a closer look at this year’s spring weekend performers
Destiny Nicole Frasqueri has gone through a number of stage name changes, from Wavy Spice (which is a better name than Scary Spice) to the singular Destiny. Her latest incarnation goes by Princess Nokia, and she describes the persona as a representation of her “multi-dimensional aspects.” For a singer so concerned with questions of who she is and what it means to be something, her music similarly tackles issues of identity and the three-dimensional nature of mankind. Her songs and statements encompass queer, transgender, and other identities, such as her song “Brujas,” which establishes her identity as a Bruja and tackles issues of colonialism and ethnicity. Her music is as multifaceted and complex as human nature, and her determination to empower women of color is commendable.
The marginalization of women carries into the music industry, unfortunately. A common complaint, echoed by artists like Grimes and Mitski, is the assumption that if a man is involved in crafting a project, then the man is likely the one in charge of the creative direction. Lorey Rodriguez — stage name Empress Of —subverts this mistreatment entirely by wiping her credits clean; she is the sole singer, writer, and producer of her tracks. Her material is entirely her own. She’s not afraid of embracing this fact, either; the feminist synthpop banger “Woman is a Word” was a response to the notion that being a woman was an unflattering description. Her live performances feature her and nobody else, but we’ll soon see that she commands the stage perfectly fine on her own.
Young Thug possesses the rare, pure inability to give a fuck. This quality crops up in practically all of his output. His music is described as not intending to sound good, but rather intending to sound how it’s supposed to sound. His imagery, seen in the androgynous cover art for his latest album JEFFERY , and his videos, like “Wyclef Jean,” revels in its awfulness and are hilarious spectacles. None of this would be worthwhile if he didn’t also possess raw talent. Young Thug, like all great rappers, is comfortable occupying a variety of thematic spaces, and he relishes in changing the course of an album from playful fun to humorless darkness. For an eccentric and eclectic artist, you can only expect an equally entertaining performance to come.
My first exposure to Cherry Glazerr was their song “Nuclear Bomb,” which is interesting for a number of reasons. The song is slow, undulating, and painfully emotional, which doesn’t match the title at all. Second, the video features a woman having sex with a guitar. Naturally, I was intrigued, and I dug through their discography to find more indie rock greatness, from the upbeat and captivating “I Told You I’d Be With The Guys” to the groovy chaos of “White’s Not My Color This Evening.” Cherry Glazerr is masterful at crafting unique soundscapes and aesthetics, compelling you to dance and maybe even, as it turns out, have sex with a guitar.
To clarify some potential misconceptions: AlunaGeorge is a duo, comprised of singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid smashing their names together like it’s German, and while AlunaGeorge have experienced touches of mainstream success recently, the duo’s been pumping out quality music since the beginning of this decade. Songs like “You Know You Like It” (tip: the original is better) and “White Noise” with Disclosure showcase how much power and allure dance music can carry, especially when crafted by a producer unafraid of experimentation and with a singer with an undeniable cool to her voice. AlunaGeorge isn’t known for sledgehammering beats or bombastic choruses. Instead, they substitute a slinking groove to their music that you can’t help but dance along to.
Known as the queen of neo-soul, Erykah Badu’s career is the most prolific of this year’s Spring
Weekend performers. She started performing in 1996 –opening for D’Angelo– and her rise as an artist has been considered a female counterpart to the R&B dominating the charts in those times. That isn’t to take away from her individual strengths; Badu masterfully draws from soul and hip hop to craft her music, and thematically, her songs are just as complex, addressing issues her counterparts rarely explore such as her African heritage, religion, and guiding philosophies in life. Badu’s music is textured and nuanced, and while her set list is sure to be full of bangers, they carry more gravity than you’d expect.