Rihanna attempts to make sense of her strong emotions for her boyfriend in the stirring “Stay.”
A restless piano opens the single, setting a strained tone. Their relationship began with a fast start. They went from talking all night at a party the night they first met to making love within that week. Two weeks later, she had moved into his apartment. For their last six months or so, something has seemed off. He’s been quiet and she doesn’t know what he wants from her anymore. Frustrated, she tells him to show her how he feels. He responds with an “ok” and pulls her in for a passionate kiss. (“All along it was a fever/A cold sweat hot-headed believer/I threw my hands in the air and said, "Show me something,"/He said, "If you dare come a little closer.")
In the pre-chorus, she says their relationship runs hot and cold. Some days, they argue until they can no longer talk and other days they stay in bed. However, she isn’t certain he’s aware of how much she really loves him. (“Round and around and around and around we go/Oh now tell me now tell me now tell me now you know.”)
In the chorus, it took some time to process her love for him. All he has to do is grin at her and she gets giddy. It’s as though they don’t need words. The intimate connection she has with him is what she needs in her life. (“Not really sure how to feel about it/Something in the way you move/Makes me feel like I can't live without you./It takes me all the way/I want you to stay.”)
She watches her boyfriend make one awful decision after the other. He refuses to seek or accept help which bothers her. She wishes he would change his thinking. He needs to realize the world doesn’t owe him anything. He should be grateful for what he does have in his life.(“It's not much of a life you're living/It's not just something you take – it's given.”)
The pre-chorus and chorus are sung again.
In the bridge, she has wounds she can’t seem to heal. Compliments do not faze her and only cause her to feel like a fraud. When she is with him, he makes everything ok and somehow, she believes she has the strength to go on. She resents that her boyfriend’s problems demand the importance in the relationship while her emotional needs go unnoticed. Conflicts aren’t ever resolved between them. It’s only when someone gives in a little that the fight ends. (“ Oh the reason I hold on/Oh cause I need this hole gone/Funny you're the broken one but I'm the only one who needed saving/Cause when you never see the light it's hard to know which one of us is caving.”)
The chorus is sung again to end the single. .
Rihanna’s tearful, pressing vocals crack and quiver, struggling to pull herself together long enough to ask for what she needs. She’s damaged, far more than she lets on to anyone, except for him. Lately, though, it’s gotten tougher to read her boyfriend and she has to know he still cares for her.
The vulnerable “Stay” diminishes its strength with a lacking arrangement.
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