Rihanna’s Most Unapologetic Songs
Rihanna has become one of the music’s biggest stars, period. She began her career as one of the most wholesome pop and urban artists in the music industry. After ditching much of her tropically-tinged sound from debut album Music of the Sun, Rihanna’s next two albums (A Girl Like Me and Good Girl Gone Bad) were filled with family friendly pop.
Post Good Girl Gone Bad, however, saw good, wholesome Rihanna fall by the wayside. In essence, the good girl really did go bad. Albums, starting with Rated R, and continuing with Loud, Talk That Talk, Unapologetic and more recently Anti, show a more mature, but also more explicit, risqué pop star. With that said, the songs on this particular playlist will hail from 2009 onward, when Rihanna truly embraced being unapologetic.
Before Fifty Shades of Grey became a guilty pleasure (at least for the ladies), there was “S&M.” By far, “S&M” has to be the naughtiest song of Rihanna’s career. What makes “S&M” an even bolder statement is the fact that it opens her fifth album Loud. Opening an album with something so left-of-center leaves no room for subtleness and “S&M” certainly isn’t subtle in the least. BTW, Cosmopolitan has a beginner’s guide…just putting that out there.
But back to the song as opposed to sadomasochism itself. Rihanna’s best line hails from the chorus: “‘Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it / sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it / Sticks and stones may break my bones / but chains and whips excite me…” Yep, she hits the buzz-/key-words with regards to S&M…
2. “Birthday Cake”
Talk That Talk (2011)
In no way, shape, or form is Rihanna talking about actual birthday cake. Sure she may sing, “Come and put your name on it,” but Rihanna isn’t talking about icing. How does anyone who may be the slightest bit naïve of sexual innuendo and double entendre get this? Rihanna helps us out: “It’s not even my birthday / but he wanna lick the icing off…” Come on! – No pun intended. Through the course of 1:18, Rihanna amplifies the sex really, really loudly.
3. “Cockiness (I Love It)”
Talk That Talk (2011)
Perhaps “Cockiness (I Love It)” might’ve topped the list had Rihanna not been talking about “sex in the air” and “chains and whips” turning her on “S&M,” not to mention turning “Birthday Cake” into sexual metaphor. “Cockiness (Love It)” truly needs no explanation; Rihanna is open, honest, and blunt. “Suck my cockiness / lick my persuasion,” she sings, continuing, “Eat my words and / swallow your pride down…”
The keywords are italicized: suck, lick, eat, and swallow. While these action verbs can be wholesome, at the hands of Rihanna, they’re all sexual. Particularly if you’re a teen/college-aged/twenty-something male, Rihanna’s game-plan is crystal clear!
4. “Rude Boy”
Rated R (2009)
One of Rihanna’s catchiest songs definitely has no deficit in regards to its amount of innuendo. Sure, “Rude Boy” isn’t nearly as suggestive as “Cockiness,” but there are plenty of references to sex nonetheless. “Come here rude boy, boy – can you get it up? / Come here rude boy, boy – is you big enough?” definitely doesn’t sound that innocent, right? It’s not, particularly with “can you get it up” taking a shot at the dude’s ability to…get the picture?
Rated R (2009)
Let’s keep it 100. Rihanna wasn’t playing on her 2009 album, Rated R. Arguably, it’s the most transformative album of her career because she shed the innocence of Good Girl Gone Bad, specifically “Umbrella.” Also, it was the album after the infamous Chris Brown mess. “Hard” was clearly among the crème de la crème on the singer’s darkest album to date: “And my runway never looked so clear, but the hottest bitch in heels right here!” Phew! Can you say fierce AF?
6. “B*tch Better Have My Money”
Ah, doesn’t the title/phrase b*tch better have my money just sort of roll off the tongue? Yeah, don’t answer that… Anyways, Rihanna pretty much screams the entire song. Her assertiveness, anger, and aggressiveness certainly can’t be questioned at all because she’s not playing – “B*tch better have my money!” Besides its I.D.G.A.F title, the single which failed to be included as a track on 2016’s Anti gets a risqué video that involves, blood, money, drugs, and oh yeah, nudity. Unapologetic? Yea, we think so.
