After 2012’s Unapologetic and singles like the world-dominating “Diamonds,” Rihanna took a step back from the spotlight and began ruminating on her next move. The musical results that emerged in 2015 were, typically, wildly eclectic: “FourFiveSeconds,” “B_tch Better Have My Money,” and “American Oxygen” basically had two things in common: They were non-album singles. And they were hits.
When it came time to introduce her next album, though, Rihanna knew she needed an agenda-setting tune. The obvious choice was “Work.” Rihanna tapped Jamaican-Canadian producer Boi-1da, who was already a hitmaker for Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Drake showed up for a guest verse, and additional production came courtesy of the 6 God’s right-hand man, producer Noah “40” Shebib, and Toronto beatmaker Sevn Thomas.
Thomas revealed that the song came together during a beat session at Drake’s house, with songwriter PartyNextDoor writing the first round of lyrics before Drake and Rihanna fleshed it out. “Drake heard it, he loved the whole vibe, and you know Toronto is probably one of the largest concentrations of Jamaicans outside of Jamaica itself…so he heard it, and he understood the vibes, and he put a verse down on it,” Thomas told Complex.
Since the track’s release, “Work” has become one of Rihanna’s most celebrated hits, both critically and commercially. It was nominated for two awards at the 59th Grammy Awards – Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance – and the song reached No.1 on the Hot 100 chart. The chart-topper became Rihanna’s 14th No.1 single. The song reigned atop the charts for nine weeks. Globally, the song also landed at No.1 in nine other countries and is 9× Platinum in the US, 3× Platinum in the UK, and Diamond in France.