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"Umbrella" is a song recorded by Barbadianmarker R&B singer Rihanna, featuring a rap verse by American hip hop artist Jay-Z. The song was written by Terius Nash, Christopher Stewart, Kuk Harrell and Jay-Z, and was produced by Stewart. It was released as the lead single for Rihanna's third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad. The track was released worldwide on March 29, 2007, and since its release, "Umbrella" has been covered by many artists worldwide and became a zeitgeist hit in pop culture.

The song has also achieved commercial success by topping charts in Australia, Canada, Germany, France, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as reaching the top ten in many other countries. Following a successful chart performance worldwide and a positive reception from critics, the song is listed number three on the 100 Best Songs of 2007 published by Rolling Stone magazine.

In 2008, "Umbrella" earned Rihanna and Jay-Z a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in addition to receiving nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It managed to stay at number one in the United Kingdom for 10 weeks, the longest time spent by a female and in the 21st century, the 2000s decade, and on this chart.

Background and writing

American songwriter-producer Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and Terius "The-Dream" Nash and Kuk Harrell convened in January 2007 at the Atlantamarker-based Triangle Studios to create new material. In the studio, Stewart was "messing around with a walloping hi-hat sound". With his attention caught by the sound, Nash asked Stewart what he was doing: "Oh, my God, what is that beat?" When Stewart incorporated chord onto the hi-hat, "immediately the word popped into [Nash's] head"; he went to the vocal booth and started singing. Nash wrote the first two verses and the chorus over Stewart's skeleton track. They quickly wrote the lyrics, completing the first verse in 60 seconds. They continued into writing, adding the hook while "Tricky would put the next chord". In a matter of hours, they had recorded a demo of the track.

The song was written with American pop superstar Britney Spears in mind, with whom Stewart had previously worked with in the 2003 song "Me Against the Music". Stewart and Nash thought that Spears, who had "her personal life ... a little out of control" at the time, needed a hit as musical comeback. Spears was working on her fifth album, Blackout, so they sent a copy of the demo to Spears' management. However, Spears did not hear of the song because her label rejected it, claiming they had enough songs for her to record.

Following the management's rejection of the track, Stewart and Nash dealt it out to other record labels.It was also given to UK R&B Singer/Song Writer Taio Cruz. It was Then opted Island Def Jam chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid, a friend of Stewart who established his first studio. By early February 2007, the demo was sent to Reid's right-hand woman, A&R executive Karen Kwak, who passed it along to Reid with a message confirming that they had found a song suited for Rihanna, who was working on her third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad, at the time. Reid immediately sent the demo to Rihanna, who was also positive of it: "When the demo first started playing, I was like, This is interesting, this is weird. ... But the song kept getting better. I listened to it over and over. I said, 'I need this record. I want to record it tomorrow.'"

However, since it was the Grammy season of 2007, Stewart and Nash eyed American R&B singer Mary J. Blige for the demo. Upon calling them to set the record aside for Rihanna, Stewart had played it to an associate of Blige, subsequently promising the song to her. Having heard the move of the writers, Kwak began calling Stewart and his manager, Mark Stewart, incessantly. Meanwhile, considering Blige's nominations at the Grammys, Stewart and Nash agreed to wait for her response. However, Blige failed to hear the song in full due to her obligations to the Grammys at the time and "had to sign off on the record before her reps could accept it". Finally, Reid "stepped in, trading on his power-broker status and longstanding relationship with Stewart", and admits, "I made the producers an offer they couldn't refuse." By the time Reid had successfully persuaded Stewart's camp, they "just couldn't say no". On giving up the record to Reid's camp, Mark Stewart comments, "We knew Rihanna's album would be out in a few months. Mary wasn’t even in an album cycle yet. We made the sensible business decision."

