Don’t Stop the Music: All of Rihanna’s 125 Songs, Ranked From Worst to First

Rihanna Ranking
Posted on 11/20/2012 at 12:00 PM

Related To: News

The Popdust Files: rihanna, ultimate ranking, unapologetic

There are times when you have to step back and just marvel at what Rihanna has accomplished in popular music, before even reaching car-rental age. (In the States anyway, we have no idea what the Hertz policy is in Barbados.) 11 number one singles, five platinum albums, six Grammys, two Video of the Year VMAs, and most importantly, a catalog of pop classics to rival (and arguably better) the production of any other Top 40 fixture of the last ten years. And what’s more—she never stops, not going a year without a new album since 2008, and filling around her LPs with countless re-issue bonus tracks, non-album releases and featured appearances

Well, maybe “countless” isn’t the right word, because in fact, we’ve counted them all, and we’ve come up with a ranked list of the 125 commercially released songs that Rihanna has appeared on over the course of her seven-year career in music. (As with our Taylor Swift list, in the case of a song recorded in multiple versions, we just took the one we liked best, unless they were specifically listed as multi-part songs).

With today marking the physical release of her seventh LP Unapologetic, we figured today was as good a day as any to roll our list out. Come see where your favorites ranked, as well as the 15 new tracks of hers we’re only hearing for the first time this week—then let us know your own ten favorites, an tell us in the comments section about your own rankings, and how we messed up in our rankings.

125. “THERE’S A THUG IN MY LIFE”

Found On: Music of the Sun

Hilarious title aside, there’s not much to recommend this somewhat preposterous ballad off Rihanna’s first album (“There’s a thug in my life / How’m I gonna tell my Mama??“). Sure the Bronx contingent of Ri’s Navy appreciate the 6 train shoutout though.

124. “BAD GIRL”

Found On: Non-Album Single

Rihanna has oft testified to being bad, though usually it’s for reasons more compelling than her shopaholic tendencies. Chris Brown’s guest verse is irritating, though not nearly as much as Ri’s backing “I GOT A PROBLEM!!” shrieks. It’s not surprising this one never made it to an LP.

123. “A CHILD IS BORN”

Found On: Now That’s What I Call Christmas! 4

Not a terrible rendition of the Christmas standard, but the production is a little low-grade and the vocal a little missing in personality. We’re sure Ri will do a mean (and significantly less G-Rated) “Santa Baby” one of these days, though.

122. “RUSH”

Found On: Music of the Sun

A throwaway banger from Rihanna’s first, and regrettably, not a cover of the early ’90s Big Audio Dynamite alt-rock classic. Kardinal Offishall shows up to yammer in the background, as he was wont to do back in the mid-’00s.

121. “PHOTOGRAPHS”

Found On: Rated R

A mid-tempo lost-love ballad that should’ve just merely been forgettable, if not for will.i.am showing up to add a totally out-of-place guest verse near song’s end. Tip to Rihanna and all other concerned: If your song is anything but a goony, robo-friendly club anthem, chances are fairly strong will’s presence will do little but bring it down.

120. “ROC ME OUT”

Found On: Talk That Talk

“I been a bad girl Daddy / Won’t you come get me?” Not the first time Rihanna has made such a point or request, but usually she does it with a little more panache than the phoned-in-sounding “Roc.” Big-sounding synths can only take you so far.

119. “HYPNOTIZED”

Found On: Music of the Sun (Japanese Bonus Tracks)

A lightweight bonus jam from Ri’s first, notably only for its subtle Eastern influence. (A Notorious B.I.G. lyrical lift or two might’ve helped make this one a little more memorable, but Ri was still more reggae than hip-hop with her references back in those days.)

118. “JUST BE HAPPY”

Found On: Promotional Release

Nice soulful guitar lick in this one, but the chorus of “Just as long as it makes you happy, if it makes you happy / Just be happy” is a little too flimsy to really stick. You could argue that the sentiment presages the “I choose to be happy” themes of recent single “Diamonds,” though.

117. “RIGHT NOW”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZd0h8ATmh4

Found On: Unapologetic

It’s been mandated that all high-profile pop releases in the 2010s contain at least one hi-NRG dance song declaring the urgency of partying right now now NOW NOW because apparently the world is gonna end tomorrow (or we’re just all going to be old by then, which is even worse), and this is Rihanna’s off Unapologetic. If she wanted to set this one apart from the “Give Me Everything”s and “Die Young”s of the world, David Guetta was not the man to enlist to do it.

116. “IF IT’S LOVIN’ THAT YOU WANT” (PART TWO)

Found On: A Girl Like Me

The super-underrated second single off Rihanna’s debut got a super-unnecessary sequel on her second album, which replaces the good-timey vibes of the original with a sinister-sounding flute hook that turns it into a second-rate “Naughty Girl” rip-off. Cory Gunz shows up for a guest verse, if you’re into that sort of thing.

115. “MUSIC OF THE SUN”

Found On: Music of the Sun

The Latin-tinged title track off Rihanna’s first is torpedoed by some cheap, dated-even-back-then-sounding synths throughout, and the song was hardly one of her most memorable to begin with. Her voice would prove a good fit in the Latin pop mold though, which would result in better songs later in her career.

114. “THROW YOUR HANDS UP”

Found On: Elephant Man’s Let’s Get Physical

Rihanna appeared as a guest vocalist on a number of second-tier dancehall artists’ albums earlier in her career, few of which have endured as classics. She helps make Elephant Man seem less annoying than usual on “Throw Your Hands Up,” but even the most devoted officers in Ri’s navy have probably forgotten about this one by now.

