No. 20: Rihanna Will Shelter You From The Storm

Dec 18th, 2007 // 12 Comments

rihanna-thumb.jpgEven though the song at No. 20 was pretty much an unstoppable force of nature itself.

I loved “Umbrella” from pretty much the first time I heard it on my MacBook’s tinny speakers, the way its minor-key bluster and I’ll-stand-by-you lyrics were propped up by some deeply buried synths that sounded like they’d been coated in mud that had been collecting for weeks. Little did I know then that “Umbrella” would become a pop cultural juggernaut, with the “ella, ella, ella, ay, ay, ay”; the seemingly lazy Jay-Z intro that proved itself to be crucial (the Jay-free AC mix of the song sounded unfinished, naked even); the not-half-bad but superfluous Chris Brown remix; and the weird parallels that my brain drew between the track and “Rock Me Amadeus.” (No, really.) But even though it’s been hated on by some, and even though 2007 was a year that was chiefly marked by my patience being worn thin by everyone–blog bands, bloggers, bands with bloggers in them, OneRepublic, Timbaland, Nicole Scherzinger’s endless attempts to come out with a “first single” from her perpetually delayed album–”Umbrella” was my always-one-dial-flip-away security blanket, a song that I could rely on whether I was spending my days staring into a monitor or staring out a car window. The one irony of it being so omnipresent is that I’d probably have placed it higher on my personal end-of-year list if it’d, say, stalled out at No. 20 on the pop charts and faded from the radio around mid-July. But I guess that also ties into a larger thread about music in 2007, and how the fact that it was within arm’s reach–not to mention free!–at all times led to it being slightly devalued. So maybe the fact that it’s No. 20 on our list does mean that it’s song of the year, although I suspect that my saying so will inspire howls of protest from my cohort. [No doubt. -- Sen. Ed.]

Rihanna – Umbrella [YouTube]
Rihanna [MySpace]
Idolator’s 2007 Top 40 List Of Awesomeness

  1. Ned Raggett

    I actually heard this song being sung by student workers at my job more than the original itself. Which was kinda fun for variety’s sake. (Nobody did the Jay-Z part, to my recollection.)

  2. Anonymous

    the seemingly lazy Jay-Z intro that proved itself to be crucial (the Jay-free AC mix of the song sounded unfinished, naked even)

    This is why I listen almost exclusively (and still rather frequently) to the remix featuring Lil Mama.

  3. Anonymous

    I would’ve loved to have seen a remix video with Chris Brown. They were kinda electric on the VMAs.

  4. Rob Murphy

    So, so meta:

    …even though 2007 was a year that was chiefly marked by my patience being worn thin by everyone…”Umbrella” was my always-one-dial-flip-away security blanket, a song that I could rely on whether I was spending my days staring into a monitor or staring out a car window…

    This song is/was so omnipresent, it even subconsciously (?) wormed its way in to your post about it.

    You’re 100% spot-on about the Jay-Z intro. The intro always feels extraneous — and over-long — until you hear the track without it.

    Do we know for sure that Britney was offered this track first and turned it down? Or is that maybe just an urban legend that has sprung up around the track, made believable by the fact that Britney wouldn’t know a good career move if it were on the “Today’s Specials” board at her neighborhood Starbucks?

    Also, I think this is the best video I’ve seen in years. Rihanna martial-arting the CGI’d water to keep her — and us — dry is awesome. And the director was wise to do one basic thing — keep the camera focused on the Barbadan (?) model. But, alas, the very artful sensuality makes the video somewhat NSFW [there's a nude 19-year-old in the video, fer pete's sake!], so readers would be wise to keep that in mind if they’re tempted to press play and judgmental co-workers or bosses might be around.

    P.S. This song actually rocks! Kudos for using a real band instead of simply a bunch of computers.

  5. Chris Molanphy

    Do we know for sure that Britney was offered this track first and turned it down?

    According to a recent Billboard cover story, it was (also?) offered to Mary J. Blige, which woulda been…interesting, and strange.

  6. Rob Murphy

    @dennisobell: In an alternate universe, I would like to hear that Mary J. version of “Umbrella”.

    I can’t remember where I first heard the Britney-turned-it-down story — maybe here??? — and it’s not easy to search, as googling “britney” and “umbrella” together mostly brings up a whole bunch of links to pages about a crazy woman attacking a car.

  7. Maura Johnston

    @DHMBIB: @dennisobell: there’s a mention of it here in an interview with the dream:

    Anyhooo, as the interviewed continued he mentioned to me he intially “wrote the song for the poptart Britney Spears.” He and Producer Tricky Stewart approached Britney with the song, but being the idiot she is- of course she turned it down! The Dream went on to say he “figured the song was perfect for Britney and all the drama she was experiencing at the time…it would’ve been a perfect message for her kids.” But when LA Reid heard the song, he knew Rihanna would be perfect for the song and of course Rihanna jumped at the hit…and the rest is history! Poor Britney had a golden opportunity to make a major comeback with such a hot a song but thanks to her stupidity she’s just doomed!

  8. Anonymous

    @DHMBIB: Bajan.

    I also read that MJB was supposed to have done it and turned it down. She used Chris Applebaum, who directed the “Umbrella” video, for her “Just Fine” video, though. It’s too bad neither her video or song have the same kind of magic.

  9. Anonymous

    @maura:

    The Dream co-wrote “Me Against The Music” as well so presenting the song to Brit makes loads of sense.

  10. Al Shipley

    Mary J. has said in many interviews that she wanted “Umbrella” and didn’t turn it down, but by the time she confirmed that she wanted it, it was already Rihanna’s.

    my opinion: “Just Fine” >>> “Umbrella” >>> all the other horrible bullshit written by The-Dream

  11. Rob Murphy

    @maura: Thanks for digging that up. I knew I wasn’t crazy — or at least, crazy about that.

    I’ve noted before that “Umbrella” has been covered by a bajillion different artists and “artists”, but one of my very favorites has to be the version done by Italian emo-punks Vanilla Sky, the video for which is not only practically a shot-for-shot cover of the vid linked above, but is even SFW:

    [youtube.com]

  12. HUGE_Hefner

    It’s obvious this was the song of the year.

Leave A Comment