Weekend one of the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is officially over. While everyone catches up on their sleep, and bathes in after-sun after a sweltering weekend, here are the five things we learned from the performances over the three days.
Pop goes the festival
Ever since Beyoncé’s bar-raising, history-making performance in 2018, critics wondered out loud what the festival could do next. The answer is that rather than compete, you change the game for a new generation of festivalgoers. Die-hard Coachella fans will no doubt argue over whether this year’s festival went too pop, but the first weekend saw some highly polished performances. Ariana Grande, Blackpink (see later) and Christine and the Queens all brought their own version of tightly choreographed performances to the festival stage. Obvious, if somewhat lazy, comparisons were made about whether Grande could be Beyoncé’s successor. Better to focus on the fact that Grande was the youngest woman ever to perform as a headliner, and only the fourth woman to do so – after Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Bjork – a bar-raising, history-making achievement in itself.
We saw the internet’s playlist in physical form
In line with pop music’s general trend towards globalization, Coachella had its most diverse lineup so far. Several high-profile Latin acts filled the bill, ranging from reggaetón (J Balvin) to Puerto Rican trap (Bad Bunny), to contemporary flamenco (Rosalía), to Mexican norteño (Tucanes de Tijuana). Afrobeat made its mark with Nigerian singers Burna Boy and Mr Eazi. J-pop was represented by all-female band Perfume. This global range made the lineup feel more relevant to the festival’s core audience tastes. “If this year’s diverse lineup says anything about Coachella, it’s that this festival is the internet transposed to a physical space,” wrote Eve Barlow for Vulture.
The next future of K-pop is here
K-pop unleashed the next phase in their quest for global domination. Blackpink were the first all-female K-pop group to play the festival, and YouTube said it would stream the performance in Times Square. Their single Kill This Love became the first song by an all-female group to hit number one on the iTunes chart since Destiny’s Child’s Lose My Breath in 2004. It was also the biggest music video debut on YouTube… until fellow K-pop sensations BTS claimed the record the following week with Boy With Luv (ft. Halsey). Coachella founder Paul Tollett reportedly travelled to South Korea last year to personally invite Blackpink to participate. Blackpink played Coachella the day before BTS performed on Saturday Night Live, making this K-pop’s biggest weekend so far in America.
We saw a hypebeast headline act
Savvy headliners now think beyond the performance and about the brand extension opportunities. Beyonce’s headline performance last year became a Netflix doc this year. Childish Gambino’s headline act on Friday night was only the one part of Donald Glover’s presence at the event. His long-awaited film project with Rihanna, Guava Island, was premiered at the festival, and it was streamed for free on Amazon Prime. Also, selected festivalgoers were airdropped a picture from “Donald Glover” showing his collaboration with Adidas, and people who accepted it could receive a pair of his unreleased shoes.
Live for the moment, not for the gram
We’re so used to the sight of people experiencing live moments through the frame of their smartphones, but Childish Gambino wasn’t having any of it on Friday night. “Put your phones down. This is not a concert, this is church,” he told the crowd mid-set, before using fruitier language to further his point. Billie Eilish demanded the same from the Saturday evening crowd. “We're not thinking about what's happening right now, and this is happening right now,” Eilish told the screen-gazing crowd. “This is the only chance we get to be in the moment, so why don't we be?” Purists no doubt gave Eilish a standing ovation, though probably best not to tell her that at least one person captured the moment when she forgot the lyrics to a song.
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