The world has stopped at the start of “Stay,” the new collab between The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber. An unnamed woman is crying, a single tear froze on her face while she gazes at her phone. A chair is smashed against a mirror, but the fragment pieces hover in place as if suspended in time. LAROI (aka Charlton Kenneth Jeffrey Howard, 17) is arched back in agony, but he’s not possessed by a demon – no, the only malevolent spirit affecting this Australian native is heartbreak. “I get drunk, wake up, I’m wasted still / I realize the time that I wasted here / I feel like you can’t feel the way I feel / Oh, I’ll be f-cked up if you can’t be right here,” he sings, per Genius.
As The Kid LAROI experiences a frozen world following a split (just like that one episode of How I Met Your Mother), he’s not the only mobile person in this chrono-cage. In comes Justin, 37, with his post-dreadlocked shaved head, to sing a verse that seems tailor-made for his wife, Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin): “When I’m away from you, I miss your touch / You’re the reason I believe in love / It’s been difficult for me to trust / And I’m afraid that I’ma f-ck it up. / Ain’t no way that I can leave you stranded / ‘Cause you ain’t ever left me empty-handed / And you know that I know that I can’t live without you / So, baby, stay.”
“Stay” – a high-energy, synth-fueled bop that marries the energy of the recent pop-punk revival with the electro sound that’s en vogue at the moment – isn’t the first time that The Kid LAROI has worked with Justin. LAROI was featured on “Unstable,” one of the tracks on Justin’s 2021 album, JUSTICE. There is a similar theme of trust in both songs: “Yeah, you loved me when I was unstable / Never judged, never judged / Never judged me when I was unable / To love myself, to trust myself,” Justin sings on “Unstable.” However, “Unstable” sees LAROI show appreciation for his love at the moment, while “Stay” has him asking for forgiveness after one too many screw-ups.
This marks LAROI’s first single of 2021. It continues LAROI’s momentum from 2020. That year, he released a handful of songs – “Diva,” with Lil Tecca, “Go,” featuring the late Juice Wrld, “Tell Me Why,” “So Done” — which have all been certified Gold by the RIAA. His biggest song to date is “Without You,” a track that got the Miley Cyrus remix in April 2021. When Miley performed on the May 09 episode of Saturday Night Live, she brought out LAROI, and together, they performed the song together.