Fear of the unknown has always dogged us as a species, ever since we first crawled out of the primordial soup. It’s this fear that drives us not only to build, to achieve, to mark our territory with our urine, but also to seek comfort in others. In the dark of night, the loneliness of the mind envelops itself, and so naturally it is in these times that we turn to others for reassurance. In asking if we will stay the night, Williams is the one reaching out: to us, to another human, for comfort.
What dark terrors are running through her subconscious? Is her hedonistic life catching up with her? Are her friends whispering behind her back? We may never know. What we can see is a woman in need, crying out for help, reaching out a hand in the hope of finding another human soul in the endless void.
“I know that we are upside down / So hold your tongue and hear me out,” says Williams in her first verse. Here we see Williams’ acknowledgment of the crushing ennui, the confusion that is the default state of human existence. Are we upside down? In the darkness there is no frame of reference, and so Williams insists for silence as she attempts to create a frame of reference through spoken language. Williams is attempting to use her willpower to impose order on chaos.
This theme is cleverly built upon in the next line, where Williams continues: “I know that we were made to break / So what? I don’t mind”. The fleeting, finite lifespan of humankind is a headlong rush towards a breaking, a snapping, an ending. Williams refers not to planned obsolescence, but to simple erosion and destruction. Much as water washes away the course of a river over time, so must humanity fall.
Williams then insists that we “kill the lights”, while she “draws the blinds”. Hawk-like, Williams circles back to the metaphor of darkness and reminds us that darkness comes not only from outside humanity but also as a result of our actions: we too, can create the darkness — and sometimes we should, to remind ourselves of our fears. Lights, much like blinds, are created by humans, and so humans can turn them off — or draw them closed. Order from chaos, chaos into order. Blinds.
As we move seamlessly into the chorus, Williams asks bluntly: “Are you gonna stay the night? Are you gonna stay the night? Oh, oh, oh, are you gonna stay the night?” Here we see Williams reaching out, begging us to open our eyes, throw off the shackles which blind us and to recognise the darkness and fear we both share. The repetition of the chorus, in which Williams asks us to stay the night not once or twice but five times in succession, shows how deep and layered the themes of this song have become.
Williams also goes out of her way to reassure that it “doesn’t mean we’re bound for life,” harking back again to the inevitability of death. Dark, grim stuff — but the second verse of this sprawling epic is where we really see Williams let loose. “Enemies chokin’ slugs, ain’t gotta show me love / Nigga huh nigga what, ain’t playin’ nigga thug”, says Williams.
This sudden upstep in the song’s tempo and change from gentle synth backing beats to harsh instrumentals and metallic grinding keeps us off-balance, tottering. As our defences are down Williams batters us again with the hard-hitting home truths, saying: “Say what you wanna say, it’s Playa Posse day / And Minnie fuckin’ Mae, give us our earned pay / As Bill Chill lay, we still love and hate / Bump til your heart decay, scared ah me I don’t play.”
What are we to make of this? What are we to make of anything? Our world spins around us as the careful, delicate web Williams has weaved shatters like glass under machine gun fire. “Blackout bossin’ the track, hater callin’ ya wack / Anna gimme the Mack, y’all ah make it a crack,” shouts Williams, now clearly intoxicated. “Lyrical the attack, blow your heart out ya back / Broke knots wid Playa Fly, come through wid Gangsta Blac!”
This last verse Williams punctuates by holding her arms wide and spinning in circles as the music rises, a powerful interpretive dance that shows us she is lost in the storm, adrift on the unfeeling currents of life. As she falls to the floor and crawls, bleeding, across the cold hard stone, Williams whispers “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” Her teeth are cracking. She is spitting blood. The great lord Cthulhu rises from her yawning, impossibly wide mouth, bursting her apart like an overripe cocoon of flesh, and devours the sun, ending the world.
In conclusion, “Stay The Night” is about fucking.