Me Singing Stay By Rihanna
There is an overlap between the visual arts (video art specifically) and certain video essay formats and practices. On the one hand, video essays (in particular those that have a performative bent) can have artistic ambitions of their own. On the other hand, video artists regularly use visual strategies that are commonly associated with the video essay. This great piece by Puerto Rico-born digital artist Molly Soda is a case in point.
Me Singing Stay By Rihanna is a piece of video art that is essentially a side-by-side video essay. To be precise, a side-by-42-sides video essay, because it consists of a mosaic of no less than 42 short online videos. In each one, a young woman performs her cover version of the Rihanna song Stay. The formal similarities between all these videos are striking: a centrally framed singer faces the camera in a (tight) medium shot while sitting in their own bedroom. The conventions of this genre seem to be well established…
But this piece does more than reveal the formal uniformity of all these purportedly impromptu performances and recordings. Its genius is in the way it turns these songs sung in isolation into a booming choir. Molly Soda combines the 42 solos into a communal performance. The result is a visual and musical representation of the – often elusive – promise of online community. These young women probably have very different reasons to record their singing – from an expression of fandom to a craving for fame of their own. But this video synchs all their different aspirations and emotions into a single song: a moving anthem for the hordes of bedroom artists that use the internet as their podium.