by Rihanna (featuring Drake)

Album: Anti (2016)
Charted: 2 1
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  • Rihanna hooked up with Drake and his team for this sparse ballad. The Canadian rapper drops a verse while the minimalist, dancehall beat-inspired production was helmed by Drizzy's long-time collaborator Boi-1da, Allen Ritter ("The Language," "Know Yourself") and Sevn Thomas ("10 Bands"). The sound was put together during a studio session at Drake's house in Calabasas, Los Angeles.
  • The song marks the third collaboration between the pair, following 2010's "What's My Name?" and 2011's "Take Care." Drake also referenced their alleged short-lived affair on his track "Fireworks."
  • It was Sevn Thomas who came up with the idea of sampling an old school dancehall rhythm. He played it for Boi-1da, who positively responded to the sound. Thomas recalled to Complex magazine: "We just went with the chords, and everything sort of started coming through organically. We basically banged this track out in half an hour, and we were just jamming out because we could just feel that island vibe, and we knew that the sound of the industry is sort of shaking up its little island vibe, and we knew we were really authentic, we had the Jamaican culture, and we took it upon ourselves to hone in on that and make our new futuristic dancehall songs that we like to call the new wave. We put our heads together with that one, and then Allen Ritter killed the chords on it. Amazing process."

    When the song's instrumentation was finished, Boi-1da send it to his frequent lyricist, OVO label singer-songwriter PartyNextDoor. "He's an incredible writer, and he's Jamaican as well I think so that's how he's able to come up with those vibes and feels," Thomas noted. He penned a lustful narrative alluding to the type of dirty work done in the bedroom.

    Drake loved the song's vibe and decided to write and record a verse on it. Shortly after, PartyNextDoor played Rihanna the demo, when he was staying at her Malibu home.
  • Work, work, work, work, work, work!
    He said me haffi
    Work, work, work, work, work, work!
    He see me do mi
    Dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt!
    So me put in
    Work, work, work, work, work, work
    When you ah guh
    Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn
    Meh nuh cyar if him
    Hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurting

    The hook features some words sung by Rihanna in Patois, a Jamaican dialect that is common throughout much of the Caribbean.
    "Haffi" means "have to"
    "Ah guh" means "is going to."
    "Meh nuh cyar" means I don't care.

    Rihanna's use of Caribbean dialects dates back to her 2005 breakthrough single "Pon De Replay," whose title translates to "play it again" in the local Barbados vernacular.
  • The synths you hear at the beginning of the song are sampled from Alexander O'Neal's 1985 single "If You Were Here Tonight."
  • When this climbed to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated March 5, 2016. It became Rihanna's 14th chart-topper, as well as Drake's second. Drake's other visit was also a Rihanna collaboration: "What's My Name?" spent one week at #1 in November 2010.
  • Two videos were shot for the song. The first version gets pretty heated as Rihanna twerks, wines and sings at a dimly lit dance party with Drake. Filmed at Toronto's Caribbean restaurant The Real Jerk, it was directed by Director X, who worked Rihanna on "Pon De Replay" back in 2005 and more recently with Drake on "Hotline Bling."

    Rihanna told Vogue the raucous dance-hall party is the kind, "we would go to in the Caribbean and just dance and drink and smoke and flirt."

    Asked by Billboard magazine if Rihanna's moves were freestyled, Director X replied: "This is just what happens when you get a bunch of West Indians in a room and play a record like 'Work.' no one has to tell anything about doing anything. You say "action" and everyone fills in the blanks by themselves -- they just go."

    The second segment sees the pair alone together in a neon-pink-lit room, as Rihanna, wearing a sparkly see-through top, flirts and dances with Drake before he heads into his verse for a second time. That version was shot by Swedish director Tim Erem, whose clip for "Lean On", by Major Lazer and MØ has achieved over a billion views on YouTube. It was filmed at a Foot Locker store in a Los Angeles mall.
  • Two videos were not in the original plan. Erem explained to Entertainment Weekly: "The original 'Work' video was something completely different. This pink room was basically just a small set-up of that whole original idea we had for it."

    He added: "They liked the pink room, but wanted something more to it. We were actually surprised how much it can carry almost the whole track. So we decided to actually go for it, and then they decided to do one more video for it and make it into two videos."
  • The word "work" is repeated a staggering 79 times in this song. Remarkably, that's not the most repetitions of a song title in a hit from this time period: Meghan Trainor's "No" repeats 85 times.
  • Allen Ritter recalled the creating of the song's beat to Genius: "Drake had this pool party the day before we were all out there. It was me, Vinylz, Mike Zombie, Boi-1da, Sevn [Thomas], and Syk Sense. Drake was going away; he was on tour or something. He told us we can stay there to make music at his house.

    Sevn pulled the 'Work' beat, but nobody knew where to take it. As soon as he pulled that up, I played the keys on it. I honestly didn't even think the beat was done. But it's big now."
  • When "Work" climbed to #1 on the Hot 100, Rihanna became the first artist to achieve chart-topping singles from seven consecutive studio albums. They are:

    A Girl Like Me: "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)."

    Good Girl Gone Bad: "Umbrella," "Take A Bow," "Disturbia."

    Rated R: "Rude Boy."

    Loud: "Only Girl (In The World)," "What's My Name?," "S&M."

    Talk That Talk: "We Found Love."

    Unapologetic: "Diamonds."

    Anti: "Work."

    Mariah Carey previously held the record culling #1 singles from six consecutive studio albums between 1990 and 1999.
  • Fifth Harmony had a song with the same title in the "works" when Rihanna dropped this track. To avoid a conflict, the Fifth Harmony song was titled "Work from Home." In that one, the word "work" is repeated 93 times.
  • PartyNextDoor originally wrote this as a breakup song. He told Rolling Stone: "People think ["Work" is] a party song. It's a breakup song. It's blues. I went from braggadocious to blues."
  • This track came close to being recorded by Alicia Keys rather than Rihanna. "Her label didn't care for Caribbean music at the time," PartyNextDoor told The New York Times.

    Rihanna's team debated giving the tune to Keys but eventually came round, "when it was all that she could sing around the house." PartyNextDoor said. "She fought for it. She said, 'This is my family's favorite song.'"
  • This was NME's Top track of 2016. They described it as "A mating ritual set to music, and yet another chance for Rihanna and Drake to flirt outrageously on record."
  • Rihanna released this as the lead single from Anti. The album cover was the first ever to incorporate physical Braille (A poem written in Braille by poet Chloe Mitchell).


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