Wednesday, January 09, 2013

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Conor Maynard Shows 'Contrast' at iHeartRadio

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UPDATE: One of my fave jams, "Animal," is currently being offered as the free 'Single of the Week' over at iTunes (USA) so make sure you take advantage, Americans.

The iHeartRadio Theatre, previously known as the P.C. Richard & Son Theatre, in the Soho neighborhood is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots for its sheer intimacy (read: it's really small). It played house to UK sensation Conor Maynard on Tuesday night, the very same day his debut US album, Contrast, was released in the US (it was released to his home country this past July).

I walked into this showcase relatively blind regarding Conor's background -- I head heard his singles in the Ne-Yo-assisted "Turn Around" (Ne-Yo is also credited as his "mentor", the one who discovered Maynard after he and his people viewed some of Maynard's YouTube covers), the bombastic "Vegas Girl" and the pretty Bieber-esque "Can't Say No". Everything was firing and hitting but to me, there was a slight disconnect (a Contrast, if you will -- not funny?). Maynard rose to fame performing cover versions of popular songs on YouTube, many of them being in balladized form. Of the teen idol acts, especially the ones coming out of the UK, I would be so bold as to argue he has one of the strongest voices (I'm looking at you, Cher Lloyd). So imagine my chagrin that my favorite original song by this singer was the slick-talking, uptempo "Vegas Girl" (it namechecks Keri Hilson, Rihanna, Beyonce and Alicia Keys in one breath -- guess we know his "type", eh?). I wasn't sure how he was going to play to the stage since the Bieber comparisons are so obvious (discovered through YouTube, plays instruments, writes his material, not from America, cute white boy, black R&B artist as a mentor, I mean come onnnn), but after Tuesday night, while I'm not quite convinced of his immediate star power Stateside, I definitely see the potential.

Aside from the Ne-Yo connection, it also bares noting Contrast features two songs co-written/produced by Pharrell Williams in a pretty clear attempt to channel another Justin -- Timberlake. The record also features guest vocals by fellow UK hype artist Rita Ora.

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While waiting to get in to the theatre, when observing the demo that Conor attracts, it obviously skewed very female and very young (again, Bieber comparisons). My friend and I quickly summarized we were probably the oldest folks there not with a parent (score!) and contrary to what you might have heard, I don't exactly like spending my Tuesday nights watching girls ten years younger than me with painted faces that would make Christina Aguilera jealous stare around the room with sour expressions wearing ripped tights, see-through neon green lace "shirts" and denim cutoffs. It's just not my scene. Prior to Conor hitting the stage, a plethora of demo-specific Top 40 shook the theatre room (and by "shook", I mean literally -- the floor was a bit spongy so it literally trembled under our feet whenever the crowd jumped or generally "fangirled" out at all) including Taylor Swift, One Direction and yes, a handful of Bieber tunes. Many of the girls there were loudly singing along and yes, there was a bit of screaming.

Finally, the music cut out and a DJ from Z100 announced Conor's pending arrival making a crack about his "perfect hair" and then the 20 year-old Brit popstar bounded out on stage among a "live" band. He performed a ten-song set that opened with my new favorite Conor jam, "Animal", which will soon serve as the disc's fourth official single. It quickly segued into "Take Off" (recommended as a spotlight by my girl over at One of those iPods) which was another highlight. Prior singles "Can't Say No", "Turn Around" and especially the closer song "Vegas Girl" were very well received amongst the small throng of fangirls present. Other spotlight moments included his ballad-ized cover of Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry, Child", as well as album cuts "Just In Case" (in which he dabbled on the keyboards for about half the song) and the Pharrell Williams co-write/production "Glass Girl".

However, there were quite a few awkward moments, namely the inclusion of the album song "Mary Go Round" which features an strange Looney Tunes-esque sample (wut?) halfway through his set. Also, it's very clear Conor is still in the beginning stages of his career as he lacks polished commentary throughout his performance ("Let's just're in a situation where..."). I'm of the firm belief that although some of his uptempos are fun ("Vegas Girl!"), he looks a bit lost in terms of feeling the song and his trademark warrior-chop dance got a bit stale as the set wore on. His vocals were on point throughout the set and if he wants to stand apart from those Bieber comparisons he really should be showing off how strong of a vocalist he is over the slick pop theatrics.

Overall, I was quite pleased with Conor's performance. While his material doesn't immediately jump out to me, certain cuts really pop and his vocals really do shine through the obvious slick veneer. His album, Contrast, is available for perusal on iTunes and Spotify. Check out the latest single, "Animal", below. My thanks to iHeartRadio for a fun night.

PS - I recently got myself an Instagram account (as you might be able to guess from the pictures above), so if you'd like to follow your girl, my account is @melismaticdiva. Lots of concert and New York randomness is to be expected.

1 comment:

Camilla said...

There's a Social Media Coordinator job at Popdust you'd be PERFECT for. Thought of this blog when I saw the posting on SimplyHired. Don't know if you're looking, but here is the link! Love your blog, keep it up!

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