Music of the Sun: A Ranking of Rihanna’s Best Reggae Songs
Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty) has been hella busy taking the beauty and fashion industries by storm with the launches of Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty, leaving her navy of fans to wonder if she'll ever release new music again. The 30-year-old style icon told Vogue recently that she's planning to record a reggae album, which would be the first time she's done so since 2005's Music of the Sun. During a sit-down on "The Graham Norton Show" in June, fans rejoiced as the Ocean's 8 actress confirmed she was "actually in the studio at the moment."
As reggae celebrates 50 years, we're digging deep into the Barbados superstar's discography to rank all the times she nailed the genre.
Not to be confused with Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” Rihanna finds herself gushing over a guy whose mere presence gives her butterflies. Lyrically at times, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” feels like a continuation of “SOS,” but its distinct dancehall beat sets it apart.
Rihanna’s not a selfish girl except for when it comes to bae—and she’ll do whatever it takes to receive his full attention, e.g., “You might think I’m greedy, but I just don’t care.” Nonetheless, the then-budding star's innocence shines through.
A perfect blend of pop and reggae, “Here I Go Again” instantly brightens your mood. From the sunny, reggae-infused melody to the song’s relatable lyrics (e.g., “I look into your eyes and then/ My heart remembers when/ And I realize I neva gotten over you”), why wasn’t “Here I Go Again” released as Music of the Sun’s third single?
Rihanna flaunts her Caribbean charm on a well-suited cover of Jamaican singer Dawn Penn’s classic ’94 hit “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No),” putting her own spin on a beloved song in a way that feels organic and effortless.
Rihanna’s laid-back aura and heavy patois on “Cheers (Drink To That)” is the perfect soundtrack for drunken singalongs with the crew at 3 AM. Borrowing from the bridge on Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You,” “Cheers” is an instant crowd-pleaser that never gets old because let’s face it, pouring it up on the “freakin’ weekend” will never go out of style.
Rihanna salutes the late Bob Marley in a stirring cover of “Redemption Song,” which she famously performed on The Oprah Winfrey Show for Haiti relief. “Even now I listen to it when my back is up against the wall,” she told Oprah back in 2010. The acoustic ballad has been covered by several artists, but there’s something about Rih’s vulnerability that drives Marley’s point home.
The chorus on “Break It Off” is as infectious as they come. Showcasing her Caribbean roots over an electro-reggae beat, Rihanna playfully sings about a guy who’s got her “feelin’ naughty,” with the likes of Sean Paul. Released as the fourth and final single from A Girl Like Me, “Break It Off” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2007, but it remains a dancefloor classic to this day.
Fresh off of the success of "Pon de Replay" Rihanna teamed up with dancehall superstar Sizzla for the remix of his hit, "Give Me Try." On the track, Sizzle stops at nothing to pursue Rih as she brushes him off time and time again. The song is the perfect song for a flirty slow wine. While the details of R9 are scarce, rumor has it the two will reunite on a track from the forthcoming album.
Rated R arrived at a difficult time in Rihanna’s life, hence the project’s overall bleak views toward love and relationships. Buried eight tracks deep, “Rude Boy” comes as a surprise and serves as a glimmer of hope in comparison to the album’s otherwise dark vibes. “Tonight, I’ma give it to ya harder/ Tonight I’ma turn ya body out,” she commands in the second verse. On the StarGate-produced track, Rihanna gets downright dirty and calls the shots.
Don’t let the bubbly vibes on “No Love Allowed” fool you. The 13th track from Rihanna’s Unapologetic is an eerie-but-catchy tale about cold-blooded murder, with production notes from No. I.D. “Like a bullet your love hit me to the core … I’m screaming, ‘Murderer, how could you murder us?” she sings on the hook. Unapologetic is known for producing the chart-toppers “Diamonds” and “Stay,” but don’t get it twisted: “No Love Allowed” is undeniably a bop.
Years before the Barbados native reinvented herself with Good Girl Gone Bad, RiRi blessed fans with sugary sweet tunes such as “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want,” which didn’t achieve the same commercial success as its predecessor “Pon de Replay,” but quickly emerged as a fan favorite.
After Unapologetic, Rihanna went on somewhat of a hiatus before the release of Anti, but it was well worth the wait. Penned by PartyNextDoor, “Work”—which interpolates Alexander O’Neal’s “If You Were Here Tonight”—stayed No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 for nine consecutive weeks, making dancehall mainstream again. Disguised as a party anthem, “Work” is easily one of Rihanna’s all-time catchiest singles, but the lyrics reveal a woman desperately trying to salvage what’s left of a failing relationship, e.g., "You took my heart and my keys, and my patience/ You took my heart on my sleeve for decoration."
In 2009’s “Hard,” RiRi boasts “That Rihanna reign just don’t let up,” but it all started with “Pon de Replay” from the Bajan princess’ debut studio LP, Music of the Sun. Not only did “Pon de Replay” introduce Rihanna to the world, but the reggae-tinged club banger was also featured on a demo tape that caught the attention of JAY-Z, who signed the then 16-year-old to Def Jam Recordings in 2004.
Rihanna did not disappoint when it came time to honor her Bajan roots again on her sophomore studio album, A Girl Like Me. “Kisses Don’t Lie" is a gritty mash-up of rock and reggae that only Bad Gal RiRi could pull off.
The Barbados superstar breezes through “Dem Haters,” but not without dropping a few gems along the way: “Get dem haters out your circle/ Smile in your face, but all they wanna do is bring ya down.” Accompanied by Dwane Husbands, Rihanna sounds wise beyond her years on the pop/reggae hybrid as she pays her haters no mind.
Rihanna and Drake’s chemistry is hard to ignore in “What’s My Name?”—which is laced with sexual innuendos, e.g., “Hey boy, I really wanna see if you can go downtown with a girl like me.” The then-rumored couple's futuristic duet dominated the charts and even scored a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2012. But "What's My Name?" also marked a pivotal career moment for Rihanna because she evolved into her own as an artist with the arrival of Loud, and it was glorious.
Selling 8 million copies worldwide, Loud spawned the No. 1 hits, “Only Girl (In The World),” “S&M” and “What’s My Name?” But “Man Down,” which only peaked at No. 59 on the charts, is a stand-out track. Taking influences from Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Rihanna delivers a bone-chilling tale about a woman who becomes a fugitive after killing her predator, which is later revealed in the music video. “What started out as a simple altercation turned into a real sticky situation/ Me just thinking on the time that I’m facing makes me wanna cry,” she laments in the first verse. “Man Down” reigns supreme due to Rihanna's vivid storytelling, perfect reggae cadence ("ram-pa-pa-pum")—and not to mention, it’s one of her most captivating vocal performances to date.