Deep Album Cuts Vol. 46: Rihanna

In the past decade, Rihanna has become one of the most successful singles artists of all time, the youngest artist with 13 #1s on the Hot 100. Rihanna and the brutally effective cottage industry that has sprung up around her to keep her recording chart-topping singles have taken an unusually long break since 2012's Unapologetic, and throughout 2015 she's released singles that kind of fall short of her usual commercial expectations. But it's hard not to imagine that her run is anywhere near over, and in fact it's kind of interesting to see her not just coming out of the gate with an obvious #1 and maybe tinkering with what a Rihanna song should be.

Over the summer I did a piece for The Fader about #Rihjects, the many songs produced by the Rihanna song factory that wound up being released by other artists. So I kind of think as this as a companion piece: songs that were probably also written with an eye on being Rihanna's next smash hit and had to settle for being album tracks. That's not to say that there aren't some very nice songs on Rihanna's album that don't sound like they were intended for radio, but for the most part even her deep cuts have that high level of gloss and hooks. As with Whitney Houston, though, it's hard to get too wound up playing armchair A&R and say anything "should" have been a single, since obviously they've done just fine.

Rihanna Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Do Ya Thing
2. Jump
3. Say It
4. Cold Case Love
5. Watch n' Learn
6. Nobody's Business featuring Chris Brown
7. Complicated
8. Drunk On Love
9. Stupid In Love
10. Fool In Love
11. Question Existing
12. Fading
13. Music Of The Sun
14. A Girl Like Me
15. Good Girl Gone Bad
16. Red Lipstick
17. Get It Over With
18. The Last Song
19. Skin

Track 13 from Music Of The Sun (2005)
Track 14 from A Girl Like Me (2006)
Tracks 3, 11 and 15 from Good Girl Gone Bad (2007)
Tracks 4, 9 and 18 from Rated R (2009)
Tracks 7, 12 and 19 from Loud (2010)
Tracks 1, 5, 8, 10 and 16 from Talk That Talk (2011)
Tracks 2, 6 and 17 from Unapologetic (2012)

Although Rihanna undeniably makes a great superstar, I've never been big on her megahits -- I count maybe a handful of her 13 #1s that I'd have a problem with never hearing again (and only a "Rude Boy" is a masterpiece to me). I've always liked a lot of her singles that never got too overexposed, though, like "You Da One" and "If It's Lovin' That You Want" and "Loveeeeeee Song." So digging into the albums for Rihanna songs that I'm not sick of has been fun.

Some of these albums are so hit-packed that there wasn't that much to choose from -- Loud had 7 singles, plus a remix of another hit, out of only 11 tracks. But Talk That Talk's deluxe edition has a wealth of great songs -- 3 of the 5 songs I used are bonus tracks, including the weird Metallica-interpolating "Red Lipstick." The early albums feel kind of chintzy and underdeveloped compared to how well formed her voice and persona are on later albums -- even Good Girl Gone Bad feels kind of transitional in retrospect. Rated R feels, understandably given the circumstances, like her darkest and most personal album, and "Cold Case Love" has always been pretty amazing to me, but I think it's kind of hit-and-miss compared to the ones since then. "Nobody's Business" is such an uncomfortable problematic song, and yet it's one of the best things that Rihanna or Chris Brown ever did, I'm kind of glad it wasn't released a single just so I didn't have to admit at the time how much of a jam it was.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
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