Rihanna's 'Love on the Brain' lays bare the destructive and addictive nature of a harmful relationship. The narrator in the song says that her lover beats her black and blue and enjoys it, but she can’t seem to quit thinking about him (“fisting with fire and running for miles just to get a taste”). This mentally abusive relationship is draining, both physically and emotionally.
The song has been widely interpreted as alluding to Rihanna's past with Chris Brown, and Genius notes that the narrator seems to be comparing his physical abuse to the emotional abuse he inflicted on her. In addition, the narrator states that she knows her lover is dangerous and has a history of domestic violence, which evokes memories of Rihanna's own abusive relationship with Brown.
Despite the abrasive content, the song is both powerful and empowering as it offers a glimpse into the many different faces of a damaging relationship. The track is a testament to Rihanna's ability to tap into the human experience and create relatable music that can speak for many.
Rihanna's performance of the song at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards was a dazzling display of pop mastery. Dressed in a fitted Thierry Mugler suit, the singer swayed her hips and effortlessly threw her head back to belt out the song’s various octaves. Her unorthodox cool-gal swagger and tantalizing vocal talent made the performance one of the biggest moments from her Anti album.