Why Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ Made Its Writer Feel Guilty

“S&M” by Rihanna is one of the steamiest hits to top the Billboard Hot 100. One of the song’s writers said she feels guilty about the manner in which she wrote the song. Interestingly, the song’s writer has played a massive role in Rihanna’s career as a musician.

Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ was written on a holy day

Ester Dean is a professional songwriter who gave us hits like Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass,” and Selena Gomez’s “Come & Get It.” Dean might be most notable for her collaborations with Rihanna. She co-wrote several Rihanna hits, such as “Rude Boy,” “Where Have You Been,” “What’s My Name?,” and “S&M.”

During a 2011 interview with Billboard, Dean revealed how she put “S&M” together. “I wrote it, Father forgive me, on a Sunday,” she recalled, alluding to the fact that Sunday is a holy day in Christianity. “The track was already there. The first thing that came to me was ‘Come on, come on.’ I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know what in the hell this is about to be.’” 

Dean revealed she took inspiration from a common phrase while writing “S&M.” “And I remembered I’d seen something that said, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones,’” she recalled. “Then came ‘But chains and whips excite me.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, I got to write that.’ I’m in the studio with the engineer and just kept looking at him, asking, ‘Is that OK?’ And he says, ‘I like it.’ When people have a great track that speaks to me, it feels like it already has a story in it.”

Rihanna’s songwriter explained the state of women in the industry

Dean was asked why too few women are professional songwriters. “A woman has to step out and take away the limitations,” she said. “We are human, so nobody is better than or less than me. We’re coming in here to do the same thing and split the percent 50-50. I only work with people who feel the same way.”

In addition, Dean named a few female songwriters who made it into the pop world, specifically Cri$tyle, Priscilla Renea, Makeba Riddick, Traci Hale, and Ericka Coulter. She also cited Beyoncé, Missy Elliot, Gwen Stefani, and Lady Gaga as women who write and produce their own music. 

A remix of ‘S&M’ with a superstar hit No. 1

Rihanna released a remix of “S&M” with the inimitable Britney Spears. That version of the track topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a single week, staying on the chart for 26 weeks. While Rihanna has released multiple chart-toppers with rappers, “S&M” is her only No. 1 collaboration with a fellow pop star.

The original version of “S&M” appeared on the album Loud. That record reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 78 weeks. That record produced two other No. 1 songs: “Only Girl (In the World)” and “What’s My Name.” While Loud wasn’t as critically acclaimed as her albums Rated R or Anti, Loud might be Rihanna’s peak as a singles artist.

“S&M” was a big hit even if Dean might have to pray the rosary a few times in order to atone for it.

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