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Why did rihanna write love on the brain?

2 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #

"Love on the Brain" is a song recorded by Barbadian singer Rihanna for her eighth studio album, Anti (2016). It was written by Joseph Angel and produced by Fred Ball, with additional writing by Rihanna. The song was sent to the US rhythmic contemporary and urban contemporary radio stations on 27 September 2016 as the album's fourth and final single. "Love on the Brain" is a doo-wop and soul ballad inspired by 1950s and 1960s music. Its instrumentation consists of a guitar arpeggio, swirling organ, a simple chord progression, syncopated strings, and orchestra. Lyrically, the song has themes of swinging back and forth between the highs and lows of toxic love.

"Love on the Brain" reached number one on the Polish Singles Chart, as well as the top-twenty in France and New Zealand, and top-forty in Austria, Canada, and Germany. The song reached number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart; it became Rihanna's 22nd top-five single breaking her tie with Elvis Presley as the artist with the 5th most top-five singles, and it was also her 30th top-ten single tying her with Madonna and The Beatles. It was certified 6× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Rihanna performed the track during her Anti World Tour, as well as at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards and the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. "Love on the Brain" was covered by various artists including Kelly Clarkson, Ava Max, Little Mix and S'22kile from Idols SA season 17.

"Love on the Brain" was the first song commissioned for Rihanna's album Anti. Written by Norwegian songwriter and producer Fred Ball and American songwriter Joseph Angel in late 2013, inspiration for the song came from Prince and Al Green. Ball recalled, "We wanted it to have that juxtaposition of an old school soul feel with modern lyrics. That's why Amy Winehouse was never pastiche or retro even though her music has an old soul sound." Ball also stated that they did not write the song with Rihanna in mind. However, his manager at Roc Nation, Jay Brown, heard the song and loved it. Brown sent it to Rihanna and she also reacted similarly, writing additional lyrics.

American producer Kuk Harrell handled the song's vocal production. Ball and Angel also supplied the song's keyboards and drums. "Love on the Brain" was recorded at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles. The vocal recording was carried out by Marcos Tovar for Allfadersup and Harrell. The song was finally mixed by Manny Marroquin at Larrabee Studios in North Hollywood, along with mixing assistants Chris Galland, Jeff Jackson and Ike Schultz, before being mastered by Chris Gehringer at Sterling Sound, in New York City.

"Love on the Brain" was first announced as a recorded track in 2015, and was to be debuted at the 2015 Brit Awards, however Rihanna allegedly pulled out. In early August 2016, Philadelphia radio personality Mike Adam stated that "Love on the Brain" would be the album's fourth single, later confirmed by Rihanna herself on 21 August 2016. It was sent to rhythmic contemporary and urban contemporary radios on 27 September, impacted contemporary hit radio on 11 October, and the hot adult contemporary stations on 14 November.

"Love on the Brain" is a mid-tempo '50s and '60s inspired doo-wop and soul ballad, with a "rock edge". Its instrumentation consists of a "guitar arpeggio," "swirling organ", a "simple chord progression", syncopated strings, and "a wave of an orchestra". Written in the key of G major, it has a tempo of 57 beats per minute in compound quadruple (128) time. The song follows a chord progression of G–Am–Em–D, and Rihanna's vocals span from D3 to G5.

Rihanna's vocals were noted as being acrobatic ranging from her "trademark snarl", to high notes, complemented by all-tenor backing vocals. Forrest Wickman of Slate magazine commented that the song "seems designed as a showcase for Rihanna’s vocal versatility: She starts out singing high and sweet, then drops into her chest to show off the lower part of her range and finally gets into powerful belting. She even does a few seconds of what sounds like Frankie Valli's falsetto." Jordan Bassett of NME compared her high notes to those of Mariah Carey, while Vibe magazine and USA Today noted similarities with the work of Erykah Badu. Amy Winehouse, Etta James and Sam Cooke were also perceived as influences by critics, with Michigan Daily's Christian Kennedy citing Winehouse's song "Wake Up Alone" as the song that Rihanna had borrowed from "stylistically."

"Love on the Brain" has dark lyrics that depict a destructive, yet addictive relationship, with themes of "swinging back and forth between the highs and lows of love". Some critics believed the song was an "ode to a violent lover", possibly referring to Chris Brown after the pair's highly published domestic violence case and rekindled romance years later. Lyrical examples include "It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good / That I can't get enough / Must be love on the brain." Adam R. Holz of the conservative organization Focus on the Family's website noted the song "mingles nihilism, lust and at least the metaphorical presence of physical abuse". Jessica Eggert of Mic agreed, noting that "Rihanna wears her heart right on her sleeve and takes no prisoners in expressing the pain of a metaphorically and physically damaging-yet-undying love."

