words / Jay Loyola
photos / Lauren Winn
New York City’s CMJ Music Marathon kicked-off with a pop bang this year. For many years now, the established annual festival has served as a starting platform for many fresh new artists in the world of pop, among other genres. Artist like MØ, Icona Pop, Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira and Natalia Kills are just a few that have had their start at the week-long festival.
This year’s hot ticket destination was BalconyTV’s showcase at the Marlin Room in NYC’s Webster Hall, featuring pop newcomers EVVY, Alex Winston, and British alt-pop darling FEMME!
Kicking off the show was New York City-based songstress EVVY. With a full backing band and an additional solo snare-drum in front of the stage (à la Ellie Goulding) the singer performed and banged out a collection of bouncy, dance-ready pop songs with strong vocals that had the crowd swaying from the start. EVVY’s songs possess an addictive tropical-dance vibe that scream summer, with just the right amount of lyrical tenderness and soul to tickle your heart. The sweet “Collide” and the summery dance jam “Tidal Wave” (a collab with Baby Daddy of Scissor Sisters) were the highlights of her set and the perfect warm-up for the evening.
Next up was the incomparable Alex Winston; dressed in black pants, fitted white shirt and leather jacket, the petite songstress delivered a powerful and mesmerizing set of emotionally driven synth-pop tunes that instantly connected with the crowd. Her perfect vocals and unassuming, sweet demeanor on stage were the defining catalyst of her great performance. Although her set was cut short (she only managed to fit in 3 songs) the vocally gifted singer energetically performed two crowd-pleasers from her stellar new EP—thee contagious, new-wave-leaning “Dead End” and the EP’s majestic, 80s-throwback “The Day I Died.” Winston has been abuzz for quite some time now, and after watching her short-and-sweet live set it is clear why she still remains one to watch
Up next was the highlight of the evening, FEMME! The gorgeous British singer has been steadily gaining buzz ever since she emerged back in early 2014 with the catchy “Daydreamer” and the infectious, guilty-pleasure of a song, “Fever Boy”. Last year, she managed to capture quite the fan base when she, alongside Swedish singer Elliphant, joined Charli XCX on her very successful North American tour. (Check out LADYGUNN’s review of that here!)
Dressed in a sequin black mini-dress, Moschino belt, and gold-chain embellishments (hoop-earrings and cross included), the pink-haired pixie babe took the stage around 9:45pm to an enthusiastic crowd. Accompanied by her equally beautiful DJ, her set consisted of a lively mixture of sassy electro-pop tunes with flirty, 60’s girl-group flair. Her opening number “Gold” (a killer brand new tune from her upcoming debut!) instantly got the room fired-up. Whereas early acts of the night had very controlled performances, FEMME hit the stage a blazing! She sexily danced through the whole song with a contagious energy that set the room’s energy level to 100.
She kept the crowd moving with “Trouble,” a bass-heavy, thumping new tune which ended with a mashup of “Respect.” FEMME’s soulful-yet-sexy pop rendition of Aretha Franklin’s classic had the entire room screaming R.E.S.P.E.C.T along with her. As a veil of bue, green, and pink-colored lights filled the stage, FEMME delighted the crowd with a choreographed dance number of her debut song “Fever Boy” (a personal favorite) and “High,” one of FEMME’s most musically innovative songs. To the surprise of her fans in front of the stage, her set continued with several brand new songs from her upcoming debut album (potentially out on May 2016), all ranging from soul to electro to Motown-influenced sing-alongs, each with a very catchy, very modern pop twist. Saving the best for last, she concluded her set with one of the best pop songs released this year, the monster-sized pop anthem “S.O.S.” (You can’t call yourself a pop fan if you haven’t heard or seen the video yet.)
FEMME was a one-woman powerhouse onstage—a sure highlight of the evening. She managed to engage and shake the sometimes cocky NYC crowd throughout her set with her colorful collection of bops, sexy dance moves, and irresistible energy, making for a memorable CMJ experience I can’t wait to relive again.