The Hit Songs Deconstructed Wire

Released as the second single from her latest album, Unapologetic, Stay finds Rihanna teaming up with Mikky Ekko on this emotional tour de force of  a ballad that to-date has hit #1 in 7 countries and landed in the top 5 on 29 charts.

Today we’re going to take a look at one of the core elements of the song that played an integral in making it so effective – the nature of the duet.

The duet was effective on 2 primary levels:

Providing Sectional Contrast

Stay is primarily piano driven and does not utilize other instruments to provide contrast between sections throughout the song. Instead, it’s the nature of the duet coupled with the diversified style of Rihanna’s and Mikky’s vocals that provided diversity, color and increased engagement value for the listener.

The Storyline

When you have a love/relationship themed song that’s conversational in nature, a duet accentuates the nature of the storyline and delivers a much more engaging and compelling listening experience.


The first third of the song is all Rihanna (verse 1, pre-chorus 1 and chorus 1), and features the female P.O.V. of the relationship. Additionally, as the featured star it makes sense that she should be the first thing that listener’s hear.

The second third of the song is all Mikky (verse 2, pre-chorus 2 and chorus 2) and features the male P.O.V. as it relates to the relationship.

The last third of the song is where things really get interesting and the nature of the duet is reaches its fullest potential.

First let’s take a look at the bridge. By now, both Rihanna and Mikky have expressed their feelings toward one another separately, and here they come together and express the very same sentiment to each other at the same time:

First half of the bridge
Here we have Rihanna providing some vocal “ouuu’s” followed by a duet line. Notice that Mikky has a slight edge in the mix over Rihanna.

  • Rihanna: “ouuuu, ouuuu”
  • Duet: “The reason I hold on”
  • Rihanna: “ouuuu, ouuuu”
  • Duet: “‘Cause I need this hole gone”

Second half of the bridge
During what can be considered the most dramatic part of the song, both Rihanna and Mikky combine forces, singing each line at the same time. Notice that Rihanna has an edge in the mix over Mikky.

Last Chorus
Here, in the final chorus, we have a combination of solo Rihanna lines and full duet lines. Notice how the full duet lines do a fantastic job of tying together the sentiment that was expressed by both characters in their individual chorus sections.

  • Lines 1 & 2:  Rihanna (“Not really sure how to feel about it.  Something in the way you move”)
  • Lines 3 & 4:  Duet (“Makes me feel like I can’t live without you.  It takes me all the way”)
  • Line 5:  Rihanna (“I want you to stay,” “Stay”)
  • Line 6:  Duet (“I want you to stay”)

Appropriately, the last vocal that we hear in the song comes from Rihanna during the brief outro. It’s not a lyric, though. Just a brief vocal “ouuu.”


Interestingly, the lyrical content for both characters is the same throughout the song EXCEPT in their respective verse sections.


As you can see, both artists have their time to shine within the song. Rihanna is the star during the first third (verse-1, pre-chorus-1, chorus-1) and Mikky is the star during the second third (verse-2, pre-chorus-2, chorus-2).

They both share center stage during the last third of the song (from the bridge on), with Rihanna having a bit more solo time than Mikky, which mind you is fully warranted given that she’s the primary artist and it’s her album.

So – if you’re writing a conversational love/relationship themed song that expresses the P.O.V. of both characters, consider structuring it as a duet. Not only will it take your song to the next level, but it will also give your song additional exposure as a result of your collaborators audience.