While working on the third album, ideas began to circulate concerning Rihanna’s image, extending into her music videos. She asked American music video director Chris Applebaum to send her “something” to work on. Def Jam representatives were expecting Applebaum of the treatment. In response, Applebaum hurriedly made a treatment for the video, one of his first ideas being the silver body paint that Rihanna is seen in. Applebaum was doubtful whether Rihanna would embrace the idea, but her “positive response” following a letter the director sent to the artist ensured its approval. Makeup artist Pamela Neal mixed a silver paint that would give Rihanna such a look. During the session, the paint was re-applied between takes to ensure she was completely covered. The set was closed to Rihanna, Applebaum and a camera assistant. Rihanna also contributed her own ideas towards the video shoot, suggesting to Applebaum that she dance en pointe, an idea which he accepted.
“There’s greatness about her. Greatness as an artist, as a performer, as a person. There something about her that’s so inspiring, as an artist, she’s unclassifiable. You can’t say she’s [strictly] R&B or pop. She’s more of an impresario. […] That scene [with the body paint], I asked her how she [would feel] if she were a classic Greek statue. Like, ‘Would people find that to be sexy?’ And I wrote the idea thinking that we need to redefine the way in which people have seen this type of body paint and can she become a character within this that isn’t her but more of an alter ego. … I sent it out, and a couple days later, I got on the phone with her after she read it, and I asked her if she was willing to go for it” — Chris Applebaum, MTV News
The music video premiered on April 26, 2007 at Rihanna’s website. Downloads were made available for those in the U.S. only from the website for a limited time. The video was officially released on the iTunes Store on May 11, 2007, peaking at number one for a period of eight weeks. On May 1, 2007, “Umbrella” debuted on MTV’s Total Request Live at number 10, before reaching number one on May 9 where it remained for fifteen days, making it the longest running number one of 2007. The video was well-played in MTV during the second half of 2007; it has reached over 8,000 plays, receiving a platinum recognition at the MTV Platinum and Gold Video Awards. Such was the success of the promotional video that it received five nominations at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, including “Female Artist of the Year”, “Video of the Year” and “Monster Single of the Year”, going on to win the latter two.