Man, this song is 2007 to me. Rihanna had already found some success with her first two albums, but this single, arguably, is what gave her more public attention: you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing that “ella, ella, ella.” I have a vague memory of even Newsweek magazine talking about it. If I recall correctly, they compared the song to the smoothness of a waterbed. (As an aside, the fact that I spent more time reading Newsweek than Seventeen as a teenager says a lot about me.) I mean, they’re right: Rihanna’s voice is so smooth and silky that it rolls perfectly with each beat.
The production is also clever. At the beginning, Rihanna’s echoing “eh, eh” as Jay-Z talks about her makes it sound like she’s waiting in the wings. “With Little Miss Sunshine, Rihanna, where you at?” And from there, Rihanna’s verses take over. She’s the one that makes the song: she’s enviably confident and almost reassuring, too. “There’s no distance in between our love.”
If you look closely, “Umbrella” subtly foreshadows #BadGalRiRi; it comes from the album Good Girl Gone Bad and the album cover is darker than her first two releases. She’s looking over her shoulder coyly as if daring us to listen. The song is still tame enough, however, that high school me never got the euphemisms. And as pop songs go, it’s nice that they’re not as over the top as some of Rihanna’s later songs would be. I mean…”S&M” doesn’t leave much to the imagination. (Still a banger, though.)
With the clouds here we go: