Rihanna’s 7 Best Videos: Shut Up And Watch

By: John Hamilton / November 9, 2012

Fasten your seatbelts, pop fans: Pop’s fierce ruling princess (and quite possibly the hardest working woman in showbiz) Rihanna is set to begin an unprecedented promo blitz for her new album, the intriguingly-titled Unapologetic. The centerpiece of this international media blowout will be the week-long, seven-country 777 Tour, commemorating seven years of the “SOS” starlet’s international pop dominance. That’s an exhausting travel schedule even for notorious workhorse Rihanna, but we’re all for sticking to a numerical theme! We just hope she takes seven days off when it’s over. (Not likely.)

With Unapologetic‘s first video on its way (and, judging from leaked photos, the clip for the current Top 10 hit “Diamonds” promises to be a fiery, post-apocalyptic epic), we’re taking a look back at the Barbadian beauty’s most iconic visuals. Staying on-theme, we’ve chosen seven of them — one from each year that the singer has wowed us. This was no easy task, considering the “S&M” diva seems to release a new single or collaboration every two weeks.

But We think the list below succinctly captures Rihanna’s transformation from dewy pop ingénue to A-list glamazon, with a few interesting stops along the way. But of course, we’d love to know which videos you think have defined Rihanna most in her brief-but-brilliant career so far. Post your suggestions in the comments!

“SOS” (2006): Of the three distinct videos that were filmed for Rihanna’s first #1 smash, we prefer this foliage-festooned performance. Why? Because it perfectly frames the fresh young talent as a force of nature. Also, because we get a charge from one of the YouTube comments regarding the clip’s obvious Nokia shill: “OMG! That cell phone is such a dinosaur. LoL.”

“Shut Up and Drive” (2007): Yes, the Good Girl Gone Bad era gave Rihanna her second and third #1 hits,   “Umbrella” and “Take a Bow,” but both of those videos were, well, kind of pedestrian. Proving that sometimes the lower-charting songs are more interesting than the hits, “Shut Up and Drive” features a hot-pants-wearing RiRi in a wacky chop-shop in Prague, getting all Grease-y on a gold-plated Ford Sierra with a colorful troupe of backup dolls. Pure class!

“Disturbia” (2008): This twisted house jam seemed to come out of left field, showing that the often-sunny Ms. Fenty could convincingly pull off “dark n’ edgy” when she felt like it. (Future hits “Russian Roulette” and “Man Down” would prove to be even darker.) Beat-heavy and bizarre, it features a sassy Rihanna vamping and growling through some sort of dungeon, wrestling in bondage and molesting a mannequin. All in all, more exciting than the Shia LaBeouf movie that inspired it!

“Hard” (2009): Melina Matsoukas, who previously turned out striking videos for Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue, delivered a rather bold call-to-arms that perfectly captured Rihanna’s attitude in the months following her very public break-up with Chris Brown: strong, defiant and unbowed. Military scenes are offset with provocative, sometimes campy imagery in a way that recalls Grace Jones, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and ’90s cult flick Tank Girl, with Rihanna ultimately asserting herself as one not to be fooled with.

“Rude Boy” (2010): Although we loved most of what Rihanna churned out in 2010 — a very productive year that gave us the lesbi-riffic single “Te Amo,” the huge Eminem duet “Love the Way You Lie,” further #1 hits “Only Girl (In the World)” and “What’s My Name” and the appropriately cheesy Doritos-and-David-Guetta collaboration “Who’s That Chick,” we’re giving our props to the ’80s-inspired “Rude Boy.” As wild as a Basquiat painting and more colorful than one of Bill Cosby‘s sweaters, its electrifying blend of animation and sex still strikes us as the essence of fun pop.

“We Found Love” (2011): Again teaming with Matsoukas, Rihanna delivered an arresting performance as a young woman caught in a heady whirlwind of sex, drugs and anti-social mischief with her hunky video beau, dreamboat boxer Dudley O’Shaughnessy. With more than a nod to the movie Trainspotting, this clip was named MTV’s Video of the Year, but was deemed by many to be a dangerous influence on young viewers. Probably because of that scene with the shopping cart — those things are deadly.

“You Da One” (2011): We started this list with the intention of naming one video for every year, but we couldn’t ignore the lovely clip for this Dr. Luke-produced single from the tail end of 2011. Despite the song’s somewhat understated tempo (and chart placing), the video’s black and white scenes of a a bewigged Rihanna covered in geometric shadows are images forever glued in the RiRi scrapbook of our hearts.