of a partner? I think not! – S

7. “S&M”

Shoutouts to Rihanna for raising awareness about BDSM and using her platform to break the stigma surrounding it! The music video was even banned in some countries because the presence of a nude Rihanna was too risqué for some cultures to handle, so she was really pushing outside of everyone’s comfort zones during this era of her career. In a 2010 interview, Rihanna told Spin that the lyrics weren’t intended to be taken “too literally,” but the chorus couldn’t be more direct: “’Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it/ Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it/ Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.” Say it loud and proud, girl! – S

6. “Bitch Better Have My Money”

There’s a saying about how the best revenge is your paper, and Rihanna applied that advice here as she went in on an accountant that caused her to drop from $11 million to $2 million and file for bankruptcy in 2009, along with an accounting firm that she sued for mismanaging her finances in 2012. As of 2018, RiRi’s net worth is estimated at $260 million. – S

5. “Needed Me”

Here is Rihanna reminding a man that the only thing he’s good for is sexual pleasure – if he can even fulfill that requirement. Do heed the warning, “Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage?” – S

4. “We Found Love” ft. Calvin Harris

I’m pretty sure that this is the song that made Calvin Harris’ career take off, but please correct me if I’m wrong! You couldn’t go anywhere in public without hearing it on blast whether the setting was a suburban mall or a grimey club. The accompanying visual is also peak Tumblr during its glory days. Anyway, this is a timeless bop with a message that will resonate for all of eternity. – S

3. “Work” ft. Drake

There’s catchy pop songs, and there’s Rihanna’s “Work,” a track that has notched over a billion views and streams in the span of a few years. As triggering as it may be for some listeners to revisit, “Work” represents the platonic ideal of a Ri song: a flirty, summertime dance bop that wears its Caribbean and dancehall influences on its sleeve. And Drake somehow manages to top his previous efforts at cringeworthy one-liners (refusing to choose your identical twin over you is 6 God romance at its finest). – J

2. “Umbrella” ft. JAY-Z

There’s little left unsaid about “Umbrella,” a song that is so enshrined in our conscious that it’s difficult to imagine a time where it didn’t exist. Over ten years after its release (!) it still sounds remarkably fresh, its percussive beat a timeless foundation for Rihanna’s huge melodic hooks. Not since the Weather Girls has rain been such a totemic force of intimacy. – J

1. “Rude Boy”

It takes a special kind of swagger to successfully pull off rhyming “want want want” with “want want want,” but that’s essentially Rihanna in a nutshell. In a career full of iconic beats, the seductive sprawl of “Rude Boy” has yet to be matched, offering a captivating canvas for Rihanna to let said swagger blossom into the epitome of carnal desire. Is there another song in pop music history that so coyly tackles the subject matter of making sure your partner’s package is both big and hard enough? No where else on her discography does the moniker Bad Girl RiRi feel as fitting or justified. – J

Next up; here’s 25 of the best Drake songs of all time.

  • Words: Sydney Gore & Jake Indiana
Music Editor
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