Love on the Brain

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"Love on the Brain"
Love on the Brain cover.png
Single by Rihanna
from the album Anti
ReleasedSeptember 27, 2016 (2016-09-27)
StudioWestlake Recording Studios, Fred's Shed (Santa Monica, California)
Rihanna singles chronology
"Too Good"
"Love on the Brain"

"Love on the Brain" is a song recorded by 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, and Kuk Harrell serving as the vocal producer. The song was provided to US rhythmic contemporary and urban contemporary radio stations on September 27, 2016, as the album's fourth single. "Love on the Brain" is a doo-wop, soul and R&B 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 a toxic love.

Commercially, the song reached the top of the Polish chart, as well as the top-twenty in France and New Zealand, and top-forty in Austria, Canada and Germany. In the United States, the song reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her 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 as the only acts in history to appear at least thirty times in the top-ten of the Hot 100. Rihanna performed the track during her Anti World Tour, as well as at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards and as a part of a medley at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards.

Background and release[edit]

Norwegian producer Fred Ball co-wrote and produced the song.

"Love on the Brain" was the first song commissioned for Rihanna's album Anti.[1] Written by Norwegian[2] songwriter and producer Fred Ball and American songwriter Joseph Angel in late 2013,[1] 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."[1] 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.[1]

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.[3]

"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.[4] In early August 2016, Philadelphia radio personality Mike Adam stated that "Love on the Brain" would be the album's fourth single,[5] later confirmed by Rihanna herself on August 21, 2016.[6][7] It was sent to rhythmic contemporary and urban contemporary radios on September 27,[8][9] impacted contemporary hit radio on October 11, and the hot adult contemporary stations on November 14.[10][11][a]

Composition and lyrical interpretation[edit]

According to some reviewers, Rihanna channels Amy Winehouse (pictured) on the track.[12][13][14]

"Love on the Brain" is a mid-tempo '50s and '60s inspired doo-wop and soul ballad,[13][15][16][17][18] with a "rock edge".[17] Its instrumentation consists of a "guitar arpeggio," "swirling organ", a "simple chord progression",[12] syncopated strings,[17] and "a wave of an orchestra".[19] Written in the key of G major, it has a tempo of 57 beats per minute in compound quadruple (12
) time
. The song follows a chord progression of G–Am–Em–D, and Rihanna's vocals span from D3 to G5.[20]

Rihanna's vocals were noted as being acrobatic ranging from her "trademark snarl", to high notes,[16] complemented by all-tenor backing vocals.[19] 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."[21] Jordan Bassett of NME compared her high notes to those of Mariah Carey,[16] while Vibe magazine and USA Today noted similarities with the work of Erykah Badu.[19][22][22] Amy Winehouse, Etta James and Sam Cooke were also perceived as influences by critics,[13][12] with Michigan Daily's Christian Kennedy citing Winehouse's song "Wake Up Alone" as the song that Rihanna had borrowed from "stylistically."[14]

"Love on the Brain" has dark lyrics that depict a destructive, yet addictive relationship,[19] with themes of "swinging back and forth between the highs and lows of love".[21] 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. 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."[16][16][22] 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".[23] 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."[24]

Critical reception[edit]

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".[25] 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".[26] Idolator's Bianca Gracie also complimented her vocals, writing that the "rough-edged, soulful ballad finds Rih at her vocal best".[13] Patrick Ryan of USA Today called the song an "easy highlight," noting the "cozy doo-wop nostalgia".[22] Emily Mackay of NME noted the doo-wop groove, deeming Rihanna's vocals a "powerhouse vocal performance".[27] 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".[16] Safy-Hallan Farah of Spin wrote favorably of her singing, while James Grabay of the same magazine named it an "effortlessly time-traveling track".[18]

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".[28] 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.[29] Nolan Feeney of Time declared that "Love on the Brain" and "Higher" "offer the most stirring vocal performances of her career".[30] Jessica McKinney of Vibe agreed, calling the song a "soulful performance that showcases her own range".[19] 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".[12] Calling it "hypnotic," Eric Renner Brown of Entertainment Weekly remarked that "she delivers some of her finest vocal moments yet".[31] 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."[32]

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." [33]"Love On The Brain" received a nomination for Choice Music: Pop Song at the 2017 Teen Choice Awards.[34] 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."[35]

Chart performance[edit]

With "Love on the Brain", Rihanna became the female artist with second most top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart history, only behind Madonna (pictured).

