Whenever studies about the behavioral patterns of Millenials get published, words like “positivity” and “individuality” and “idealistic” make frequent appearances; if you believe what the academics and marketing folks tell you, this is a generation that believes that the world can be saved solely by the power of a tweet. However, anyone who has actually spent any significant amount of time with people who fall into this age-range know that they aren’t this shallow nor as eternally optimistic as the so-called experts suggest, and are just as apt to fall under spells of disillusionment and succumb to periods of disenfranchisement as the rest of us (whether you’re Gen X, Gen Y or a Baby Boomer). Well, after seeing Skylar Grey perform at a small industry showcase in Manhattan last night, it’s pretty apparent that she is an artist that is well-positioned to resonate with this “darker” side of Millenial culture.
Skylar Grey rose quickly in the Interscope farm system over the last eighteen months and change on the strength of her ability to write massively catchy hooks; she’s responsible for the sing-along choruses of Eminem and Rihanna‘s “Love The Way You Lie,” Diddy-Dirty Money‘s “Coming Home” and Dr. Dre‘s comeback single, “I Need A Doctor.” She’s now attempting to launch a solo career of her own, with an album of original material likely to materialize sometime in 2012.
Grey emerged on stage last night at the tiny club Dominion dressed in full, gothy Lisbeth Salander chic (aka The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) — jet black hair, tight leather jacket, Doc Marten-esque boots and a pair of plaid pants worn well below her waist with a wallet chain attached; Katy Perry, she most certainly is not. Like her stage name* evokes, Grey stands in stark contrast to today’s bubblegummier pop stars (think Demi Lovato, think Selena Gomez), delivering lyrics like “I’m addicted to your torture”, “I’m proud to be your f***in’ weirdo” and even something that sounded a lot like “Come here necrophelia” with a whispery, attitude-laden intensity.
That said, even though she’s a self-described “f***in’ weirdo,” that doesn’t mean she’s strictly positioning herself as the female Marilyn Manson (although she does collaborate with him on “Can’t Haunt Me (Zombie)”). She sang a riveting song last night called “Tower,” one that could be the theme song to a Bizarro-universe Disney version of Tangled. “You are high upon your tower, now don’t look down, I will be okay,” she sings, which, if you think about it, is an interesting counter-position to the aforementioned Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper.” Following that number and a short medley of her hits, her set took another interesting turn when she performed a high-energy cover of Radiohead’s “Idioteque.” It wasn’t as out of left field as it sounds; we’re guessing that because a great deal of Grey’s songs have massive, vaguely post-apocalyptic, hip hop influenced, and aurally intriguing soundscapes, she wanted to tip her cap to the Kid A classic and inform the audience (without literally saying as much) that this is the aesthetic she’s aiming to achieve.
There’s an old saying that goes like this: Every generation gets the pop star they deserve. We’re not sure that sentiment is exactly applicable in this situation, but we do know this: All of the Millenials out there who absolutely can’t identify with the “prissy” likes of Taylor Swift and the byproducts of the Disney machine will find themselves a new touchstone in Skylar Grey.
SETLIST: “Beautiful Nightmare” / “Dance Without You” / “Tower” / Medley of “Coming Home”, “I Need A Doctor” and “Love the Way You Lie (Part II)” / “Weirdo” / “Idioteque” / “Can’t Haunt Me (Zombie)” / “Invisible”
*Speaking of stage names, this isn’t Skylar Grey’s first time on the pop star merry-go-round. Back in 2006, she released a Sarah McLachlan-y album called Like Blood Like Honey under her given name, Holly Brook. Much like her Interscope labelmate Lana Del Rey, Holly/Skylar changed her name in an attempt to reposition herself in the eyes of consumers, although Grey will likely not suffer widespread malignment from the rabidly indie portion of blogosphere for this switcheroo like Lizzy Grant has.