Rihanna recorded the song, with vocal production by Thaddis "Kuk" Harrell, in a Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angelesmarker. Initially, Stewart admitted he was still reluctant as to whether Rihanna was the right artist to record the song, but following the recording of the "ella, ella" catch phrase, he felt they were onto "something". Following Rihanna's recording, Def Jam CEO-rapper Jay-Z added his rap. However, Jay-Z rewrote his verse without the awareness of Stewart and Nash. Stewart could not understand it, but later realized it made "sense" instead of the first version. Stewart noted that "from a songwriter's standpoint, he just really made it more about the song, with the metaphors about umbrellas and about the weather versus what he had before".

Music and lyrics

"Umbrella" is in the genres pop, contemporary R&B, and hip hop. The song's musicscape is based on the hi-hat, synthesizers, and a distorted bassline. According to Entertainment Weekly magazine, the song's beat can be recreated through a slowed-down drum loop from the Applemarker music-software program GarageBand (Vintage Funk Kit 03).Note that the same drum loop was used on Maurice Joshua's remix of George Michael's Faith.

The song's lyrics are written in the traditional verse-chorus form. They opens with a rap verse, and the hook "ella, ella" follows every chorus. A bridge follows the second hook, and the song ends in a fadeout.

Single release and reception

"Umbrella" was released worldwide on March 29, 2007, debuting on Rihanna's Def Jam website. The song was released digitally in the United Kingdom on May 14, 2007, its physical release following two weeks later. An acoustic version of the song with a new arrangement was later released a bonus track to Good Girl Gone Bad in the iTunes Store.

"Umbrella" received generally positive reviews from critics. Andy Kellman of Allmusic commented: "'Umbrella' is [Rihanna's best song] to date, delivering mammoth of spacious drums, a towering backdrop during the chorus, and vocals that are somehow totally convincing without sounding all that impassioned — an ideal spot between trying too hard and boredom, like she might've been on her 20th take, which only adds to the song's charm." For Alex Macpherson of British newspaper The Guardian, "Umbrella" is "evidence" that Rihanna's "strict work ethic is paying off", adding that she "delivers [in the song] an impassioned declaration of us-against-the-world devotion". Tom Breihan of Pitchfork Media, though he complimented the production, dismissed Rihanna's voice which "takes on an unpleasant icepick edge when she tries to fill the space between the slow-tempo beats", adding that the song is "uncompelling as event-pop, particularly because of the disconnect between Rihanna's cold, clinical delivery and the comforting warmth of the lyrics".

The song has earned Rihanna several awards and nominations. In 2007, it was nominated at the Teen Choice Awards for Choice Music: Single. In 2008, "Umbrella" earned Rihanna and Jay-Z a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in addition to receiving nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

"Umbrella" has also been recognized in various forms of accolades by the music press. The song is listed number three on the 100 Best Songs of 2007, published by the music magazine Rolling Stone. Time magazine also listed the song number three on their Top 10 Songs of 2007. The song is listed number one on Entertainment Weekly magazine's list of the 10 Best Singles of 2007, while topping the magazine's poll for the best single of 2007. Blender magazine awarded the song Song of the Year in their Readers' Poll 2007. The music press has considered "Umbrella" as 2007's Song of the Summer, while The New York Times writer Kelefa Sanneh regarded it as "arguably 2007's signature slow jam". In 2009 Pitchfork ranked the song as the #25 song on list of The Top 500 Tracks of the decade.

Chart performance

The single was in the top ten & top five throughout the charts in the world. Prior to its physical release, "Umbrella" achieved the biggest debut in the six-year history of the iTunes, breaking a record previously held by Colombianmarker singer Shakira and American hip hop artist Wyclef Jean’s "Hips Don't Lie". As a digital single, "Umbrella" topped the iTunes Store singles chart in more than 17 different countries around the world.

