Babes and Bathtubs in Music Video

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Island Def Jam/Curb/RCA

When Rihanna’s “Stay” video was released it automatically conjured up comparisons to other videos. The singer was notably only seen naked curled up (and occasionally turned over) in a bathtub. The song itself discusses wanting a lover to stay with you inexplicably. So what does that have to do with Rihanna being nude in the tub? Other than the fact that Rihanna takes any opportunity to be clothe-less, washing in water respresents cleansing. Often this means washing away the past or an unpleasant emotion. So Rihanna is simply bathing to confort herself since her love isn’t there. She’s washing away memories so she can’t miss him.

Rihanna isn’t the only woman who has used the bath technique. In fact her scene immediately recalls a shaken up Britney Spears in her 2004 video for ” Everytime”. Spears arrives back to her hotel and after getting into it with her boyfriend, she unwinds in the tub. She reaches back to touch her head and discovers she’s bleeding possibly from the pap hitting her with the camera earlier. Soon she passes out. We then see her running down a hospital hall in front a blinding white light.  She’s supposed to have died and been reincarnated as a newborn baby. Except the singer pops back up from the tub smiling at the very end of the clip. This implies everything is a dream (the easy way out because the label wanted to play it safe and stray away from the video’s original concept).

LeAnn Rimes played with this theme in her video for 2005’s “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way”. The song deals with how a woman deals with the death of her husband as she struggles to cope with his loss. Still riddled with grief, the singer is seen crying on the bed and on the floor. She wanders around the home in his shirt clinging to his memory. Finally, she draws a bath and sits in it fully clothed. She sinks into the water…then she comes to the surface to take a breath. Was she trying to commit suicide and changed her mind? It seems that way. Or maybe she wanted to wash away her sadness so she can start anew with her date next week.

The difference between the two videos is in where they draw their sadness. Rihanna’s is presumably about longing for your lover no matter how bad things get, while Britney’s dilema was an escape from her chaotic life. LeAnn’s situation was perhaps the most bleak–wanting to give up on life completely in order to be with the man she loves. It’s important to point out that while Rihanna and Britney were undressed, LeAnn entered her bath clothed. Maybe she didn’t want to bare herself or she was so eager for her hurting to end that her appearance didn’t matter. But it shows that her motive wasn’t to wash anything away–it was for her life to end. Britney slipped into the tub after falling unconscious. But after a stressful day with a neglectful boyfriend and fiendish paparazzi that act in such a way daily, checking out and starting all over as a new person isn’t such a bad thing.

As it turns out, Rihanna has it the easiest of the three women.

In the end all of these women ultimately survived their circumstances. Rihanna is content to soak until her frustrations are adequately vanished,  Britney is reincarnated (or the whole thing was a dream) and LeAnn changes her mind deciding to live another day. A favorable end to a moment of sorrow.

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