It’s hard to name a pop star more beloved than Rihanna. Now that she’s turned herself into a self-made mogul, in addition to being one of the most prolific and successful musical stars of our era, her fans will clamor for her to leave Fenty Beauty’s makeup and skincare drops, or ignore her groundbreaking work with fashion house Louis Vuitton, in order to release more music. And while she hasn’t dropped a new album since early 2016’s impeccable, slow-burning Anti, that record happens to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Though it didn’t have quite the same radio and chart power that some of her other albums had — even with the omnipresent Drake collaboration “Work” — the staying power of Anti is strong in a different way. It’s an album beloved enough that it landed back in the news over three years after it came out: As the first album by a Black woman to stay on the chart for 200 weeks straight. Given the chart has been around for a little over sixty years, this is definitely a testament to how much her fans connected with this project. In honor of this milestone, we’ve ranked all the songs off the album, not including the deluxe tracks. Read on to see if your favorite made it to the top.
While this song was famous for officially earning Drake his first No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and for being basically ubiquitous that summer, it’s probably the least beloved song on Anti. Call it the Drake effect, or call it sheer overplay, but “Work” is the most-likely-to-be-skipped track on an otherwise beloved record.
Again ahead of her time, Rihanna’s playboy cowboy vibes on “Desperado” arguably preceded the Yeehaw Agenda movement of 2019 that sought to create inclusivity within the historically whitewashed country/western genre. Sinister and careless, “Desperado” is a no-f*cks-given anthem, echoing some of the themes of exhaustion and apathy when it comes to love that crop up across the record.
11. “James Joint”
When this barely-there, minute-plus song leaked a bit before Anti itself was released, it was unclear if it was a snippet or teaser because of how short it is. But Rihanna can do more in 72 seconds than most pop stars can in an hour, and “James Joint” presents a whole love story within the space of a minute. Obvious allusions to marijuana aside, this is a gorgeous slice of life with glimmering keys and passionate imagery. Oh, and that’s Mr. Joint to you.
10. “Never Ending”
Rihanna proves she can do the light, airy ballad with the best of ’em. In my mind, this song is the intersection between Rihanna and Lana Del Rey. What a place to be — eternal pop brilliance.
Oh, let’s not forget that long before Ctrl ever dropped, Rihanna had already tapped SZA as the next big R&B star. Rihanna gave Solana the biggest co-sign she could by opening her album with an unusual, beat-driven duet between the two women.
In case you didn’t get the memo, this song hammers it home that Travis Scott was a driving force on Anti. The pair were rumored to be dating on and off during the time Rih was recording sessions for the album. Another darkly sinister song more about lust than love, who would’ve guessed Trav’s howling would sound so good alongside Rihanna’s belting? Full marks for the anguished Autotune, another Scott hallmark.
7. “Close To You”
Real heads will assume this is a Carpenters cover, but due respect to Karen, this is almost better. Whenever Rihanna slows things down and gets emotional, magic always happens, and the unrequited love contained in “Close To You” is so deeply moving that Rih used it as an album closer. Unrelated thought: Who on earth wouldn’t fall in love with Rihanna if she was in love with them? Further proof men are very unintelligent.
6. “Kiss It Better”
One of the bonafide hits off Anti, “Kiss It Better” features both the sexiest video and the most Prince-reminiscent solo. Put this on every and all bedroom playlists to infinity and beyond.
5. “Same Ol’ Mistakes”
Potentially the most beloved song on Anti — although honestly that applies to all of the next five tracks — Rihanna’s reimagining of Tame Impala’s psychedelic 2015 album closer “New Person, Same Mistakes” struck a nerve. Deep groove, deep regret — but the realization that Rih listens to Tame Impala? Priceless.
4. “Yeah, I Said It”
One reason Rihanna is so beloved? Deeply sexual songs that prioritize female desire without couching it in needless euphemism. “Up against the wall / We don’t need a title,” is about as straightforward as it gets. This song also lays to rest the pointless stereotype that women only want sex within rigidly-defined, committed relationships. Is this song also about Travis Scott? Jury’s out — but the next one definitely is.
3. “Needed Me”
Ok, based solely on my personal mythologizing of Rihanna and Travis Scott’s short-lived, or potentially nonexistent romantic relationship, this song is Rih’s kiss-off. Produced by DJ Mustard and co-written with Starrah — a frequent Travis collaborator — “Needed Me” rejects a potential suitor, dismissing the relationships as merely a casual sexual encounter. Love her subversive use of needing on this song, since it’s such a frequent dismissal of women as “too needy” in relationships.
Often described as the “drunk voicemail” song on the record, “Higher” contains the single greatest declaration of modern love I’ve ever heard: “I just really need your ass with me.” Succinct, earnest, and vulnerable without being mushy! Anyway, this song also rules because of the classic orchestral production juxtaposed with raw, uninhibited lyrics.
1. “Love On The Brain”
This song has one of those melodies that got stuck in my head basically the first minute I heard it. Another song with more traditional, soulful production “Love On The Brain’ is the best song on Anti because it showcases Rihanna’s voice, it’s still chock full of reference to weed and f*cking, and it’s a song only Rihanna could write.