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The 20 Best Rihanna Singles

We took a look back through the singer’s catalogue of hits and picked her 20 best singles to date.




Photo: Roc Nation

15. “Shut Up and Drive”

It borrows liberally from New Order’s “Blue Monday,” and features a break that sounds reminiscent of “Planet Rock.” With that electric guitar riff and that title, you’d think “Shut Up and Drive” would come harder than, well, “Hard.” But this song ain’t no drag race against Grace Jones’s “Sex Drive.” It’s more like a Sunday-afternoon trip to the candy shop, hanging out the passenger side of Barbie’s pink convertible with Jem and the Holograms in the tape deck. And you know what? That’s all it needed to be. Henderson

14. “Disturbia”

With its thrumming EDM production, devilishly catchy hook, and a music video layered with ostentatiously macabre costumes and set pieces, “Disturbia” all but provided the model for the event-single strategy Lady Gaga consistently relied on at her peak. Along with the more obvious reading of the singer’s struggle with her inner demons, there’s also a sly joke at the expense of the censors, literalizing their unfounded fears about “immoral” sexualized pop music by turning them into a cartoon grotesquery. That the track was written by Chris Brown can only spoil the joke so much. Mac

13. “What’s My Name?”

The first in a lengthy string of collaborations between Rihanna and Drake, 2010’s “What’s My Name?” is a sleek midtempo banger that pairs dreamy synths, swirling 808 snares, and subtle dancehall influences. Drake comes on strong right out of the gate, and Rihanna doesn’t miss a beat, countering the Canadian rapper’s geeky pickups with equal parts confidence and poise. Camp

12. “Hard”

Merging hip-hop and rock wasn’t exactly a groundbreaking proposition in 2009, but “Hard” further cemented Rihanna’s reputation as pop’s premier genre-hopper. Created by the same team behind the singer’s smash “Umbrella,” the track seemed, at the time, like a bit of a retread, primarily due to its repetitive, monosyllabic hook. But while it’s only a minor hit in Rihanna’s catalogue, “Hard” is, per its title, an unrelenting declaration of power. Camp

11. “Where Have You Been”

It’s telling that “Where Have You Been” omits the implied question mark in its title. Rihanna isn’t so much asking as she is witnessing her own solitude. Like on “We Found Love,” she’s almost incidental to the song, repeating the same verse and refrain while Calvin Harris’s long instrumental passages comprise the most ecstatic parts of the track. The synth-happy chorus, in which Rihanna repeats the titular rhetorical question over and over, builds to a dubstep rave-up that’s connected by the track’s single most rapturous element: a drum fill that lasts no more than a mere second. Sal Cinquemani

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