No other Rihanna single provoked as much controversy as S&M. Written and produced by Stargate in collaboration with Ester Dean, the song deals with erotic themes. Its name is an abbreviation for the sexual practices ‘submission’ and ‘sadomasochism’, which, together with ‘bondage’ and ‘dominance’ form what is commonly referred to as BDSM. In an explicit Rolling Stone interview, Rihanna explained how the themes relate to her personally: “I love feeling like I’m somebody’s girl. I love to be tied up and spanked. I like to take the reins in my life, but I enjoy being submissive in the bedroom. In there I can be a little lady and have a male who has responsibility for the situation. That’s sexy.”
The song’s video features Rihanna and is a visual representation of those sexual themes, pulling no punches. As a result, it was banned in no less than eleven countries immediately after its release. It was “flagged for content” on YouTube, which restricts access to its users under the age of 18. The pop singer’s response to all of this indicates that her intentions were not that contrary to the results: “When I go out to make something, I kind of go out with the intention to get it banned — [well] not to get it banned, I always want my stuff played — but to make something provocative. ”
S&M became the third single from Rihanna’s Loud album to top the charts, after Only Girl (In the World) and What’s My Name? (featuring Drake). However, the version that truly propelled it at the number one position is a remix with Britney Spears released shortly after the original. The two versions’ number of sales were counted together.
S&M spent 1 week at number one in Billboard Top 100 before being dethroned by Katy Perry’s E.T. (featuring Kanye West).