It’s amazing what producers and songwriters can do to a blank slate. Rihanna’s debut single, “Pon de Replay”, might get my vote as one of the most annoying songs of this past decade. I remember sneering at the TV every time the video came on VH-1’s top 20. However, just one year later, the Barbadian beauty was well on her way to becoming arguably the best singles artist of the decade (she’s the #2 artist on this list, with three songs on the survey). The song thatsent her on her way was this propulsive, sexy jam. Goosed along by a very prominent sample of ’80s classic “Tainted Love” (by Soft Cell), Rihanna channeled her thin voice into an attitudinal, erotic moan that was good enough to make us forget that we were (at the time) listening to a teenager. The song’s flirty, fun vibe took it to the top of the charts, becoming the first of Rihanna’s five chart-toppers this decade, and established her as one of the preeminent female pop singers of her generation.

So suck it, “Pon de Replay”. “S.O.S.” marked the beginning of pop superstar Rihanna as we now know her, and for that, we as pop music listenerds (that was a typo, but I left it in, it kinda fits) should be quite appreciative.