100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #98: “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna

Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Barbados) is an international music superstar, fashion designer, actress and businesswoman who emerged on the music scene in 2005 at the tender age of 17. Since then, she’s racked up an impressive string of monster hits and earned numerous awards and accolades. I love many of her songs, especially “Only Girl (In the World)”, “Stay”, We Found Love” and her duet “Love the Way You Lie” with Eminem, but my favorite of all is “Love on the Brain”.

The song is from her eighth studio album Anti, and features a sultry doo wop/R&B vibe in the style of many great R&B songs of the late 50s and early 60s that strongly appeals to my mature music sensibilities. It’s a stunning torch song that beautifully showcases her considerable vocal talents. Though it was a sizable hit, “Love on the Brain” peaked at only #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, a relative disappointment considering how many of her singles reached #1.

The song was originally written by Norwegian songwriter and producer Fred Ball and American songwriter Joseph Angel in late 2013. They wanted an old school soul feel with modern lyrics, and did not write it with Rihanna in mind. After hearing the song, however, Ball’s manager Jay Brown loved it and thought it would be a great song for Rihanna. He sent it to her and she loved it too, adding some additional lyrics to make the song her own. The explicit lyrics speak of a romantic obsession with another person who treats her poorly, but her feelings are so intense that she’s willing to endure whatever hurt and pain he doles out so long as he loves her. Some believed the song referred to Rihanna’s tempestuous relationship with Chris Brown, though she’s never confirmed it one way or another.

Oh, and, babe, I’m fist-fighting with fire
Just to get close to you
Can we burn something, babe?
And I run for miles just to get a taste
Must be love on the brain
That’s got me feeling this way (feeling this way)
It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good
And I can’t get enough
Must be love on the brain, yeah
And it keeps cursing my name (cursing my name)
No matter what I do
I’m no good without you
And I can’t get enough
Must be love on the brain

Baby keep loving me
Just love me, yeah
Just love me
All you need to do is love me yeah
Got me like ah-ah-ah-ow
I’m tired of being played like a violin
What do I gotta do to get in your motherfuckin’ heart?

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