Rihanna was on Saturday Night Live over the weekend to perform her blindingly bright new single “Diamonds” and then new and truly beautiful Unapologetic track called “Stay.” On the album she’ll be joined by space-y singer/songwriter Mikky Ekko, but she stood alone on the SNL sound stage, with only a spare piano line and the occasional cymbal flourish to back her new-found voice.
“Stay” is a rare Rihanna ballad, and a patient and particularly emotive one at that. With the past few records, Rihanna’s found her grove with the sort of literally dazzling dance track that “Diamonds” is, tracks that make good on her unique but not not exactly impactful voice. But when “Diamonds” came out, we noticed that she was experimenting with her vocals and sounding at times almost like Sia or Lana Del Rey. She took that one step further with “Stay,” a song that finally has her really singing. And so she might still be singing about Chris Brown (“Not really sure how to feel about it / Something in the way you move / Makes me feel like I can’t live without you / And it takes me all the way / I want you to stay.”), but at least she’s doing it in a different way. We just even more excited about Apologetic‘s release next week.
She also performed “Diamonds,” decked out in an army jacket and Timbs, and standing in front of a really elaborate — and trippy, with dolphins and peace signs and planets, oh my! — green-screen show, the likes of which we’ve only ever seen in the dark depths of the internet. Save for the part where she sang really well, this was the opposite of the spare “Stay” performance.