WASHINGTON, July 12, 2013 —Pop music never really changes. The surface details might appear to be different, causing some to think the product is something completely new based on modern production values. Case in point: the recent show at U Street Music Hall featuring Charli XCX and opener Little Daylight is modern pop music to the core, and both performances showed that pop music is still relatively the same as it’s always been.
Charli XCX and Little Daylight are examples of where pop music is moving and why it hasn’t changed all that much. The concept is the same as it was in the 1960s. But that concept has evolved, things have gotten slicker, there’s more electronic noise involved. Combined, the same principles that created excellent pop in both past and present apply to both these acts and it works.
Little Daylight is the perfect opener for a show like this. They are the new kids on the block. For most everyone in attendance, this is the first time they’ve seen them live and it’s easy to presume that it’s the first time they’ve even heard of Little Daylight, much less listened to them before.
That’s not altogether shocking. They’ve only released three proper songs so far. This is the kind of tour a band like Little Daylight uses to get out there and circulate their music with just the right audience to absorb their music. In that sense, playing at U Hall during this show was the perfect springboard for them. They didn’t disappoint or drop the ball on their side of the bargain.
Opening for a larger act, it’s important for the band to sound similar, something in the same vein but not necessarily a carbon copy for the headliner. This is a niche that Little Daylight fits perfectly.
The band insists on crafting one pop gem after another. Every song in their set follows a loose template to maximize their own unique pop sensibility. Their influences are essentially the major players in the indie pop circuit. But much like those bands, the only thing tying them together is the vague sense of up-tempo songs driven by light guitar work and heavy synth use.
This is the kind of sound Little Daylight immerses itself in. But while they share these similarities, the most important factor is that they put their own individual spin on the genre. Each song has its own quirky and offbeat signature, holding the audience’s attention as one component in a high-energy set.
This is the role of the opener, though. They’re different enough that it gets the audience excited. But at the same time, their style is close enough to the headliner that it’s not jarring when Charli XCX takes the stage to perform her set.
Where Little Daylight is a rising indie pop band, destined to play successfully at clubs, Charli XCX has the makings of being a pop star. Electro-pop started off as something of a niche genre not more than a few years ago but has quickly inched itself into the mainstream and in some respects has grown recently to achieve some dominance in the pop field. Charli XCX is the latest in rapidly expanding list of pop singers who specialize in electro-pop.
It’s actually somewhat amazing to see Charli XCX play at a place like U Street Music Hall because she feels a lot bigger than she actually seems to be. Her sound and presence cuts the image of a much bigger act than the setting might indicate, and it feels as if her music has covered a lot of territory and that she’s already been around awhile.
This is both true and somewhat misleading. She’s been recording music since she was 14 when she self released her debut album. Because of that, it’s easy to forget she’s still only 20. So, it feels like she’s older than she actually is and it’s easy to forget that she’s still building her audience at this point, especially in the states.
It’s that experience that makes her live show so engaging, especially in a club setting like the one at U Hall. When she’s up on stage, she cuts an imposing figure, with the backlights making her stand out as if she’s the only moving figure in a otherwise static backdrop. She moves and sings on stage with a confidence that doesn’t seem possible in someone as young as she is.
It’s that kind of confidence that carries the songs her set. The songs themselves are a solid collection of modernized pop. She doesn’t exactly break new ground, but then that’s not really the point of a pop singer. There’s a certain track to follow and the key skill is to turn that on its ear just enough to get the audience amped up. Her up tempo songs follow a quick beat that push the crowd in this direction to great effect with the subtle hint of her British accent in her vocals holding everything together.
This is the kind of show that the ever-growing number of Charli XCX will feel the need to recall years down the road. The show here in itself seemed to offer a glimpse into her promising future. She’s definitely on the path to pop ascension and her performing with Little Daylight at U Street Music Hall will eventually feel like a memory of a strangely perfect moment before Charli XCX became a legit pop star.
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