“Stay (I Missed You)”

’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Stay (I Missed You)”

The eighty-first No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories. This was the first release for Loeb and her three-man backing band, Nine Stories. After the surprise success of this chorus-less song from the film Reality Bites, Loeb began releasing material sans Nine Stories, scoring two more Top 20 hits — “Do You Sleep?” (peak: 18) in 1995 and “I Do” (peak: 17), one of the best songs of 1998. Although Loeb continues to create music, she hasn’t landed on the Hot 100 since ’98, which perhaps not coincidentally was the year Britney Spears and *NSYNC had their first U.S. hits.

“Stay (I Missed You)” is an acoustic pop song with a stream-of-consciousness lyrical style, about an over-analytical woman dealing with someone whose behavior confuses her — a common theme for Loeb. The minimalist video, directed by Loeb’s friend Ethan Hawke, is instantly recognizable for Loeb’s fashion, the empty apartment setting and the continuous-shot camera work.

Let’s spend a few minutes re-listening to “Stay (I Missed You)”:

“Stay (I Missed You)” is a delight. It somehow manages to be singalong fodder despite its near-absence of any repeated lyrics or melody lines. Play this for any (white) Gen X woman, and she will know every word. The track may seem inconsequential at first listen, but its simplicity is slyly genius. Loeb’s directness is refreshing and authentic, conveying the frustration, just short of anger, many of us feel in our relationships. It’s also a pretty piece of guitar music.

Was it dope? In a Middle America, Friends kind of way, yes. “Stay” was to 1994 what Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” was to 2002 — a musical outlier that demonstrated the talent of a quirky brunette ingenue, simultaneously offbeat and mainstream, targeted at young women who felt like they were discovering something rather than having it forced on them. Its dopeness has an expiration date, though, because its appeal is abnormally generational.

Does it hold up? “Stay” has a coffeehouse vibe that feels very ’90s even though this track was off-trend at the time of its release. Its affiliation with Reality Bites, a movie so strongly associated with the 1990s, shines a fluorescent light on its wrinkles. On the other hand, the themes and production of “Stay” are somewhat timeless, so we think any teenage hipster who discovers this song now would like it.

Dopeness: 5 out of 5 Birkenstocks

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stay
Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
“Stay (I Missed You)”
3 weeks at No. 1, starting Aug. 6, 1994
Preceded by: “I Swear,” All-4-One
Followed by: “I’ll Make Love To You,” Boyz II Men

’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?

John

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