Rihanna’s 14 #1 Singles: Revisited, Reviewed & Ranked
While Rihanna first danced onto the airwaves in 2005, with a sun-dappled smash called “Pon de Replay,” her jaw-dropping streak of chart-topping singles began when “SOS shot up to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in springtime 2006. Ten years later, she’s currently at the top once again, for the 14th time, with the effectively catchy “Work.”
In fact, by hitting #1 on the Hot 100 with “Work,” Rihanna finds herself now in third place for artists with the most chart-topping songs on the main singles chart — behind only the Beatles (who have 20) and Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey (who are tied with 18 each). And like those three aforementioned acts, 28-year-old Robyn Rihanna Fenty has truly become a musical legend in her own time.
Join us in celebrating this eight-time Grammy winner’s slaying of the pop charts by revisiting each and every song she placed at #1 over the past decade. We’ve reviewed them all now in hindsight, and ranked them according to their overall RiRi-ness.
Flip through and see if you agree with how we ordered your Rihanna favorites!
14. “S&M” (featuring Britney Spears) Year: 2011 Stay At #1: 1 week
I’m all for female artists collaborating, but it’s hard to get off to what was once a great song when you spend most of it cringing. Bless our beloved little Louisiana swamp rat, but someone programmed the Britbot somewhere between “head cold” and “more robo-disinterested than usual” when shady label execs shoehorned her in here.
One can imagine — if one imagines such things — that sex with Rihanna would be both dangerously thrilling and thrillingly dangerous. Britney, on the other hand… — JONATHAN RIGGS
13. “The Monster” (Eminem featuring Rihanna) Year: 2013 Stay At #1: 4 weeks
While not as impeccably executed as the previous Em and Ri collab (more on that further up the list), the pop-glossed “The Monster” is, in many ways, catchier, thanks to Eminem’s clever, cutting, rapid-fire lyrics. Rihanna’s hook, especially, lives up to the title, clawing into your psyche along with its eerie attendant sing-whistling.
It’s cool, too, that the superstars share more equal footing this go-round, but it’d be nice to see an even more balanced collaboration next time. “Islands in the Stream 2016,” anyone? — JONATHAN RIGGS
12. “SOS” Year: 2006 Stay At #1: 3 weeks
“SOS” was the first single from Rihanna’s 2006 sophomore album A Girl Like Me, and it went a long way in announcing the singer as a broader R&B-pop presence after her dancehall minded debut Music Of The Sun introduced her to the world. Gone were the hints of her Barbadian accent and Caribbean slang. In their place was a diamond-crafted pop song set to production based off of Soft Cell‘s early ’80s ear worm “Tainted Love.”
Is it Rihanna’s best #1 hit? Probably not. But it was the first of them, and without it, there would be no “Umbrella,” “Only Girl (In the World)” or “We Found Love.” “SOS” was a palette-cleansing for Rihanna’s career, a song that set her up to be one of the biggest pop acts in the world. — PATRICK BOWMAN
11. “Work” (featuring Drake) Year: 2016 Stay At #1: 5 weeks
Last year was an interesting one for Rihanna. While the world was anxiously awaiting the birth of her eighth studio album ANTI, the leader of the Navy was still searching for her single. Several came and went with no significant, sticking buzz. It seemed as though the artist who always had the hits couldn’t find one after such a pregnant pause in her musical career. And then “Work” arrived.
While Ri was previously tinkering with new sounds that could arguably be described as ill-fitting, “Work” was a healthy combination of New Rihanna and Signature Rihanna. A Drake feature didn’t hurt, as the two made magic over a Caribbean-skewed track. When it first dropped, critics were skeptical, feeling like it was a rehashed formula. However, the fans latched on and the reach of the song continues to build. It’s her 14th #1, has made its way comfortably into the meme and Vine world (even Elmo is dancing to it) and paved the way for the long-awaited release of ANTI. How’s that for putting in “work”? — KATHY IANDOLI
10. “Love The Way You Lie” (Eminem featuring Rihanna) Year: 2010 Stay At #1: 7 weeks
The biggest hit of Eminem’s career, “Love the Way You Lie” throbs with passion and pain. It’s a shame, though, that the Eminem-centric original overshadowed sequel “Love the Way You Lie (Part II),” which gives more voice to Rihanna’s voice and perspective. Taken together, they paint a powerfully rounded portrait of domestic violence and what makes people stay long past the point of safety.
