Skylar Grey knows that the power of art lies in its function to be open for interpretation.
So, more than a decade after penning what is perhaps the last great Top 40 radio single, Grey is releasing a new version of “Love the Way You Lie.”
“The cool thing about music and art is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways,” Grey tells Los Angeles Confidential. “Sometimes I'll listen to songs from my childhood that I love, and they'll come on and I haven't heard the song in 20 years or something [and] it hits so differently.”
Out Feb. 10, “Love the Way You Lie Part III” sees Grey— who wrote the song made infamous by Eminem and Rihanna— take ownership of her art. Fans of Rihanna will notice it is a rerelease of “Love the Way You Lie Part II” on 2010 album Proud. But fans of Grey know she had her own version (“Love the way You Lie, Pt. III (Demo)) on her 2014 album Don’t Look Down.
A single in the leadup to Eminem’s album Recovery, you could not escape “Love the Way You Lie” during the summer of 2010. It went on to earn five Grammy nominations and was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America.
And though Eminem’s punchy verses were instantly infectious, there was nothing like the earworm chorus.
Just gonna stand there and watch me burn? Well, that's alright because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and hear me cry? Well, that's alright because I love the way you lie.
“Love the Way You Lie” was born in a cabin in Oregon. Alone and with a track from producer Alex da Kid, Grey wrote the song and when it ended up in Eminem’s hands, he tapped Rihanna for the chorus.
“When I wrote it, I was down on my luck, I was completely broke and not even living in L.A.,” Grey recalls. “So writing it, having that experience of becoming a No. 1 song while I was in such a bad place was a huge turning point in my life as a person and in my career, so it’s always meant a lot to me.”
Next came a string of hits. The mastermind behind some of the biggest songs of the early 2010s, Grey’s songwriting credits include Zedd’s “Clarity,” Macklemore’s “Glorious” and Diddy’s “Coming Home.” She’s also written for Kehlani, Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion, not to mention Eminem’s “Walk on Water (feat. Beyoncé) and “I Need A Doctor” with Dr. Dre.
However, Grey had to sell her catalog last year.
“I was stuck in a horrible divorce and a lawsuit and the only way for me to get out of it was to pay a bunch of money,” she explains. “Now, every time ‘Love the Way You Lie’ plays anywhere, I don't make any money on it.”
“Love the Way You Lie Part III” takes a soft approach. A tender listen, the new version feels suitable for a world more fragmented and hurt than it collectively was in 2010.
“I think emotionally it's different,” Grey says, noting the passing of time allows her to hear her songs differently. “I was a lot younger then and I've been through a lot more s*** now. I feel like I've taken an even more somber approach to it [and be] more reflective looking back at the past.
Now an independent artist, Grey owns all her masters, meaning whenever “Love the Way You Lie Part III” plays, she’ll make money off of it.
What’s more, the final product is the result of a more organic creative process for Grey. She explains she does her best work when she is alone (she is currently based in Napa) and far away from L.A.
The songwriting sessions she got looped into post- “Love the Way You Lie” never felt natural. After all, in solitude was how she wrote the hit that started it all.
“I'm just so invested in the words and the melody that it's a really personal experience for me every time,” she says. “And to be forced to do that in the room with people I don't know, I've never met before and suddenly we're trying to do that— So many sessions I walked out of crying because I just felt like I couldn't do it. And I also felt like I couldn't deliver what people were wanting. I was putting so much pressure on myself to write ‘Love the Way You Lie’ every session I went into with that big of a song and when I felt like I wasn't doing a good job, I would just get down on myself. And so I just realized I'm not meant for that circuit.”
Grey thinks the industry still views her as a songwriter, but she knows there are a lot of people in the world who see her for the artist she is. The release of her self-produced album last year, Skylar Grey, was a big turning point.
“It felt really, really good [and] therapeutic to put that out and show myself that I could do that. But again, I felt like I was starting from zero” Grey says.
Skylar Grey was accompanied by a number of videos, the first set of which capture a girl lost. The final video, for “Vampire at the Swimming Pool,” reveals a rebirth after a journey of pain and suffering.
“I feel like that chapter is over and I'll be moving into the new one with a lot more confidence and strength,” Grey says.
While Grey has been working on a bunch of new music, at the top of her mind is a greatest hits album. She muses she’ll call it “Guilty by Association” and compile all the chart toppers she wrote, but this time with her own vocals.
She later says, “Everything I write about is definitely a reflection on my life and my feelings. And so I do feel confident, I do feel strong after having gone through that: selling my catalog, getting out of my divorce…Finally being able to breathe again after that and being on this mission to just crush it [and] feel powerful. And so the music that I'm writing reflects that and definitely this greatest hits thing plays a role because it's the whole idea of taking my ownership back and that's part of my power that I found.”
Photography by: Ryan McKinnon