Rihanna has a bare, emotional ballad on her hands in “Stay,” and the Unapologetic track’s new video is the best chance yet for the unfamiliar to appreciate it. When the majestic, Beyoncé-ready song debuted in the Barbadian singer’s Saturday Night Live appearance, most of the post-show chatter focused on her seapunk-derived backdrops. When Rihanna performed it at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, “Stay” was overshadowed by the bizarre spectacle that is the Grammy Awards, not to mention her guest Mikky Ekko’s lackluster vocal. Not to mention her own guest appearance in the Taylor Swift-pleasing Bob Marley tribute.
Ekko shows up again in the video, and his soft croon still floats in that somewhat awkward space where the guy from the xx bums cigarettes off of David Gray. But much of the video consists of Rihanna submerged in water, her face looking disarmingly natural; the stillness lets the song speak for itself. Mostly, anyway: Rihanna shows a fair amount of (tasteful) skin, and Ekko hangs his head in a dimly lit room, but the intimacy of this bath is a bit like the “intimacy” of Rihanna’s gossip-launching Instagram account or her disappointing #777Tour press junket: We get close to her, but we never really get close to her. We have music for that.