"Umbrella" was a commercial and chart success in the United Statesmarker. On Billboard magazine's issue dated June 9, 2007, "Umbrella" ascended from number 42 to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, based on the single's first-week digital sales of over 277,000 units. The single became one of the highest digital debut in the United States since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking downloads in 2003. "Umbrella" is Rihanna's second number-one single after "SOS", which was also noted for its huge leap on the Hot 100 to the top spot in 2006 based on digital sales alone. Significantly sustained by the strong airplay of the single and preventing American rap group Shop Boyz' "Party Like a Rockstar" to advance on the chart, "Umbrella" spent seven consecutive weeks at the top of the Hot 100, until it was replaced by American pop rock band Plain White T's' "Hey There Delilah". On the 2007 Billboard year end chart, "Umbrella" was ranked at number two; it was ranked only behind Beyonce's hit single "Irreplaceable". The song debuted at number one in Canada, becoming the first song to top the recently launched Canadian Hot 100, a singles chart in Canada issued by Billboard magazine, similar to that of the Billboard Hot 100.

The single performed, most notably, in the United Kingdommarker, breaking a record on the UK Singles Chart. The song debuted at number one on the chart based on digital sales alone, becoming Rihanna's first chart-topper in the country. During the single's fourth week on the chart, it earned Rihanna the accolade in the United Kingdom when both the single and album topped the UK Singles Chart and UK Albums Chart. Having reached nine straight weeks at number one on the chart, it broke the record of American group Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" as the longest of the decade. "Umbrella" eventually reached a total of ten weeks at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the country's longest-running number-one single of the 21st century. Rihanna has become the seventh artist in the history of the UK Singles Chart to top the chart for ten straight weeks. By the end of 2008, "Umbrella" had sold more than 600,000 units, making it her biggest-selling single to date and the second biggest-selling single of 2007 in the United Kingdom, only behind Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love. It has since been certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry on December 12, 2008. In total, "Umbrella" has amassed 71 weeks on the UK Singles Chart and has appeared within the top 100 for three consecutive years. In 2007 it peaked at #1, in 2008 at #18 and 2009 at #99. It currently stands as the eighth best selling song by a female artist in the UK in the 21st century, and also the eighth best selling collboration following the same criteria.

As well as topping the charts in the United Kingdom, "Umbrella" had a similar success throughout Europe, reaching number one in Ireland, Poland, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Norway, Italy, Portugal, Romaniamarker, Germany and specially in Spain, where the song achieved four times platinum selling 160,000 units, and topped the charts for five consecutive weeks. In Australia, "Umbrella" entered the Australian ARIA Singles Chart at number one and spent six consecutive weeks at the top. "Umbrella" has been certified platinum in 2007 by the Australian Recording Industry Association for over 70,000 units shipment of the single, and ended as Australia's third best-performing single in 2007. The single peaked at number one in the New Zealand charts and was the country's best-performing single in 2007. In total, "Umbrella" reached number one on 18 of its 29 charts released and it reached top 10 on every chart at that matter.

Music video

Rihanna covered with silver paint in the music video for "Umbrella"
working on the album, ideas began to circulate concerning Rihanna's image, extending into her music videos. She asked American music video director Chris Applebaum to send her "something" to work on. Def Jam representatives were expecting Applebaum of the treatment. In response, Applebaum hurriedly made a treatment for the video, one of his first ideas being the silver body paint that Rihanna is seen in. Applebaum was doubtful whether Rihanna would embrace the idea, but her "positive response" following a letter the director sent to the artist ensured its approval. Makeup artist Pamela Neal mixed a silver paint that would give Rihanna such a look. During the session, the paint was re-applied between takes to ensure she was completely covered. The set was closed to Rihanna, Applebaum and a camera assistant. Rihanna also contributed her own ideas towards the video shoot, suggesting to Applebaum that she dance en pointe, an idea which he accepted.

The music video premiered on April 26, 2007 at her website. Downloads were made available for those in the U.S. only from the website for a limited time. The video was officially released on the iTunes Store on May 11, 2007, peaking at number one for a period of eight weeks. On May 1, 2007, "Umbrella" debuted on MTV’s Total Request Live at number 10, before reaching number one on May 9 where it remained for fifteen days, making it the longest running number one of 2007. The video was well-played in MTV during the second half of 2007; it has reached over 8,000 plays, receiving a platinum recognition at the MTV Platinum and Gold Video Awards. Such was the success of the promotional video that it received five nominations at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, including "Female Artist of the Year", "Video of the Year" and "Monster Single of the Year", going on to win the latter two.