Following Rihanna's performance at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, "Love on the Brain" debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 83,[36] 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.[37] 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.[38] 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.[39] 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).[40] It was also "the second-fastest accumulation of 30 Hot 100 top 10s", according to Billboard's Gary Trust.[41] In the issue dated March 25, 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).[42]

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;[43] to date it has reached number 6 on both charts.[44][45] In the week ending January 22, 2017, the song became her 28th top 10 single on Radio Songs, extending her record for the most top-ten singles on the chart.[46] The song also became her twenty-eighth number-one on the US Dance Club Songs chart in the issue dated January 21, 2017; she remains in second place behind record holder Madonna, who has achieved forty-six.[47]

In Canada, the song debuted on the Canadian Hot 100 at number 14 after being released as a single. In the week of December 3, 2016, it cracked the top-forty, climbing to number 38.[48] 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.[49] Similarly, in France, "Love on the Brain" charted after Anti's release at number 71. After its release, it re-entered at number 138.[50] After weeks outside the top 100, the song reached a new peak of number 69 in the week of January 13, 2017.[50] Three weeks later, the song managed to crack the top twenty, reaching number 12. It became Anti's second top twenty hit.[51] In Austria, the song debuted at number 53 and has peaked at number 7,[52] 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.[53] In Poland, "Love on the Brain" peaked at number one for four non-consecutive weeks in 2016.[54]

Live performances[edit]

Rihanna included "Love on the Brain" in the encore of her Anti World Tour.[55] 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".[56] Michael Cragg of The Guardian claimed that the performance was "delivered with such conviction it feels like you’re watching a different artist".[57] On May 22, 2016, Rihanna performed the song at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, with Billboard describing it as a "standout" of the event.[58] 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".[59]

On August 28, 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".[60] Christopher Rosa of Glamour called the performance "breath-taking",[61] whilst 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".[62]

Other uses and covers[edit]

On May 19, 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.[63] American singer Kelly Clarkson performed the song during a Facebook live session on August 26, 2016.[64] Danish singer covered "Love on the Brain" on the BBC Radio 1Xtra website's Live Lounge.[65] British girl band Little Mix covered the song on iHeartRadio's Honda Stage.[66] 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.

Formats and track listings[edit]

  1. "Love on the Brain" – 3:44
  2. "Love on the Brain" (Don Diablo Remix) – 3:28
  • Digital download – Dance Remixes[68]
  1. "Love on the Brain" (Don Diablo Remix) – 3:28
  2. "Love on the Brain" (Gigamesh Remix) – 3:43
  3. "Love on the Brain" (John-Blake Remix) – 3:31
  4. "Love on the Brain" (RY X Remix) – 3:37

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Rihanna's official website.[3]



  • Rihanna – vocals, writing
  • Fred Ball – writing, production, keyboards, drums
  • Joseph Angel – writing, keyboards, drums, arrangement
  • Jarle Bernhoft – guitar, bass
  • Marcos Tovar – vocal recording
  • Kuk Harrell – vocal recording, vocal production
  • Manny Marroquin – mixing
  • Chris Galland – mixing assistant
  • Jeff Jackson – mixing assistant
  • Ike Schultz – mixing assistant
  • Chris Gehringer – mastering



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Belgium (BEA)[112] Gold 15,000*
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[113] Gold 20,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[114] Platinum 80,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[115] Platinum 90,000^
France (SNEP)[116] Platinum 133,333*
Germany (BVMI)[117] Gold 200,000^
Italy (FIMI)[118] Gold 25,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[119] Gold 15,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[120] Gold 20,000^
Sweden (GLF)[121] Gold 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[122] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[123] 3× Platinum 3,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Ref.
United States September 27, 2016 Rhythmic contemporary [8]
Urban contemporary [9]
October 11, 2016 Contemporary hit radio [10]
November 14, 2016[a] Hot adult contemporary [11]
Italy December 23, 2016 Contemporary hit radio [124]
Germany January 20, 2017 CD single [67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Love on the Brain" was originally scheduled to be released to hot adult contemporary radios on October 10, 2016, but it was postponed to November 14.[11]


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  114. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Rihanna – Love On The Brain". Music Canada. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  115. ^ "Danish single certifications – Rihanna – Love on the Brain". IFPI Denmark. Retrieved 19 February 2019. Scroll through the page-list below until year 2019 to obtain certification.
  116. ^ "French single certifications – Rihanna – Love On The Brain" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  117. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Rihanna; 'Love On The Brain')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  118. ^ "Italian single certifications – Rihanna – Love On The Brain" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved November 6, 2017. Select "2017" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Love On The Brain" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
  119. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Rihanna – Love On The Brain". Recorded Music NZ.
  120. ^ "Spanish single certifications – Rihanna – Love On The Brain" (in Spanish). Productores de Música de España. Retrieved January 24, 2018.
  121. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat" (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved October 7, 2017. Type Rihanna in the top right search bar. Click on "Sok" and select "Visa" under Love On The Brain to see certification.
  122. ^ "British single certifications – Rihanna – Love On The Brain". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 6, 2017. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Love On The Brain in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  123. ^ "American single certifications – Rihanna – Love On The Brain". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  124. ^

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