This is the rare cut that could have a life-changing impact, whether you’re casually listening or hanging on every single word. — JONATHAN RIGGS
9. “Live Your Life” (T.I. featuring Rihanna) Year: 2008 Stay At #1: 6 weeks
Due to the sampling of O-Zone‘s 2003 song “Dragostea Din Tei,” made famous by this guy, T.I.’s “Live Your Life” felt like the peak of the many times late aughts pop music tried cynically to co-opt an internet meme for a zeitgeist-y shortcut to relevance. But then the stink of novelty wears off, and you realize it might be one of the best hip hop/pop songs of the last decade.
Besides Tip being in classic, cocky form (“I’m the opposite of moderate / Immaculately polished with / The spirit of a hustler / And the swagger of a college kid”), listen RiRi’s rendering of that hook: Listen to how she bends the melody of “Dragoestea Din Tei” to her liking, the way she commands the chorus “Just Live Your Life” with an insouciant arrogance, using her Barbadian twang to purr, “You steady chasin’ that payy-puhhh.”
When people think of this song, they don’t think of T.I.; they think of Rihanna performing it for the first time at the 2008 VMAs, looking and sounding like the coolest motherfucker alive. — PATRICK BOWMAN
8. “Disturbia” Year: 2008 Stay At #1: 2 weeks
Despite being co-written by Chris Brown, “Disturbia” is the Halloween party hotness. It prefigured the darker style and direction A Girl Like Ri would take going forward. But don’t take my word for it; in 2008, Yahoo! Answers asked, “Is Rihanna’s ‘Disturbia’ the best dance song since ‘Thriller’?” “Well it’s certainly the best dance song I’ve heard since I got that CD of nothing but yo momma moanin’ and screamin’,” wrote user Brandon Y. “That’s right, I went there.”
Bum bum be-dum, bum bum be-dum bum, y’all! — JONATHAN RIGGS
7. “Take A Bow” Year: 2008 Stay At #1: 1 week
Usually cooler than Candyland’s Queen Frostine, Rihanna has never sounded warmer than on this surprisingly tender kiss-off to an unfaithful lover. In a world of dumb “No, you’re dumped, bitch!” dubsteppery, “Take a Bow” shines with simplicity and sincerity.
Anyone who’s had a broken heart can appreciate Rihanna’s clear-eyed closure masking — mostly — her sadder-but-wiser wounded vulnerability. It’s no small feat that, with only the power and personality of her voice, she manages to be convey so much. (I just wish she hadn’t conveyed the painfully cheesy “and the award for the Best Liar goes to…you!” lyric.) — JONATHAN RIGGS
6. “What’s My Name” (featuring Drake) Year: 2010 Stay At #1: 1 week
Who knew that it would take the Norwegian production nerds of Stargate to return Rihanna to her dancehall/reggaeton roots? “What’s My Name,” the second single off Rihanna’s fifth album Loud, is an amazing merging of the Euro house music production that has dominated the new decade’s pop charts and the breezy Caribbean vibes that permeated the entirety of Ri’s debut album. The understated kettle drum and horn synth hits, along with a leisurely beat and melody really play to Rihanna’s strengths as a pop artist, namely an unforced air of nonchalance and beauty.