Covers and remixes

Along with countless amateurs, "Umbrella" has been covered by several notable performers from a variety of musical genres, including JLS, Bare Egil, Terra Naomi, Jamie Cullum, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, The Mint Chicks, McFly, Lillasyster, Plain White T's, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, OneRepublic, Sara Bareilles, Cláudia Leitte, Mandy Moore, My Chemical Romance, Tegan and Sara, Amanda Palmer, Syesha Mercado, Natalie Gauci, illScarlett, All Time Low, Taylor Swift, Bentley Jones Boyce Avenue, and The Baseballs (Swiss Charts Nr. 16 - June 2009). Then-upcoming singer Marié Digby recorded an acoustic version of "Umbrella" which was released August 3, 2007 as the debut single from her Hollywood Records Start Here EP and included as the closing track on Digby's debut album Unfold. Scottish rock group Biffy Clyro also released an acoustic version of the song, while Italianmarker band Vanilla Sky went in the opposite direction and released a punk cover of the song. For her debut album a.K.a. Cassandra, Filipinamarker singer and actress KC Concepcion covered the song in English, while singer Miss Ganda recorded a version in Filipino entitled "Payong" (means umbrella).

Pop-punk outfit All Time Low covered the song for the Fearless Records compilation album Punk Goes Crunk, and Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers produced their own version of "Umbrella", which was originally recorded for the album NME Awards 2008. Produced in celebration of the Shockwaves NME Awards 2008 and Big Gig, that album was given free with a special souvenir box set of the magazine NME on February 27. Two additional versions (acoustic and Grand Slam mix) were later made available on iTunes, and the trio now comprise an Umbrella EP; a video for the cover is available on the band's official website. British pop rock band McFly performed their own version of "Umbrella" during their "Greatest Hits So Far Tour" in 2007, and Finnishmarker melodic death metal band Children of Bodom performed their 2008 cover live at Wacken Open Airmarker.

There have also been notable mixed versions of the song. American rapper Lil Mama recorded a version of "Umbrella" that replaced Jay-Z's opening rap verse. An article by Blender magazine, who dismissed Jay-Z's version, said "Lil Mama actually seems to understand the song's metaphorical themes of protection and loyalty". American punk band Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker remixed the song, adding to the track "quicksilver snare flourishes and... real-life guitars". Singer Chris Brown created an answer song titled "Cinderella", replacing some of the verses and part of the chorus of "Umbrella" with his own lyrics. This version is the official remix. This version has been performed as a duet between Brown and Rihanna when he joined Rihanna on a late-2008 tour in the Asia-Pacific region. R&B/hip-hop singer The-Dream, who wrote "Umbrella", recorded the demo with a slightly different intro and instrumental. Recently, korean girl group 2NE1 covered this song on Music Bank.

Impact

Coincidence with weather

The song's reign at number one in the United Kingdom and Ireland occurred as the regions were hit by extreme rainfall and flooding, which led The Sun to suggest the two events were related, with the media referring to it as the "Rihanna Curse". The UK-based publication adjudged the single brought bad luck to their country, and mentioned the date of the single's video shot which was Friday the 13th, adding further coincidence of the curse. Before the single's release on May 14, the temperature in London, U.K. was relatively high, reaching 20 °C. However, just a day after the release, "severe weather warnings hit the headlines". In an article run by The Sun, it urged readers to join the campaign in knocking the song off the chart's top spot, suggesting the readers with several songs to download instead. Coincidentally, the precise day the song was dethroned in the chart, the weather seemed to improve.

A similar situation occurred in New Zealand, where the song hit number one in the early winter of 2007 as the country was experiencing some of the worst storms in its history. During the weather conditions, Taranakimarker, Taurangamarker, and Aucklandmarker had experienced tornadoes and flooding in the Far North of the country. Once the single was replaced on the top spot, weather condition almost in the entire New Zealand pacified, although Hawke's Baymarker was still stormed.