113. “WE ALL WANT LOVE”

Found On: Talk That Talk

A decent mid-tempo groove here, but too much seriousness and too many tired love cliches on this one. “Some say love ain’t worth a buck / But I’ll give every dime I have left.” You know, Rihanna, not a lot of people actually say stuff like that. Most people agree that love is kind of a big deal.

112. “STUPID IN LOVE”

Found On: Rated R

Great opening line here: “Let me tell you something / Never ever have I been a size ten in my whole life.” Unfortunately, the rest of the song is a mildly exhausting You Done Cheated Son ballad from an artist who’s already got plenty of them, with a chorus that’s kinda, well, stupid: “This is stupid / I’m not stupid / Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.”

111. “SHOULD I?”

Found On: Music of the Sun

Another one of the less-interesting dancehall tracks from Music, though redeemed by a solid chorus and one of Rihanna’s stronger vocal performances. Where the hell is J-Status at these days, by the way?

110. “POUR IT UP”

Found On: Unapologetic

Whatever Rihanna paid producer Mike Will Made It for the beat to this one, we hope she got her money back, since the song is a self-plaigiaristic copy of his previous beat for Juicy J’s “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” to the point where it may as well be a direct sample—and we already get plenty of “Bandz” on the radio as is, thanks. Maybe it’d be forgivable if Rihanna made some sort of “You say no to ratchet…” lyrical reference, but alas…

109. “HOLE IN MY HEAD”

Found On: Rated R (Nokia Bonus Tracks)

With Rihanna and Justin Timberlake on the same track, you’d think you had a smash hit on your hands for sure. But “Hole” ended up just as a Rated R bonus cut, because Timberlake’s contributions to the song are limited to some minimum-effort backing vocals, and Rihanna’s endless testifying to how she goes crazy sometimes is surprisingly boring (and really reminiscent of “There’s a Hole in My Bucket”—not necessarily a good thing).

108. “FIRST TIME”

Found On: Fabolous’ From Nothin’ to Somethin’

Yes, kids, there was a time when Fabolous had enough commercial clout for a Rihanna guest spot on his album to seem like a fair and equal pairing. Luckily those days are long over, so we won’t get too many more super-average hip-hop love jams like this that reduce Rihanna to an Ashanti-lite hook provider. (Thank the lord that Ja never got a hold of her.)

107. “ROLL IT”

Found On: J-Status’ The Beginning

Rather than just take the chorus, Ri gets an entire guest verse on this one, a reggaeton single from her early-days collaborator J-Status, singing “I bring the fire, you bring the heat.” Not a classic by any means, and we’d be shocked if Rihanna even remembered a single line from her cameo here, but a fun little mid-’00s flashback nonetheless.

106. “TURN UP THE MUSIC (REMIX)”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCPc9dS2C9k

Found On: Non-Album Single

One of the two I Do Yours, You Do Mine remixes that Chris and Ri released to much internet consternation earlier this year, and certainly the less notable of the two, as Ri adds little to Brown’s by-the-numbers club jam—though we’d probably like the song a whole lot more as an entire Rihanna release without Breezy’s involvement at all. Unsurprisingly, the remix got little fanfare or airplay beyond its initial controversy.

105. “NUMBA 1 (TIDE IS HIGH)”

Found On: Kardinal Offishal’s Not 4 Sale

Updating Blondie is rarely if ever a bad idea, and Rihanna was certainly a smart choice for the chorus, but we can’t help wishing the song had just been a straight cover by Ri, with maybe just a guest verse from lead artist Kardinal Offishal. Hearing Rihanna just do the hook and a brief “I’m not the kind of girl…” reference on the chorus is just kind of a tease.

104. “DRUNK ON LOVE”

Hearing that she had prominently sampled the XX, “Drunk” was one of the songs we anticipated the most off Talk That Talk. Unfortunately, the end result underwhelmed, as Ri’s “I’m drunk on love / Nothing can sober me up” chorus was pretty uninspiring, and the fact that she basically lifted the entirety of “Intro” rather than using a more clever sample that actually twisted one of the group’s sonically unique singles into something distinctively Rihanna was disappointing. Still an enjoyable listen, but it could’ve been so much cooler.

103. “SCRATCH”

Found On: Good Girl Gone Bad Live

Probably not a whole lot of direct involvement from Ri on this one, but this two minute instrumental used to kick off her live shows on the Good Girl Gone Bad tour is a pretty kickass piece of music just the same. After this one, not terribly surprising that Rihanna’s next album would kick up the Superbad Guitar quotient by several hundred percent.

102. “CALIFORNIA KING BED”

Found On: Loud

For one of the 37 singles pulled from Loud, Ri tried her hand at a more country-ish ballad, and it was the only one of the album’s singles that failed to really connect. The gambit of fixating lyrically on an inanimate object as a relationship metaphor is pure Nashville, and Rihanna gives it her all, but something about it just doesn’t click—the metaphor is too clunky, the inanimate object a little too obscure. Close enough to get Rihanna a gig at the ACMs, though.

101. “SHY RONNIE 2: RONNIE & CLYDE”

Found On: The Lonely Island’s Turtleneck & Chain

To the Lonely Island’s credit, “Shy Ronnie” really does sound like a Rihanna outlaw anthem until one of the LI guys shows up as the titular character, speaking a little too low and eliciting Ri’s “No one in the back can hear you!” and “Use your outside voice!” admonitions. The replay value here isn’t super-high, and the song has at least one fake ending too many, but Rihanna’s enunciation on the phrase “BONER ALERT!” is certainly a treat.

For songs #100-81, click NEXT.

Other pages: #80-71, #70-61, #60-51, #50-41, #40-31, #30-21, #20-11, #10-1

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