Welcome to another installment of Revisiting Rihanna, where we go back and look at some of the songs RiRi has released throughout her incredible career. If you missed it, make sure to check out our first entry where we took a look at the 2007 smash hit “Umbrella” and our second entry which focused on “Rude Boy”.
This week, we look at one of Rihanna’s more polarizing songs – 2008’s “Rehab”, featuring Justin Timberlake. “Rehab” was released as the eighth and final single from Rihanna’s 2007 album “Good Girl Gone Bad”, and was one of three songs which were composed by Timbaland (“Sell Me Candy” and “Lemme Get That” being the other two). Timberlake allegedly came up with the lyrics to the song in his head and improvised the track over Timbaland’s beat.
Rihanna told Robert Copsey at Digital Spy that “working with Justin in the studio is just great. He’s a fun guy and likes to make all the sessions enjoyable. He’s also such a genius when it comes to lyrics.”
The influence of Timberlake was obvious, as “Rehab” is structured similarly to several other of his songs, including “Cry Me a River” and “What Goes Around…Comes Around”. According to Timberlake in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the song was intended to help Rihanna become a more mature artist:
“She’s a young artist stepping into the adult world. To me, that song is the bridge for her to be accepted as an adult in the music industry.”
While the song performed well commercially, critical reception to “Rehab” was divided. Writing for The Village Voice, Rodney Dugue called the track one of standout songs on the album, and enjoyed it much more than the lead single “Umbrella”. Spence D. of IGN praised the pairing of Rihanna and Timberlake, stating “Timberlake and Rihanna mesh well, proving that whoever lined up the duets had a great ear for like-minded vocal ranges.”