“Work” is a song recorded by Barbadian singer Rihanna for her eighth studio album, Anti (2016), featuring Canadian rapper Drake. The song was released as the lead single on January 27, 2016, through Westbury Road and Roc Nation. The song was written by PartyNextDoor, Rihanna, Drake, Monte Moir, Rupert “Sevn” Thomas, Allen Ritter and Matthew Samuels, and was produced by Boi-1da, Kuk Harrell and Noah “40” Shebib. The dancehall, reggae-pop and R&B song, contains an interpolation of “If You Were Here Tonight” (1985) performed by Alexander O’Neal. Lyrically, the song incorporates themes of working for money, as well as discussing fragile relationships. The song is in the Jamaican Patois language and three of its writer-producers: Rupert “Sevn” Thomas, Matthew “Boi-1da” Samuels, and Jahron “PartyNextDoor” Brathwaite, are Jamaican-Canadians.
Critical response to “Work” was mixed upon release; critics praised its composition and Rihanna’s decision to return to her earlier themes of dancehall music, while others were more skeptical of the song’s potential as a comeback for the singer. Critical opinion improved over time; the song was included on several year-end lists and nominated for two awards at the 59th Grammy Awards: Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The song reached number one on the United States’ Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Rihanna’s fourteenth number-one single and making her the act with the fourth-most number-one songs on the chart (after The Beatles, Mariah Carey and Elvis Presley). The song remained at the top for nine weeks. The song also peaked at number one in nine additional countries and is certified Platinum or higher in thirteen countries, including 8x Platinum in the US, 3x Platinum in the UK and Diamond in France. It has also since sold 32.5 million units worldwide, making it one of the best-selling digital singles of all-time.
The song was accompanied by two music videos, which both premiered on February 22, 2016. The first of the two versions was directed by Rihanna’s previous collaborator Director X, while the second was directed by Tim Erem. The song was further promoted with live performance’s at the 2016 BRIT Awards which featured guest appearances from Drake and SZA, the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, as well as being performed on the Anti World Tour. “Work” became the first dancehall song to top the Billboard Hot 100 since Sean Paul‘s “Temperature” (2006) and was succeeded three weeks later by another dancehall song, Drake’s “One Dance“.
Following the release of Rihanna’s seventh studio album, Unapologetic, and its accompanying tour, Rihanna took a step back from music. Rihanna aimed to take a hiatus from recording music stating; “I wanted to have a year to just do whatever I want artistically, creatively,” Rihanna went on to state that this hiatus lasted a week and she had returned to the recording studio. Following the release of three singles in 2015—”FourFiveSeconds” (with Kanye West and Paul McCartney), “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “American Oxygen“—Billboard announced that Rihanna was set to premiere a new single on January 27, 2016, at 8 am EST. That same day, “Work” premiered on several radio stations worldwide including the BBC Radio 1 in the United Kingdom. Subsequently, it was made available for digital download in most countries worldwide via the iTunes Store and was added for streaming on Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal.
“Work” was written by PartyNextDoor, Drake, Rihanna, Monte Moir, Rupert “Sevn” Thomas, Allen Ritter and Matthew Samuels, and was produced by Boi-1da, Sevn Thomas, Ritter, Kuk Harrell and Noah “40” Shebib. In the summer of 2015, Thomas, Ritter, Boi-1da, and Martin Mason, among others, stayed at Drake’s house in Los Angeles for a mid-week period. Thomas described the time spent at the home as a “beat factory, everyone was sitting there working and collaborating with each other.”
Thomas created a beat which was dancehall-influenced; he later played it for Boi-1da to which he positively responded, “We’re both Jamaican-Canadian. It was just something in our DNA, so it woke him up, and we started remembering all these old dancehall songs from the ’90s.” Boi-1da came with up idea for sampling an “old school dancehall rhythm” and after that the chords were made with Ritter and past it, “everything went organically”. The most recognizable sampling found in the “Work” riddim is from the 1998 riddim “Sail Away” which was produced by Richie Stephens and Mikey 2000, interpolating Alexander O’Neal‘s “If You Were Here Tonight“. When the song’s music was finished, Boi-1da sent it to PartyNextDoor who wrote the lyrics, “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,” noted Thomas. After Drake heard the song he loved it and decided to write and record a verse on it. Shortly after Braithwaite stayed at Rihanna’s home in Malibu, where he played her the song.
Rihanna’s vocals were recorded by Marcos Tovar and Kuk Harrell at the Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles; the latter also served as a vocal producer. Drake’s vocals were recorded by Noel Cadastre and Noah “40” Shebib at the Sandra Gale Studios in California and the SOTA Studios in Toronto. The vocal recording was assisted by Thomas Warren, while additional vocals were provided by PartyNextDoor. Manny Marroquin mixed “Work” at the Larrabee Studios, while Noel “Gadget” Campbell and Shebib did the mixing at the Studio 360 and SOTA Studios in Toronto. The mastering was done by Chris Gehringer at the Sterling Sound in New York City. “Work” marks the third collaboration between Rihanna and Drake, following “What’s My Name?” in 2010 and “Take Care” in 2012.