About the Song:
After her seventh album, Unapologetic (2012), Rihanna intended to take a hiatus from recording. It lasted a week and she found herself back in the studio. She released three singles in 2015 and then, at the onset of 2016, released “Work,” the lead single from her eighth album, Anti. It became her 14th #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, putting her just behind The Beatles, Mariah Carey, and Elvis Presley. WK It was also her 50th song to chart on the Hot 100 and 27th to hit the top ten. WK She also became the first artist to have #1 songs from seven consecutive studio albums. SF It was her third collaboration with Drake, following 2010’s “What’s My Name?” and 2011’s “Take Care.” SF
The song was written in the summer of 2015 by a team while at Drake’s house. One of the writers, Sevn Thomas and Boi-1da, who’d previously worked with Drake, crafted the dancehall rhythm SF and then sent it to PartyNextDoor, who wrote the lyrics, which talk about working for money as well as fragile relationships. WK Drake then wrote and recorded a verse before the song was played for Rihanna. WK However, her label didn’t care for the Caribbean flavor of the song and it was nearly passed on to Alicia Keys. However, Rihanna fought to keep it, saying “this is my family’s favorite song.” SF
Billboard’s Taj Ran said the song had “deep roots in Jamaica’s club scene that spun off from reggae in the 1970s.” WK Forbes’ Hugh McIntyre described the song as urban with hip hop influences and “island vibes,” WK an observation echoed by Rolling Stone’s Daniel Kreps, who said it had a “tropical house vibe.” WK Slant Magazine’s Alexa Camp called it an understated midtempo jam” which “recalls Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’s masterful production work on Janet [Jackson]’s The Velvet Rope.” WK Complex’s Zach Frydenlund said the song “is slower and very rhythmic with Rihanna showing off her vocal skills over the crafty production.” WK
By contrast, The A.V. Club’s Robin Reiff said “the sheer repetition of the hook creates a built-in experiation date for when this song transitions from catchy to mildly annoying.” WK Rolling Stone called it a “barely-there tune,” but noted it was still irresistible. WK The song’s “off-kilter” nature led The Guardian to name it the best track of 2016. The song was nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
First posted 2/6/2021; last updated 2/10/2023.
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