This month an old soul R&B classic “If You Want Me To Stay” was given new life by singer Ari Lennox and singer-actor Anthony Ramos. Lennox and Ramos teamed up with Crown Royal in the creation of this song to save clubs, bars, and stages all over the country that support the live music industry but are being closed down due to COVID-19. Crown Royal will donate to the Main Street Alliance, a nonprofit that supports small businesses, for every “If You Want Me To Stay” streamed.
The original song was released by Sly and The Family Stones in their 1973 album “Fresh.” Lennox and Ramos’ cover is not the first cover of this song, as it was previously covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eleanor McEvoy, and Devin Lima. Though I have listened to the other covers, this version has quickly become my favorite!
Lennox is a 25-year-old Washington D.C native and the first female to be signed onto the Dreamville label. Lennox is a relatively new artist with her debut EP “Pho” released in October 2016 and her debut album “Shea Butter Baby” releasing last year in May.
Ramos is 28-years old and best known for his roles John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton in the 2015 Broadway production of “Hamilton.” However, he also played the lead Usnavi in the musical “In the Heights” at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, and is cast as the lead in the movie adaptation. He has also been in the movie “A Star Is Born” and voiced King Trollex in “Trolls World Tour.” His first album “The Good & The Bad” was released in 2019.
Both artists are extremely talented, as heard in their duet of “If You Want Me To Stay.” They show an impressive vocal range while maintaining a rich tone that evokes empowerment, yet shows frustration in a relationship, as if they’ve experienced these feelings before. Overall, their voices complement each other incredibly well making the song pleasing to the ear.
Lennox and Ramos’ rendition is a smoother version of the original “If You Want Me To Stay” while still being able to retain the essence of the original song. The original has raspier vocals and a louder backing track resembling the funk genre. However, in this cover, the vocalists maintain their personal style with some gruff qualities that hint to the original song. The backing track is quieter and more modern which emphasizes the vocalist’s skills while bringing the entire song together.
The original song was created after Sly got into a fight with his ex-wife, so adapting this song into a duet makes the song seem like the conversation during their fight. This gives the listener insight into how Sly might have been feeling when he originally created the song. This makes the overall song more relatable to the audience who might have experienced a heart-breaking fight in a relationship that made them question if they wanted to stay.