Her sea-punk cribbing green-screen act may have had the Internet up in arms, but what we really thought was most jaw-dropping about Rihanna‘s recent Saturday Night Live appearance was that stunning new ballad she performed called “Stay.” Rihanna’s not much of a vocalist, and studio 8H is not generally known as a place to really sing, but sing Rihanna did and she sounded so good. We didn’t know Rihanna could do — or even wanted to, for that matter — but we were blown away by it, and we were happier yet to see her do it again this weekend on The X Factor UK finale.
On a big stage and in a futuristic white cut-out dress, again finding emotional range and strength in her voice that we haven’t come to expect from her. The airplane-hanger sized space she was performing in remained silent through the song and when she moved into “We Found Love” without skipping a beat. She sang the first verse pared-down and from the gut like she did with “Stay,” but then seemed to catch herself. “Ooh!” she squealed, and the stage began spewing sparks and what had been a quiet performance erupted into some sort of spectacular laser-ridden rave we’ve only ever dreamed of. And so it seems, that first and very good SNL performance was no fluke — Rihanna’s for sure got that x-factor.