Rihanna has been holding her fabled upcoming album hostage and, to make it worse, teasing us all over social media with clips of her recording and listening to R9 while we wait, playing 2016’s ANTI on repeat to fill the void.

While many music releases were delayed due to the pandemic, nothing hurts more than the wait for R9. Rihanna and her collaborators have been talking it up for years, promising big things and, most recently, hinting at a 2021 release.

However, we’ve learned our lesson about getting our hopes up. Rihanna will release R9 when both she and it are ready and, knowing it will be everything we want and more, we can count on it being worth the wait. We’ll also keep our pleading to ourselves, lest we risk a @badgalriri call out in the comment section.

She’s tired of usvia @badgalriri on Instagram

It also doesn’t hurt to remember that, while Rih may be withholding her magnum opus, she’s given us so much. From the game changing Fenty Beauty to the newly released Fenty Skin, her clothing lines, and never failing to deliver on Instagram.

She was also featured in PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “Believe It” in March 2020, and we know we weren’t the only ones who played her part on repeat — sorry PND.

As she celebrates her 33rd birthday with the release of her art book, The Rihanna Book, we’re celebrating by listening to her entire discography. Rihanna has been a verifiable star since “Pon De Replay,” and her fame was solidified with the iconic “Umbrella.”

But she’s never been one to rest on her laurels or produce repeat iterations of the same sound. What makes Rihanna so influential is her ability to switch up her sound and resist the machination of the mainstream.

But when everything Rihanna does is so influential, what counts as a deep cut? Before the music drought, Rihanna was prolific — not just delivering albums but also appearing in frequent collaborations, features, and dropping non-album singles.

With all that content, it was inevitable that some of them would fly under the radar and be overshadowed by her massive radio-hits. But the underrated songs are just as good and deserve the same amount of recognition.

“Cry” (2006)

Good Girl Gone Bad Album Cover

Good Girl Gone Bad was the album that propelled Rihanna to the forefront of pop. With lead singles “Umbrella” (one of the greatest songs of all time), “Disturbia,” “Don’t Stop the Music” and “Take a Bow,” the album had no misses. It also features the Ne-Yo collaboration “Hate That I Love You” and the Justin Timberlake collab “Rehab,” in which he mostly ad libs while Rih does all the work — but still, a banger.

In short, the album was stacked. “Cry,” its thirteenth track and bonus single, is less flashy than other songs on the album. It’s a stripped down, emotional piano-driven track which holds its own next to more prominent Rih love ballads like “Higher” or the gorgeous “Stay ft. Mikky Ekko.”

If I Never See Your Face Again (ft Maroon 5) (2009)

Like with “Stay,” Rihanna has become known for lending her vocals (and fame) to indie-alternative artists as much as to fellow R&B and Hip-Hop features. As Rihanna reached her pop heights after Good Girl Gone Bad in 2007 and the preceding Loud in 2010, her features became ubiquitous in radio friendly alt-pop songs.

The video for “If I Never See Your Face Again” feels like a time capsule. Rihanna’s short hair, Maroon 5’s peak, and the vaguely sexist undertones of watching Rihanna writhe sensually on a bed or in a maid’s costume as Adam Levine looks on creepily with his token blank stare.

The song lives in some half forgotten place in my mind, almost indistinguishable from like … every other Maroon 5 song (yet another feeble attempt to recreate “This Love“) with nothing but Rihanna’s vocals and the admittedly catchy chorus to salvage it.

American Oxygen (2014)

Perhaps “American Oxygen” flew under the radar because it was mostly released on Tidal in an attempt to entice fans to the subscription service. Perhaps it flew under the radar of her other pre-ANTI Kanye project, “FourFive Seconds,” which also featured Sir Paul McCartney — some new guy with a promising career ahead of him.

Whatever the reason, the Springsteen “Born in the USA” inspired track deserved better. The song feels poignant now for its take on the national anthem and the American dream with lyrics like, “You can be anything at all / In America, America. / I say, if you can’t see, / Just close your eyes and breathe”

Love the Way You Lie (Part II) (2010)

Love the Way You Lie” was everywhere the summer it was released as a single from Eminem’s Recovery album. The song was a glorification of a toxic relationship, so classic Eminem fodder. Rihanna sang the iconic chorus and, for her own 2010 album, Loud.

“Part II” didn’t receive the same press and play that the Eminem version did, although it’s inarguably superior. Rihanna’s version is more vulnerable than violent and still includes a verse from Eminem (unfortunately), but it’s less obstructed by his murder fantasies.

The Last Song (2009)

Rated R Album Cover

If Good Girl Gone Bad did for Rihanna’s image what the title suggests, her next album, Rated R, solidified her “bad gal” status. From the provocative “Hard” and “Rude Boy, to the declarative “Rockstar” and “G4L,” Rihanna was establishing herself as the unflappable icon we know her as today.

But Rated R wasn’t all bravado. Songs like “Russian Roulette” showed her emotional side as well as her power vocals — lest we forget she is a singer first. “The Last Song,” the final track on the album, is a quiet gem, a post-mortem for a failed relationship, whose vocals go from soft to soaring. Above all, it’s a testament to Rihanna’s range and a reminder that she can do it all.

BONUS: Shy Ronnie (SNL, 2009)

Remember when we were all tormented by The Lonely Island? When Andy Samberg’s “Like a Boss” was somehow, everywhere? The Lonely Island were popular for their appearances on SNL, including one with Rih herself.

In the skit, Rihanna helps “Shy Ronnie” sing for a class project. It’s so bizarre to watch now, though hilarious mostly because of how ridiculous it seems. To be honest, maybe this one (and it’s 2011 sequel, Ronnie & Clyde) is better off in the vault.

Posted in: Pop