Pop culture

With the record-breaking success of the single and the reported coincidence with the weather, Def Jam's marketing team collaborated with British umbrella manufacturer Totes. The company produced five types of Rihanna umbrellas, of which was a double-colored satin umbrella that Rihanna debuted in public during her performance of the song at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. Although manufactured by a UK-based company, the collection was made available only to US residents by online through the company's website.

In November 2007 MADtv's Nicole Parker and Keegan-Michael Key, who were depicting U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama respectively, performed a parody of "Umbrella".

Gaming

"Umbrella" has been featured in the karaoke video games SingStar Pop Volume 2 and Lips, both accompanied by the music video. A cover of the song is also featured in Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 as a playable track.

Live performances

"Umbrella" was performed by Rihanna during the 2007 MTV Movie Awards on June 3, 2007. In the United Kingdom, she performed the song on GMTV and on The Brit Awards in 2008. She also performed "Umbrella " during her AOL sessions. In France, she performed it on Star Academy. "Umbrella" was added to the setlist of her first headlining The Good Girl Gone Bad Tour where it was performed as the final song before the Encore.

Formats and track listings

Umbrella

US Promo Only CD single
  1. "Umbrella" featuring Jay-Z (Radio Edit) - 4:14
  2. "Umbrella" (No Rap Edit) - 4:00


Australian, European Cd single
  1. "Umbrella" (Radio Edit) - 4:14
  2. "Umbrella" (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Radio Edit) - 3:59


EU enhanced Maxi-CD single
GR enhanced CD single
  1. "Umbrella" (Radio Edit) - 4:14
  2. "Umbrella" (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Remix) - 4:01
  3. "Umbrella" (The Lindbergh Palace Remix) - 7:54
  4. "Umbrella" (Video)


American 12" vinyl
Sides A & B
  1. "Umbrella" (Radio Edit) - 4:14
  2. "Umbrella" (Radio Instrumental) - 4:17


European 12" vinyl
Side A
  1. "Umbrella" (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Remix) - 4:01
Side B
  1. "Umbrella" (Radio Edit) - 4:14
  2. "Umbrella" (Instrumental) - 4:37


Umbrella: Remixes

American, Brazilian promo CD single
  1. "Umbrella" (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Radio Edit) - 3:59
  2. "Umbrella" (Jody Den Broeder Lush Radio Edit) - 4:42
  3. "Umbrella" (Jody Den Broeder Destruction Radio Edit) - 4:25
  4. "Umbrella" (The Lindbergh Palace Radio Edit) - 3:54
  5. "Umbrella" (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Club Remix) - 6:35
  6. "Umbrella" (Jody Den Broeder Lush Club Remix) - 9:11
  7. "Umbrella" (Jody Den Broeder Destruction Remix) - 7:56
  8. "Umbrella" (The Lindbergh Palace Remix) - 7:54
  9. "Umbrella" (The Lindbergh Palace Dub Remix) - 6:46


British promo CD single
  1. "Umbrella" (Seamus Haji Club Mix) - 6:37
  2. "Umbrella" (Jody Den Broeder Club Mix) - 9:13
  3. "Umbrella" (The Lindbergh Palace Remix) - 7:54
  4. "Umbrella" (Jody Den Broeder Electric Club Remix) - 7:57
  5. "Umbrella" (The Lindbergh Palace Dub Remix) - 6:46
  6. "Umbrella" (Seamus Haji Radio Edit) - 4:01
  7. "Umbrella" (The Lindbergh Palace Radio Edit) - 3:54


Charts

Chart (2007) Peak

position
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 1
Austrian Singles Chart 1
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders) 1
Belgian Singles Chart (Wallonia) 3
Canadian Hot 100 1
Danish Singles Chart 8
Dutch Singles Chart 2
Finnish Singles Chart 2
French Singles Chart 6
German Singles Chart 1
Irish Singles Chart 1
Italian Singles Chart 3
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart 1
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
Romanian Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 2
Swiss Singles Chart 1
Turkish Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 1
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 4
U.S. Billboard Pop 100 1


Chart procession and succession

References


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