Why Rihanna Didn’t Record Sia’s No. 1 Hit ‘Cheap Thrills’

Rihanna and Sia are both singers with unforgettable voices, so it makes sense that one of Sia’s biggest hits — “Cheap Thrills” — was meant for Rihanna. Ultimately, RiRi did not record the song for a very specific reason. Here’s a look at how the public reacted to “Cheap Thrills” compared to the music Rihanna released around the same time.

Rihanna wearing an earring
Rihanna | ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Why Rihanna’s manager wanted Sia to write a song for RiRi

Rihanna and Sia’s careers crossed paths in a major way when Sia penned Rihanna’s ballad “Diamonds.” Sia left her mark on “Diamonds,” as RiRi’s vocal performance on the track is reminiscent of Sia’s vocals. The track reached the peak of the Billboard Hot 100 and it remains one of RiRi’s best-known ballads. It makes perfect sense RiRi’s manager would want to replicate the track’s success with Sia’s help.

“Her manager said ‘We want ‘Diamonds,’” Sia told Rolling Stone. “We need soul. We want some music that has feeling. I went to Greg [Kurstin], and that’s what we came up with. I realized just as soon as I was cutting it that it sounded a little bit too Brit-pop for her. It’s more Icona Pop.” 


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Why RiRi didn’t sing ‘Cheap Thrills’ after it was offered to her

Sia revealed there was one reason Rihanna didn’t sing “Cheap Thrills”: RiRi’s management. “We did actually send it to her, but they passed on it, and then I just couldn’t stop listening to it in the car,” Sia recalled. “For some reason, I really liked listening to it which makes me feel masturbatory, but I wouldn’t normally be just jamming out to my own tunes.” She explained why she liked “Cheap Thrills.”

“There’s something really uplifting about it that put me in a good mood, and I would just pretend it wasn’t me singing [laughs],” Sia said. “It felt very summer and fun, and I was like, ‘I’ll put that on [my album This Is Acting].’”

“Cheap Thrills”

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This Is Acting is an album with an unusual concept. It’s full of tracks meant for superstars like Shakira, Adele, and Beyoncé that were rejected. Of course, the songs Sia wrote could have failed without the star power of those artists. Regardless, the album performed well, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard 200. It seems Sia’s unique writing sensibility is enough to draw in a significant number of listeners, whether she sings her own material or not. 

How the public reacted to Sia and Sean Paul’s ‘Cheap Thrills’ vs. Rihanna and Drake’s ‘Work’

According to Billboard, the version of “Cheap Thrills” featuring Sean Paul became the 11th most popular song in 2016. It was certainly a commercial triumph for both Sia and Paul, the latter of whom hadn’t had a pop hit in years. However, Rihanna and Drake’s single “Work” was the fourth most popular song of 2016. The public responded well to both songs but they clearly liked Rihanna’s song more.