7. “Work” ft. Drake
“Work” may not be Rihanna’s go-to unapologetic song, but it’s definitely “not that innocent.” First, it is worth praising SOME of the lyrics as “Work” has elements of a relationship transcendent of the physical components. But “Work” would be boring if an emotional connection were solely the M.O., right? Right!
Lyrically, deciphering much of “Work” is difficult, considering that Rihanna sings in a tropical dialect (her words sound purposely slurred as well). Regardless, it doesn’t matter – it’s clear the “work” is sexual. The chorus alone establishes that point, with the accompanying video alongside Drake confirms it. This is a song where the sound itself amplifies its unapologetic nature.
8. “Rockstar 101” featuring Slash
Rated R (2009)
Need a Rihanna joint that is dripping in unapologetic swagger? Look no further than “Rockstar 101,” where Ri is “feeling so good / looking so bad.” “What’s wrong with being Confident,” to quote Demi Lovato? Well, that was just the first portion of the lyrics where Rihanna seems to know she’s the “cat’s meow.” She continues, singing, “Rocking this skirt / rocking this club / got my middle finger up / I don’t really give a f*ck.” If that ferocious attitude isn’t enough, she throws in lines like “Make sure you frisk me good / check my panties and my bra.” That’s not the least bit sexual at all…
9. “Raining Men” featuring Nicki Minaj
Who has a better knack for double entendre than Rihanna? No one/partner-in-crime Nicki Minaj! Examine this completely innocent lyric from the first verse where Rihanna sings, “All you need to know that I’m a two times five / load it, cock it, aim it baby, boom bye bye.” In other words, Rihanna, who knows she’s hot (a dime) is receptive to countless suitors to have sex with her? Something like that. Basically, she can get whoever she wants and more are waiting, AND she can definitely be selective: “Men be falling like the rain so we ain’t running out.”
10. “Wait Your Turn,”
Rated R (2009)
Have we already mentioned how Rated R was a transformative Rihanna album? Five words – “I’m such a f*cking lady.” There it is! Hasn’t it been said many times that a lady shouldn’t curse, particularly the f-bomb? Yes, stereotypes about gender roles have been out of the window for some time but still! Can you say unapologetic to the nth degree? Regardless, “The wait is over!” No, it’s not the boldest example of Rihanna being unapologetic, but it’s definitely not the least bit sorry.
11. “Pour it Up”
Ah, “Pour It Up!” Is it Rihanna’s most risqué offering? No – actually, not in the least. The song is all about money as Rihanna herself asserts, “all I see is signs, all I see is dolla signs.” Whereas Sam Smith didn’t have “Money on My Mind,” Rihanna does and manages to get an odd stripper vibe out of song and more so from the accompanying music video.
So, why is this even listed among Rihanna’s most unapologetic? The main reason this song is its references to naughtiness which includes the strip club (“Strippers going up and down that pole…”), turning up hard (“Patron shots can I get a refill” and “4 O’clock and we ain’t going home”), and sex (“Bands make your girl go down”). Money has never sounded naughtier!
12. “Russian Roulette”
Rated R (2009)
Call “Russian Roulette” tame un-apologetic – if there is such a thing. Rihanna isn’t being risqué in the same sense as the previous songs. What the Barbadian diva is doing is embracing her darker persona and like Rated R in general, a darker, unoptimistic theme. “Russian Roulette” was clearly one of the biggest contrasts to Rihanna’s biggest hit, the sunny, completely un-scandalous “Umbrella.” Unapologetic? Yep, even if it’s less pronounced than say “S&M.”
This post was originally titled Rihanna’s 10 Most Unapologetic Songs and published on Brent Music Reviews April 2, 2015. This version, titled Rihanna’s Most Unapologetic Songs, is an updated, revised, rewritten version.