"Love on the Brain" was highly acclaimed by music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic picked it as a highlight from the album, noting that Rihanna's "voice is hoarse and ravaged, yet she's also controlled and precise, knowing how to hone these imperfections so her performance echoes classic soul while feeling fresh". Julianne Escobedo Shepherd of Billboard deemed it "a doo-wop powerhouse sung in a Prince-adjacent falsetto — and is proof Rihanna’s been working with some primo vocal coaches". Idolator's Bianca Gracie also complimented her vocals, writing that the "rough-edged, soulful ballad finds Rih at her vocal best". Patrick Ryan of USA Today called the song an "easy highlight," noting the "cozy doo-wop nostalgia". Emily Mackay of NME noted the doo-wop groove, deeming Rihanna's vocals a "powerhouse vocal performance". Jordan Bassett of the same publication called it "totally brilliant, with the singer showcasing the kind of vocals we’ve not heard from her before". Safy-Hallan Farah of Spin wrote favorably of her singing, while James Grabay of the same magazine named it an "effortlessly time-traveling track".

Chris Gerard of PopMatters noted the song was "one of the more interesting tracks on the album", addressing her "Macy Gray-like drawl during the verses". Corbin Reiff of The A.V. Club highlighted the track's "deep soulful tones" and felt her voice was "the undeniable focal point" of it. Nolan Feeney of Time declared that "Love on the Brain" and "Higher" "offer the most stirring vocal performances of her career". Jessica McKinney of Vibe agreed, calling the song a "soulful performance that showcases her own range". Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph wrote that "Love on the Brain" is a "standard, mid-tempo retro soul anthem" that "in the context of Anti,...sounds like a work of pop genius". Calling it "hypnotic," Eric Renner Brown of Entertainment Weekly remarked that "she delivers some of her finest vocal moments yet". Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe picked it as "essential", stating: "As she implores 'Don't you stop loving me,' her performance has a grit, sweat, and weariness to it that's unusual and humanizing."

Da'Shan Smith of Billboard stated "Love on the Brain" became the most subtly influential Pop single of 2017, as the music industry experienced "a prominent surge of retro-harkening balladry, across different musical genres", following the success of this song on Pop radio; which he described as "a rare find today, because traditional R&B’s presence on the format is an oddity." Marilyn Manson cited Anti as an influence on his band's album Heaven Upside Down, saying "Strangely enough, one of the records that influenced this album strongly, and it can’t be taken literally, is Rihanna, her last record. That one song, ‘Love on the Brain’, it really hit me because I saw her perform it and she just... meant it." "Love On The Brain" received a nomination for Choice Music: Pop Song at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards.

Unusually for an established superstar, the song achieved sleeper success, attaining its peak position several months after its release. Following Rihanna's performance at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, "Love on the Brain" debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 83, marking Rihanna's 55th entry on the chart. After being released as a single in November 2016, the song re-entered the Hot 100 at number 80. In its sixth week on the chart, the song rose to number 34, becoming Rihanna's third top-forty hit from Anti, as well as her 46th top-forty entry on the Hot 100, placing her at number three on the list of women with most top-forty hits. Two weeks later, "Love on the Brain" reached number 20, becoming the third top-twenty single from Anti, and Rihanna's forty-second top-twenty hit. In its eighteenth week, "Love on the Brain" climbed from number 13 to number eight and became her thirtieth top-ten single. With doing that, she broke a tie for third place with Michael Jackson, with whom, both had 29 top-ten singles. Rihanna became the artist with the third most top-ten singles in Hot 100 history, only behind Madonna (with 38), and The Beatles (with 34). It was also "the second-fastest accumulation of 30 Hot 100 top 10s", according to Billboard's Gary Trust. In the issue dated 25 March 2017, the song climbed to number 5, becoming Rihanna's 22nd top five hit, leading her to break a tie for fifth place with Elvis Presley (who has 21 top-five hits).

In November 2016, "Love on the Brain" entered the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at number 30. In the same week, the song was the most added track on contemporary hit radio, causing it to rise to number 24 on the Billboard Pop Songs chart; to date it has reached number 6 on both charts. In the week ending 22 January 2017, the song became her 28th top 10 single on Radio Songs, extending her record for the most top-ten singles on the chart. The song also became her twenty-eighth number-one on the US Dance Club Songs chart in the issue dated 21 January 2017; she remains in second place behind record holder Madonna, who has achieved forty-six. As of March 2023, "Love on the Brain" has accumulated over 1.07 billion streams and 2,000,000 downloads in the United States.

In Canada, the song debuted on the Canadian Hot 100 at its peak of number 22 after being released as a single. In the week of 3 December 2016, it re-entered the top-forty at number 38. In New Zealand, "Love on the Brain" debuted at number 40 on the release of Anti. It reached number 15 over the following weeks, becoming Rihanna's thirty-second solo top-twenty single. Similarly, in France, "Love on the Brain" charted after Anti's release at number 71. After its release, it re-entered at number 138. After weeks outside the top 100, the song reached a new peak of number 69 in the week of 13 January 2017. Three weeks later, the song managed to crack the top twenty, reaching number 12. It became Anti's second top twenty hit. In Austria, the song debuted at number 53 and has peaked at number 7, while in Germany it debuted at number 100, and has reached a peak of number 21 to date, becoming the album's second highest-charting single. In Poland, "Love on the Brain" peaked at number one for four non-consecutive weeks in 2016.

