It’s been a wee bit, but I’m back with a new feature that I’ve been brainstorming for some time now. So, people on the Internet seem to love lists. I’d probably be one of those people. You just can’t resist a really fun list. (Hey, that could be a song lyric.) I’ve done quite a few lists here before (a selection of my favorite Christmas albums, which I will be adding to this year; the best albums of 2011, something I’ll be reprising for 2014 as well; etc.), but now I’m breaking them off into their own feature, and hopefully expanding my repertoire a little bit in regards to that. The subjects will be completely all over the place, most likely, but then again, isn’t that my style?
To kick off the new “Play List” feature, I decided to do songs with a common theme…and somehow came up with a list of great tunes that happen to have the same name, “Stay.” (Those musicians, always wanting people to stay.) Why “Stay”? Well, it’s what came to mind first, I suppose. (My next post will be about songs called “Go.” Ba dum cha…) At least one or two of these, you’re most likely well acquainted with, and the other ones, hopefully it will be some nice music discovery. Given the typical subject matter of songs where someone wants someone else to stay, you can expect that these will all pretty much be ballads…but there’s some variation that keeps things interesting.
“Stay” by Rihanna & Mikky Ekko
This is the one you probably have heard of recently. I don’t have firsthand experience in knowing how popular it became…it was released while I was in Peru. I actually found out about it while I was there…another missionary had the sheet music for the piano part, and so all I knew about this song for a year or so was the piano part, and one of my companion’s remembered version of how the song went. (He was a very good singer, but let’s just say his memories of how the song went weren’t very strong.) Once I got home, I was able to hear it in full, and I was quite impressed. Rihanna’s work has always been a bit of a mixed bag for me…some of her stuff I’ve liked, some of it I’m definitely not into, and a lot of it has me ambivalent. This song, however, she keeps it incredibly simple musically (though thankfully not lyrically, as happened with “We Found Love,” which features like 5 or 6 lines tops for the ENTIRE song), with just a piano, a bit of guitar, and singer-songwriter Mikky Ekko accompanying her. Rihanna’s vocal is very on-point, and her interplay with Mikky is excellent. (He does a fine job in the parts he has to himself, I might add.) It’s probably one of the strongest songs that Rihanna has ever done, I’d have to say. Having her go acoustic is a wise choice that I wish she’d take more often.
“Stay” by Katie Thompson
Years ago, before I started watching “So You Think You Can Dance” regularly, somewhere, someone was watching the audition rounds (this might have been during my freshman year at BYU, maybe?), and I heard a small snippet of this tune. A Google search of the lyrics I heard later, I was introduced to the full track by Katie Thompson, an artist I’d have to admit I still don’t know very much about, but according to her website, is an actress and singer involved in lots of interesting projects. (Apparently she was in the original cast of “The Forgotten Carols,” which reminds me that I haven’t even heard of any of the songs from that, and she will be returning to tour with the production this holiday season. Very nice.) Regardless of the fact I haven’t dug much more into her other work, this song stands as an excellent testament to her talent…it’s a langorous, heartbreaking, yet strong and beautiful song full of emotional heft, thanks to Katie’s emotionally gripping performance (on both piano and vocals). And on top of all that, she’s singing it live. Very impressive, I’d say.
“Reste (Stay)” by Sophie Milman
So FYI, these will all be by women. I don’t know how that worked out, exactly. I mean, there’s definitely more songs called “Stay”…I just ended up liking/knowing about all the ones by female artists. It happens. Anywho, this one is actually in French. An English version was also recorded, but I think I just got it because I bought the deluxe version of the album on iTunes or something. But I digress…Sophie Milman is a top-notch jazz vocalist from Canada, whose music I fell in love with a while ago, when one of her tunes was offered for free as an iTunes Single of the Week. This song is off her second album, “Make Someone Happy,” and is a captivating bossa nova that…well, I don’t speak French, but despite the language barrier, Sophie’s vocal is stellar, and she communicates the passion of the song perfectly, making this song a real treat (among many in Sophie Milman’s repertoire).
“Stay” by Sara Bareilles
Sara Bareilles has come out with some absolutely incredible stuff lately (her most recent album, “The Blessed Unrest,” is gold…I’ve been meaning to post a detailed album review sometime…someone hold me to that), and this, yet another showstopping ballad by Sara (she can write and perform them like nobody’s business), is no exception. She OWNS this. OWNS it, I say. Off her “Once Upon Another Time” EP (produced by Ben Folds), it’s a slight sonic departure for Sara in that the instrumental backing is based on guitar, rather than piano. Honestly, though, Sara could sing with a kazoo and rock it. The vocal, the writing, the fire, the passion…everything shines brightly through in this track. (And this is just one of many musical high points in her career so far.) If Sara was singing this track to me, I wouldn’t just stay…I’d probably start talking about marriage. (Yes, that might be influenced by the fact that I’d love to marry her in general, but that’s beside the point.) It’s that powerful.
“Stay” by Holly Conlan
Like I said above, I so did not plan this being an all-women post. But we need more of those in our lives, right? Women are awesome. Like Holly Conlan, for example. Yet another case of me falling in love with her music thanks to an iTunes free download (would you believe me that that’s how I was introduced to Sara Bareilles as well? There’s a few patterns here…), Holly is an outstanding, innovative singer/songwriter/pianist that keeps coming up with some absolutely gorgeous music. This tune, released a few years back as a non-album single, plays to Holly’s strengths (well, all her songs do, I’d say…) as a writer and performer. It’s a somewhat unassuming tune at first glance, but her quiet confidence and riveting lyrics really draw you in. I highly recommend not only this song, but the entirety of Holly Conlan’s other work…she’s terrific.
“Stay” by Sugarland
And last but not least…OK, so I just did a search now on Spotify for songs called “Stay,” to see if there were any late-breaking additions to my list. This came up, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before…but I wasn’t terribly familiar with it off the top of my head. Now I remember it quite well (I just finished listening to it in full), and…yeah. I like it a lot. Jennifer Nettles delivers an assured vocal, one of her best, and the stripped-back accompaniment is warm and complements her perfectly. There’s even a bit of a lyrical twist…she’s singing to a man who’s already with someone, which adds a new dimension to her pleas to have him stay. If you’re going to listen to a bunch of songs called “Stay” (why not?), you’d better add this one to the list, even if you’re not much of a country fan. (I am, but I think this song appeals to a heck of a lot more than just the typical country music lover.) It’s a winning tune no matter what your tastes are.
Well, that’s the inaugural edition of Play List. I’d love your feedback…do you like it? Hate it? Do you have some more songs to add to the list? Any other ideas on things with common musical themes you’d like me to take on? Go ahead and comment away…it’s always good to not be blogging into the void or something. Thanks, as always, for reading and listening.