Does it help that Drake throws down another in a long line of his great, corny-cool pop-rap verses, featuring a rhyme I still hum to myself in quiet moments of reflection (“Good weed, white wine/ I come alive in the night time.”)? Yes. Yes it does. — PATRICK BOWMAN
5. “Rude Boy” Year: 2010 Stay At #1: 5 weeks
Big, bouncy and brash af, “Rude Boy” is the sexiest jewel in RiRi’s chart crown: Irresistible. Ear-wormy. I-fucking-conic. The music video is a true masterpiece, marrying the vibrancy of island imagery and downtown NYC art with the evergreen appeal of erotically straddling taxidermy. Icier and more in control than ever, the Battleship commander coolly demands nothing less than the best sex in the history of mankind, over and over. — JONATHAN RIGGS
4. “Only Girl (In The World)” Year: 2010 Stay At #1: 1 week
By 2010, Rihanna was more than ready to ditch the darker themes of albums past and focus on her place in the sun with fifth studio album Loud. Dropped at the heart of the EDM movement, “Only Girl (In The World)” was an idyllic lead single for Ri, giving her a more up-tempo, brighter vibe (thanks to that incredible team called Stargate), while also giving her a great opportunity to really flex her chops. It also marked a turning point in her song content.
Considering the singer’s previous brutal public break up with Chris Brown and everything that came with it, it was refreshing to see Rihanna searching for love rather than condemning it. While “Only Girl” seemed (and sounded) like lightning in a bottle, it only spent a week atop the singles chart. However, the track was a chart-topping success in over 20 countries, further cementing Rihanna’s place as a worldwide superstar. — KATHY IANDOLI
3. “Diamonds” Year: 2012 Stay At #1: 3 weeks
So much of the singer’s discography is concerned with adult themes, but in many ways “Diamonds” feels like Rihanna’s first truly “adult” song, sung from a place of maturity and power. This elegant, elegiac gem reflects both its songwriter, Sia, and Rihanna’s adventurous musical spirit.
With little more than the repetition of a simple phrase in Little Miss Sunshine’s unmistakable voice, “Diamonds” sparkles to an emotional climax we can’t deny but still can’t explain. What does it mean — and how does it feel — to “shine bright like a diamond”? This song makes us ache to know. — JONATHAN RIGGS
2. “We Found Love” (featuring Calvin Harris) Year: 2011 Stay At #1: 10 weeks
Let’s quickly address the obvious and move on: Yes, the gentleman in the video for “We Found Love” does eerily resemble Chris Brown. Given the undertone of the track, that was entirely apropos casting.
The song, off Rihanna’s sixth studio album Talk That Talk (and Calvin Harris’ LP 18 Months), features and is produced by Harris and continued Ri’s head-first dive into dance music. She wouldn’t stick with the genre too too long, but this song did last a good solid 10 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A testament to love in the midst of chaos, the song did feel like a subtle revival of her romance with Brown, as the track suggests finding love in a “hopeless place” (which would arguably be, let’s say, following a very bitter breakup). Considering Chris Brown also appeared on a track off Talk That Talk — a remix of “Birthday Cake” — the rumor mill was churning as fast as radio was adding “We Found Love” to rotation. — KATHY IANDOLI
1. “Umbrella” (featuring Jay Z) Year: 2007 Stay At #1: 7 weeks
“Umbrella” was more than a comeback single; it was the turning point in Rihanna’s career, arguably introducing us to the BadGalRiRi we now know and love. The song was a three-way love child of Tricky Stewart, Kuk Harrell and The-Dream, but Ri arguably owned every bar as if it were her own. Jay Z’s attempt to previously A&R Rihanna into a Caribbean-tinged pop star didn’t work out as effectively as planned, so he re-focused his efforts, taking the artist under his wing and reinventing her.
“Umbrella” marked a transformation in both sound and aesthetic. The new norm for Ms. Fenty was “edgy.” The asymmetrical jet black bobbed hair and black leather clothing set a more adult tone for Rihanna and her newly pegged “good girl gone bad” tagline. When Jay yells “Take 3!” at the beginning of the song, he’s foreshadowing that the third time’s the charm.
Equal parts anthemic and sexy, “Umbrella” lasted seven weeks at #1, but the impression this new Rihanna left on us will last a lifetime. — KATHY IANDOLI
Do you have a favorite among Rihanna’s chart-topping singles? Let us know below!