The Meaning of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”

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    The Meaning of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”
    Published: February 13, 2023

    “Umbrella” was one of the earliest massive hit singles in Barbadian singer Rihanna’s career, which now includes a long line of chart-topping worldwide hits. The track was the lead single from her third album, the 2007 breakout, Good Girl Gone Bad, and it helped to establish her as the music industry icon that she is today.

    The track features Jay-Z, a frequent collaborator of Rihanna’s and one of the earliest industry superstars to recognize her talents. Jay-Z co-wrote the track along with producers Tricky Stewart and Kuk Harrell, and singer-songwriter The-Dream.

    “Umbrella” was universally-acclaimed and became a number one hit in several countries, including the United Stakes, Australia, and the UK. Today, it has amassed over 1 billion Spotify streams and remains one of the most well-known and beloved songs in Rihanna’s repertoire.

    The lyrics to “Umbrella” express support and devotion for a loved one, promising to have their back through the sunshine and the rain, no matter what life has in store for them. She uses the metaphor of an umbrella in the pouring rain, telling her lover that can stand under it anytime.

    This sweet message is sung with Rihanna’s exceptional vocal range, over an arrangement that blends elements of hip-hop, R&B, and even rock to create a true masterpiece of 2000s pop.

    Origins of “Umbrella”

    In an origin story that is very “mid-2000s”, producer Christopher “Tricky” Stewart had gotten up with The-Dream and Kuk Harrell with the goal of creating something new and exciting.

    Tricky discovered a “walloping hi-hat sound’ in the then-new software, Garage Band, which is now included on all Mac computers.

    They created the beat that became the basis for “Umbrella”, and inspiration struck the room. Stewart reportedly knocked out the first two verses and the chorus in about 60 seconds and then went into the vocal booth to lay down a demo track.

    In a few hours, they had a complete demo, and they set their sights on selling the track to Britney Spears for use on her fifth album, Blackout.

    Britney’s team turned it down, saying they already had enough material for the album.

    Rihanna Gets the Song

    Thus, the song went to Rihanna’s camp, and it hit home for her right away. She discussed this in a 2007 interview with Blender, which also chronicles the full backstory of the song from a 2007 perspective:

    “When the demo first started playing, I was like, This is interesting, this is weird.” Rihanna said. “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.’”

    Still, even with Rihanna on board, the songwriters wanted to try shopping it to one last artist before signing it over. They sent the track to the team of Mary J. Blige, who seemed interested, but the timing was off, so the song ultimately went to Rihanna.

    “Umbrella” Lyrics Meaning

    Now that we’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to take a closer look at the lyrics to “Umbrella” and see what this song is really all about.

    Let’s get into it — starting with the first verse, rapped by Jay-Z:

    No clouds in my stones
    Let it rain, I hydroplane in the bank
    Comin’ down with the Dow Jones
    When the clouds come, we go, we Roc-A-Fella (Ayy-ayy-ayy, ayy)
    We fly higher than weather, in G5’s or better
    You know me (You know me)
    In anticipation for precipitation, stack chips for the rainy day
    Jay, Rain Man is back (Ayy-ayy-ayy, ayy)
    With Little Miss Sunshine, Rihanna, where you at? (Ayy-ayy-ayy, ayy)

    First verse to Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, rapped by Jay-Z.

    Here, Jay-Z spits a verse that is dripping with rainy images. He depicts himself floating over top of the rain, meaning the hard times in his life, and is completely unbothered as he counts his money.

    He makes a handful of references here, first to the Dow Jones, which is the company that publishes the Wall Street Journal and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which are both very popular ways that people follow the trends of the stock market.

    The lyrics “In anticipation for precipitation, stack chips for the rainy day”, is a reference to Jay-Z’s classic 1996 track “Can I Live”, which contains the line “I know this game got valleys and peaks / Expectation for dips, for precipitation we stack chips, hardly”.

    Then, he introduces Rihanna, who sings the second verse:

    You have my heart and we’ll never be worlds apart
    May be in magazines, but you’ll still be my star
    Baby, ’cause in the dark, you can’t see shiny cars
    And that’s when you need me there
    With you, I’ll always share because

    Second verse to “Umbrella” by Rihanna.

    Rihanna reassures her lover that he has her heart, and nothing will separate them. Even when the lavish lifestyle that accompanies fame comes into play, Rihanna sings, she will still be there.

    The message here is that true love will not be dampened by the distractions of her lifestyle, because her love is more important to her.

    The famous chorus is up next:

    When the sun shine, we shine together
    Told you I’ll be here forever
    Said I’ll always be your friend
    Took an oath, I’ma stick it out ’til the end
    Now that it’s rainin’ more than ever
    Know that we’ll still have each other
    You can stand under my umbrella
    You can stand under my umbrella
    Ella-ella, ayy, ayy, ayy
    Under my umbrella
    Ella-ella, ayy, ayy, ayy
    Under my umbrella
    Ella-ella, ayy, ayy, ayy
    Under my umbrella
    Ella-ella, ayy, ayy, ayy, ayy, ayy, ayy

    Chorus to “Umbrella” by Rihanna.

    Here, Rihanna brings a message of positivity, saying that the pair can take on the world together during good times, or sunny days, and shelter each other during bad times, or rainy days.

    Note that the umberella-ella-ella-ay that keeps them dry in the rain is Rihanna’s umbrella, and not the other way around. She is the one offering shelter to her lover, which gives the song a note of female empowerment as well.

    Next up, she sings the third verse, which reiterates many of the same ideas as the second verse:

    These fancy things
    Will never come in between
    You’re part of my entity
    Here for infinity
    When the war has took its part
    When the world has dealt its cards
    If the hand is hard
    Together, we’ll mend your heart because

    Third verse to “Umbrella” by Rihanna.

    Again, she brings the fancy things to the table, saying that they will never separate them. Then, she goes a tad bit more abstract, bringing in images of war and being dealt a hard hand in life.

    This is all to say, in as convincing of a way as the songwriters could possibly come up with, that Rihanna has this man’s back until the end of time.

    Another chorus follows, and then we arrive at the bridge:

    You can run into my arms
    It’s okay, don’t be alarmed
    Come into me
    There’s no distance in between our love
    So, you gonna let the rain pour?
    I’ll be all you need and more because

    Bridge to “Umbrella” by Rihanna.

    The bridge offers more reassurance, as her lover appears hesitant to accept the shelter that is being offered. He is depicted standing there in the rain, as she waits for him to simply step beneath the umbrella, and by her side.

    “Umbrella” closes with another chorus followed by an outro, and then we press repeat. Watch the video below.

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