Rihanna included "Love on the Brain" in the encore of her Anti World Tour. After attending the show at Wembley Stadium, Lewis Corner of Digital Spy called the performance "a triumph, as Rihanna's tone on the Motown sway is pure joy". Michael Cragg of The Guardian claimed that the performance was "delivered with such conviction it feels like you’re watching a different artist". On 22 May 2016, Rihanna performed the song at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, with Billboard describing it as a "standout" of the event. Sarah Grant of Rolling Stone called it a "gut-wrenching solo performance," comparing her stage persona to that of Whitney Houston, due to the "storm of tour-de-force vocals".

On 28 August 2016, Rihanna received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. In honour, she performed a medley consisting of "Stay", "Diamonds" and "Love on the Brain". Christopher Rosa of Glamour called the performance "breath-taking", while Billboard noted: "Her vocals, which are sometimes under-appreciated by critics and even fans, were gorgeous and impressive, reminding everyone that beyond the chart-toppers and DGAF behavior, there's an astonishing voice that propelled her to where she is now".

On 19 May 2016, "Love on the Brain" was featured on the season 12 finale of long-running ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy. It charted at the top of the Top TV Songs Chart, powered by 40,000 Shazam tags. Furthermore, according to Nielsen Music, 45,000 downloads and 8.1 million US streams were made in the same month. American singer Kelly Clarkson performed the song during a Facebook live session on 26 August 2016. Danish singer MØ covered "Love on the Brain" on the BBC Radio 1Xtra's Live Lounge segment. British girl band Little Mix covered the song on iHeartRadio's Honda Stage. British soap actress Jane Danson also performed to the song in February 2019 on ITV show Dancing on Ice. This performance made the single re-enter the UK iTunes Chart at #45 later that evening. American rapper and singer Machine Gun Kelly covered the song in April 2020, during his "Lockdown Sessions", at Marilyn Manson's request, giving the song a pop punk vibe, with Kelly performing a guitar solo at the end of the track. The cover was later included as a bonus track on his fifth album, Tickets to My Downfall. In May 2020, Devon Gilfillian released an Amazon Original Cover of the song available only on Amazon Music.

Credits adapted from Rihanna's official website.



Sidney Partain
Structure Maintainer
Answer # 2 #

Rihanna’s ‘Love on the Brain’ from her 8th studio album ‘Anti’, was released on September 27, 2016, and peaked at No.5 on the Billboard chart on March 25, 2017. Sources have claimed that the lyrics of the song symbolize her history with domestic abuse by her former partner, Chris Brown.

Rihanna’s ‘Love on the Brain’ not only showcases her vocal skills but also the depth and emotion of her lyrics. Read below to find out how this song has been interpreted.

Between 2008 and 2009, Barbadian singer, Rihanna, was dating singer, Chris Brown, whom she was already friends with for a few years prior.

The night before the 2009 Grammys, the relationship ended abruptly after Rihanna shocked the world with photos of her bruised face. It is understood that the pair got into an argument that escalated, leaving Rihanna with physical injuries on her face and body.

Brown pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to five years of probation and six month’s community service. Rihanna was also granted an order of protection against Brown.

Around 2012 however, the couple reportedly got back together with Rihanna opening up in an interview in the Rolling Stone. “It’s different now…he made a mistake, and he’s paid his dues,” she said.

Despite many disagreeing with this move, it is perhaps what inspired Rihanna to later bring out the song, ‘Love on the Brain’. The song, which she co-wrote, was released on September 27, 2016, seven years after the incident.

Many have perceived this song to be about a one-sided, toxic, and destructive relationship, with the narrator losing control of their emotions.

Throughout the song, there are many references to abuse and addiction to love, some fairly subtle, and others not so.

“You love when I fall apart, so you can put me together and throw me against the wall” is particularly provocative and has been interpreted as the cycle of abuse within a toxic relationship. Similarly, “baby I’m fist-fighting with fire just to get close to you”, suggests the dangers of persisting with a violent lover.

The lyrics later get darker with “It beats me black and blue but it f***s me so good and I can’t get enough”. It’s assumed by many that this relates to her experiences with domestic abuse, being beaten herself (mentally or physically), but quickly feeling pulled in again by love.

Looking at the line that repeats throughout the song, “it must be love on the brain”, many have interpreted this to symbolize Rihanna’s conflict with feeling love both in her heart (the emotional side of her) but also in her brain (the rational side of her), which, arguably, should be telling her to walk away.

To the shock of her fans, Rihanna released a song in 2012 from her 7th studio album, Unapologetic, called ‘Nobody’s Business’, which features vocals by Chris Brown.

As with the song name, Rihanna firmly chose not to justify why she teamed up with Chris Brown for this song, arguing “it’s the truth”, in that it’s nobody’s business. The song, written by singer-songwriter, The-Dream, was actually not intended to be a Rihanna/Chris Brown collaboration, but they decided in the end that the duet would sound good.

In that same year, Chris Brown released ‘Turn up the Music’, featuring vocals by Rihanna, whilst Rihanna also released a new version of ‘Birthday Cake’ featuring Chris Brown. It’s clear that the pair, despite criticism from fans and the media, were going to work together nonetheless.

Avi Kasper