This week, it was announced that contemporary R&B/pop singer Rihanna has signed with Jay-Z’s RocNation label, leaving her stomping ground Def Jam – home to her first seven albums. Even so, it was also reported by billboard.com that Rihanna’s upcoming album would still be Def Jam distributed upon its release. This both closes and opens a chapter of the diva’s career. The news referencing Rihanna’s status as an artist, as opposed to her extracurricular activities beyond her music (i.e. that nude photo shoot on the roof and generally unpredictable behavior), made this dedicated fan (since Music of the Sun dropped bay-bay), choose one favorite single from each of her seven albums. Yes, I cheated and included two from Good Girl Gone Bad, which was re-released with bonus tracks of course!
“If It’s Lovin’ That You Want”
Music of the Sun
http://youtu.be/hD5MRBzY1uM “Pon de Replay” was the big hit – rightfully so – but it was “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” that truly tickled my fancy. Sure, Music of the Sun is among my least favorite Rihanna albums (looking back), but this joint was one of the shining moments from a rising star.
A Girl Like Me
http://youtu.be/rp4UwPZfRis The original allure of Rihanna’s second album was “S.O.S.”, a superb joint that gave the artist her first number one. As good as it was, “Unfaithful” shows more maturity than Rihanna had shown previously. Her unique tone truly makes this ballad “shine bright like a diamond” (catch that “Diamonds” reference?).
Good Girl Gone Bad
http://youtu.be/CvBfHwUxHIk Rihanna’s best album was loaded with hit after hit. That said the main attraction “Umbrella” still stands tallest from my perspective. From Jay-Z’s brief but memorable rap (“No clouds in my storms”), to the irresistible gimmickry repetition of the chorus (“Under my umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh…”), and the sensational production, “Umbrella” is a contemporary R&B classic all by itself.
“Take A Bow”
Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded
http://youtu.be/J3UjJ4wKLkg Three additional tracks graced Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded: “Disturbia”, “Take a Bow”, and a remix of Maroon 5’s “If I Never See Your Face Again” that featured the singer. While all three were worthwhile, the balladry of “Take A Bow” once more showed Rihanna’s abilities beyond catchy dance-pop; it showed an extension of her artistry. Much like “Unfaithful” from A Girl Like Me, “Take A Bow” finds Rihanna’s unique voice delivering a truly beautiful, nuanced performance by all means.
http://youtu.be/ZQ2nCGawrSY Rihanna’s first album on the ‘dark side’, Rated R, is arguably my favorite; it marked a clear departure from family-friendly artist to one firmly ‘all grown up’. While the edginess of singles like “Hard” (featuring Young Jeezy) appealed hardcore, as did the catchiness of number one hit “Rude Boy”, first single “Russian Roulette” truly struck a chord. “Russian Roulette” wasn’t nearly as overt as “Hard”, but there is still a chilling nature about the track overall. The gunshot literally puts a ‘cap’ on it – or rather ‘in it’.
“Only Girl (In the World)” / “What’s My Name”
http://youtu.be/pa14VNsdSYM Something that shocked me about the album Loud was that it managed to be nominated for album of the year at the Grammys – Rihanna’s only AOTY nomination to date. Personally, this was one of her weaker albums in my book, and choosing a favorite that eclipses another solid track is basically like a crapshoot. So, I’ll go with a draw between “Only Girl (In the World)” and “What’s My Name”. Still, it could’ve been “Raining Men” (featuring Nicki Minaj) or “Cheers (Drink To That)”. http://youtu.be/U0CGsw6h60k
“You Da One”
Talk That Talk
http://youtu.be/b3HeLs8Yosw First, let me give an honorable shout out to “Birthday Cake”, which is nothing short of epic. Again going against the grain – yes that means not picking a sensational “We Found Love” – I chose opening track and single “You Da One”. The tempo was slower, yet not in the ballpark of her ballads by any means. Sure the Dr. Luke assisted joint has sex written all over it, but Rihanna sells the “you know” right out of it. The raunchy “Cockiness (Love It)” wasn’t far behind btw.
http://youtu.be/lWA2pjMjpBs Initially, with “Diamonds”, I had the Katy Perry “Roar” syndrome, in which I felt the single initially was too conservative for an artist who had grown as bold as Rihanna. But as I continued to listen and hear “Diamonds” blow up, well I was on the bandwagon too. Unapologetic as an album has plenty of boldness as the title and cover suggests, but to hear Rihanna sort of ‘take it back’, well, it’s a nice departure.