From Diamonds to Umbrellas, we rank Rihanna’s albums according to their nostalgia factor

Rihanna has FINALLY released new music. To celebrate, HUNGER takes a look back over her musical journey.

It’s been a long time since The Navy heard new music from the all-around icon that is Rihanna — not to say she hasn’t been busy with, you know, taking over the world. Since she first stepped into the industry with ‘Pon de Replay’ at the tender age of 17, her empire has extended into incredible global business ventures, including Fenty Beauty and Fenty x Savage. 

Fans have been dying to hear new music since her last album, Anti, which was released back in 2016. But alas, new music has finally come our way today, in the form of ‘Lift Me Up’, which is part of the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. We also know that she’ll be performing at the Super Bowl 2023 Half Time show, which will mark her first live appearance since 2018. The new album, too, is reportedly coming soon, and may potentially be reggae-inspired, since RiRi showed us a tiny glimpse of work when she shared a photo of a soundboard to her Instagram stories reading ‘The Neptunes’, with the caption “gang back in da STU”. 

Here, HUNGER looks back at the musician’s canon, as we rank her albums via nostalgia factor.

  1. Talk That Talk (2011) 

Talk That Talk was perhaps one of Rihanna’s most mainstream albums, with ‘We Found Love’ ft Calvin Harris staying at number 1 for six weeks, thanks to its catchy club vibe.  Slant magazine said that her handlers didn’t bring any especially great material to the table”, and it’s true in that it sounds like a lot of her other stuff. Tracks included ‘Birthday Cake’, which was filled with sexy icing related puns, and the raunchy ‘Cockiness (Love It)’. Despite this, it brings back fond memories of 2011, with the album encompassing a time where neon slightly-cringe pop was ruling the soundwave.

  1. Music Of The Sun (2005)

This album made us feel like we were on a breezy island in the Caribbean. The star burst onto the scene at 17 with Music Of The Sun, and really made waves with dance-heavy single ‘Pon de Replay’. A lot of the tracks were obviously quite poppy and safe, but the best tune was ‘There’s A Thug In My Life’ ft J-Status, which started to show us how she would go on to get the title of bad gal in @badgalriri . The whole thing is a shot of adrenaline —  a nostalgic glass of early Riri that is mixed over multiple genres.

  1. Unapologetic (2012) 

Unapologetic was Rihanna’s seventh album in seven years, and many expected nothing special. At the time, Billboard even stated she could have fallen into a “quantity-over-quality work ethic that’s bound to wear thin”. But instead, she shocked critics with an album that was musically and culturally credible. The star laid her heart bare on the tracks, from the Elton John-esque melody on ‘Stay’ ft Mikky Ekko and the passionate vocals of ‘Diamonds’ written by Sia. It was at this time that Rihanna’s personal life was entangled with her career, but that didn’t stop her from creating a record that was a sheer outpouring of emotion. The whole piece felt like a healing process for those listening, so it must have felt somewhat relieving to work on.

  1. A Girl Like Me (2006)

Eight months after her debut album, Riri came back with A Girl Like Me. It was dramatic and punchy, and held some seriously cool club bangers. ‘SOS’ was her first number 1, and was the track for both fans and critics alike, as they rated it 10/10 according to Album of the Year. The song was a hair-flipping sensation and the scattering of patois slang was done well throughout, and introduced who Rihanna was going to be as an artist from then on.

  1. Rated R (2009)  

Explicit, honest and raw; Rated R revealed the true Rihanna — the darker and less shiny version — for the first time. The iconic album cover was shot by Ellen von Unwerth, and introduced the now short haired star. The album was razor sharp in its lyrics and quips, and felt like the right approach for Rihanna to take after it went public that her boyfriend Chris Brown had assaulted her. Pitchfork reported that she described the album as “therapeutic”, and it moved her away from her popstar roots. At the time, it all felt moodier and darker, but looking back, it was the exact right move for Rihanna.

  1. Anti (2016) 

Rihanna’s latest album, Anti, wiped the floor with compelling lyricism. Pitchfork described it “most interesting when it is at its smallest and most idiosyncratic”, meaning it was, if anything, empowering in its raw confessions of hurt. At the time,‘Consideration’ with SZA was on repeat, closely followed by ‘Needed me’ and ‘Desperado’, but we feel that  Rihanna truly found her ground in ‘Higher’.

  1. Good Girl Gone Bad (2007)

This album held a pop culture phenomenon in the form of ‘Umbrella’, which has since been the subject of many karaoke nights and memes. But this wasn’t the only banger, the whole album was jam packed with catchy hooks and lyrics. Remember ‘Don’t Stop the Music’, ‘Disturbia’, ‘Shut Up And Drive’ and ‘Hate That I Love You’ ft. Ne-Yo? They’re well and truly up there with the best of 00s pop and pop culture’s best songs: ‘Umbrella’.

  1. Loud (2010) 

Loud is the album of an era. The front cover alone is nostalgic enough to knock us back to a time where no self-respecting lad would be seen without his Topshop RiRi top, beige chinos, and a minimum of five Jesus bracelets on his wrist. With her new cherry-red mane Rihanna started a whole movement, and got all the girls dyeing their own hair, and shaving the sides for that ultimate 2010 pop of edginess. Aside from the whole hysteria it caused fashion wise, the album itself was, quite frankly, brilliant. Rihanna was shameless in her pursuit of effervescent pop, and didn’t tiptoe around it with dull copycat hits or heart-wrenching ballads. It was a full-blown tribute to capital-F, fun. ‘S&M’ is bad gal Riri at her finest. ‘What’s my name?’ had us “oh-na-na[ing]” back to swag-happy neon streetwear; ‘Cheers (Drink to that)’ had us straight back to the clubs with a bottle of “Jameson”. Ultimately though, the song that made the whole album was the culturally influenced, unapologetic, and beat-heavy tune ‘Man Down’. We will be sure to have the reggae-inspired track on blast until we hear the new album of the same rumoured genre.

WriterElla Chadwick
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