In Honor of Her Video Vanguard Award: Rihanna’s 10 Best Music Videos of All Time
Rihanna, who is receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at this Sunday’s MTV VMAs, has been pushing the envelope with powerful, groundbreaking music videos since the start of her hit-making career in 2005.
To celebrate Rihanna’s string of music videos that have been nothing short of sexy and controversial, we’ve put together a list of her 10 best videos and why they’ve made her the music video queen that she is today.
1. “Umbrella” (2007)
Rihanna’s edgy “Singin’ in the Rain” inspired video for “Umbrella” is the gem of her early career. The video features some iconic umbrella-centric choreography and a naked Rihanna covered in metallic silver body paint. The video dominated MTV during its music-video-playing days, which helped it take home the Video of the Year Moonman at the 2007 VMAs.
2. “Disturbia” (2008)
The “Disturbia” music video is as freaky and haunting as it is good, with Rihanna channeling a tortured and imprisoned girl gone insane. The music video broke away from her trend of classic pop music videos and set the tone for the darker direction that she would take in many of her videos to come.
3. “Rude Boy” (2010)
The colorful, comic book-like video for “Rude Boy” was a drastic departure from any visual Rihanna had done when it premiered in 2010. The music video, filled with Jamaican influences and pretty suggestive images of Rihanna riding different animals, stands alone as one of the most explosive and fun videos that the singer has made.
4. “Only Girl (In the World)” (2010)
In the music video that echoes the song’s title, Rihanna frolics solo through giant, endless landscapes that are drenched in colors of pink and red. The video’s simplicity, along with its visually stunning aesthetic, gave us a new kind of Rihanna music video that seemed to end the era of her darker Rated R days.
5. “S&M” (2011)
Rihanna twists the S&M theme to criticize tabloids in this bold video, which received lots of criticism for its NSFW images. In the “S&M” video, we see a playful Rihanna in bondage, and maybe the most provocative image of them all, Perez Hilton being walked around on a leash. The video was banned in eleven countries for its sexual content, but was only the beginning of the many racy videos Rihanna would go on to make.
6. “We Found Love” (2011)
The “We Found Love” music video showed us a reckless love story that involved violence, drugs, and sex, stirring up lots of controversy after its release. Many also found similarities between the video’s drama and Rihanna’s abusive relationship with ex Chris Brown (who just so happened to look a lot like the video’s leading man, Dudley O’Shaughnessy). The video won her the Video of the Year Award at the 2012 VMAs, her second Moonman in the category.
7. “Man Down” (2011)
Though the Caribbean-influenced song was not as big of a radio hit as Rihanna’s other singles, this dramatic music video gave the song its popularity. The “Man Down” video opens with Bad Gal shooting a man at a train station, followed a backstory that reveals her motive: the man she killed had sexually assaulted her the night before. The video received criticism for promoting violence amongst sexual abuse victims, but Rihanna dismissed critics with a tweet saying that the video had a “very strong underlying message 4 girls like me.”
8. “Where Have You Been” (2012)
Rihanna channeled her inner tribal queen in the “Where Have You Been” video, complete with epic dance scenes and some visuals of the singer rolling around in a giant birds nest in a jungle. A dance-heavy music video from Rihanna was unexpected, but she proved her dance abilities and snagged a VMA nomination for Best Choreography Video in 2012.
9. Pour It Up (2013)
Rihanna’s anthem about “strip clubs and dolla bills” got its fitting, Playboy-esque visuals with the “Pour It Up” music video, complete with shots of Rihanna sitting on her golden throne as King of the Strip Club. The video once again created controversy for its provocative images (stripper poles and twerking, God forbid), and was banned from VEVO just ten minutes after its release.
10. “Bitch Better Have My Money” (2015)
Rihanna’s seven minute long, horror film-inspired video for “Bitch Better Have My Money” holds back nothing for a song about violent revenge. The viewer discretion advised warning at the video’s beginning doesn’t quite prepare viewers for what’s to come: a naked woman tied up in the backseat of a convertible, a blood-covered Rihanna laying in a pile of money. The video was criticized for its violence and undertones of race and feminism, (Bad Gal and her diverse girl squad spend a lot of time torturing a ritzy white woman), but all of the shock and controversy that the “BBHMM” video delivers is what makes it so great, and hands-down one of Rihanna’s best.