Rihanna has collected many hits throughout her career. So many, in fact, that she is able to afford to take a sprawling break from releasing music altogether and not lose an ounce of her star power (of course, having a wildly successful clothing and make-up line helps to keep your name out there in the meantime).
Though she released a few name-making tracks prior, arguably the one that cemented her status as a pop icon came in 2007 with “Umbrella.” The track stayed atop the US Billboard Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks and clinched two Grammy nominations. It is still one of the first songs that come to mind when you mention Rihanna’s name. But what is the meaning behind “Umbrella?” Find out below.
Behind the Meaning
Jay-Z opens up this song with a bombastic verse about his status. In contrast to Rihanna’s verses – which stress that money and fame aren’t important to her —it’s diamonds and stock options that will shelter her from any storm. His inclusion went on to win the duo a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
No clouds in my stones
Let it rain, I hydroplane in the bank
Coming down with the Dow Jones
When the clouds come, we gone, we Roc-A-Fella
We fly higher than weather, in G5’s or better
You know me (You know me)
In anticipation for precipitation, stack chips for the rainy day
Jay—Rain Man is back
With Little Miss Sunshine, Rihanna, where you at?
Across the song, Rihanna is talking to a partner that doesn’t have the same status as her. Despite their differences, she promises to protect them from the proverbial rain—anything that threatens their relationship. They will shine through each other’s successes and deal with their failures side by side. The chorus is the most evocative of that idea and is one of the most recognizable refrains of the mid-00s.
Because, when the sunshine, we shine together
Told you I’ll be here forever
Said I’ll always be your friend
Took an oath, I’ma stick it out to the end
Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we’ll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
Before it fell into Rihanna’s hands, “Umbrella” was tossed around to a couple of other artists. The Dream and Tricky Stewart originally wrote it with Britney Spears in mind, but her label ultimately rejected it.
It then went to Mary J. Blige, who revealed in an interview with MTV, “They did the song for me. And it was during the Grammy time and I was really, really busy, and I heard it, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s a smash. I love this song.’ And it was like, ‘It’s yours.’ So in the midst of it being mine, they were probably telling [Rihanna] it was hers. She’s such a beautiful lady, and I love her to death. I was so glad that she caught it and knocked it out of the park, and it’s still one of my favorite songs to date.”
“Umbrella” eventually found a permanent home on Rihanna’s third album, Good Girl Gone Bad (2007). Jay-Z hopped on for a feature adding some social capital to the release.
Tom Holland Lip Sync Battle
It’s funny how songs develop over time. Though the ultimate dream for an artist is to have a song that stands the test of time, that renaissance often comes from the most unlikely of sources. For “Umbrella,” that moment came via a 2017 lip sync battle between Spiderman actors Tom Holland and Zendaya.
Holland, a seasoned dancer, far exceeded everyone’s expectations by delivering a powerhouse performance of “Singin’ in the Rain” mashed up with “Umbrella.” As the Broadway classic switched over to the pop hit, Holland shed his coattails and revealed a saucy little lingerie number. He then lip-synced, like his life depended on it, to “Umbrella,” splashing around in pools of water and busting out moves we’re sure few thought the Englishman capable of. It is a truly iconic moment in pop culture – Rihanna can’t be too mad at that legacy.
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