To be honest, I didn't know a lot about singer-songwriter Skylar Grey before I went to see her at Bowery Ballroom in New York last week. All I knew was that Eminem was crazy about her, she wrote a lot of great songs for other artists (Rihanna, Zedd -- maybe dig into our Zedd interview here
), and she released her album Don't Look Down
about two years ago. What I found out when I finally got to see her live was that she's an incredibly gifted and underrated pop vocalist with a lot of her own
The very first thing I noticed when I saw Grey live was her angelic voice. It was full of innocence...no matter how corrupted the lyrics were. Light, breathy and airy, her smoky vocals will make you feel like you're lounging on a cloud, floating through space.
Her new single 'Cannonball,' features X Ambassadors who were headlining the show that night. I was curious to see how they would go about this song -- would Sam Harris, the frontman of the band, want to come out before his set and subvert the steadily-built anticipation? The answer is yes. Maybe this is completely normal, and I'm overreacting, but I thought it was cool to see him come out so early in the show. I think it shows how down to earth he is -- you could even see how insanely happy he was to be there. Grey pulled out her acoustic guitar and everyone started whistling the intro. The only critique I had for this portion was that Harris was over-shadowing Grey. Harris was very enthusiastic while Grey could have been a little more excited. Both her vocals and personality were buried under Harris and the band's performance. Maybe this was because she was focusing on playing guitar -- we don't know. But either way, both singers had great chemistry and seemed truly supportive of each other.
Later on in her set, Grey took a little break to introduce her next song, which was inspired by her move to the mountains in Utah. She explained that while she was living in LA, she focused on nothing but her career, ultimately eliminating her happiness. Then, when she was in Utah and surrounded by nature, her mindset started to change and she felt more alive and had a better understanding of what really mattered in life. It was a beautiful introduction with a beautiful song to follow. With nothing but guitar, piano and a beautiful melody, it really captured the essence of what nature would sound like if it were a song.
After this, the multi-instrumentalist moved over to the piano to do some solo songs. Thinking it was going to be a ballad -- boy, I was wrong. She surprised the entire crowd when she started singing "Love The Way You Lie," a song famously performed by Rihanna and Eminem. "By the way, this isn't a cover. Everything I'm singing is original." Grey sassily throws in there right before she starts the next song, "Clarity," famously performed by Zedd and Foxes. YAS Queen, you are on FIRE
. I thought to myself during this moment. The whole crowd was going nuts, singing along. Lastly, she finishes of with "I'm Coming Home" which she originally performed with Diddy and Dirty Money. Yes, she actually did
write all of these songs and I'm glad she took the opportunity to let everyone know because she deserves the acknowledgment.
The last song Grey performed was easily my favorite. I wish I could tell you which song it was so you could do yourself a favor and listen to it, but I have no idea what it's called. I spent hours on the internet looking for this song and all I found was a short untitled clip of her performing it live. Apparently it's a new song, so let's all keep our ears open for when that drops -- I will be all over it
. It was a cinematic song, which sounded perfect for a Nicholas Sparks movie soundtrack. In the hook, Grey repeatedly sang "with your arms outstretched," there was a thumping kick drum, tambourine and piano. It was whimsical, magical and gave me chills throughout the entire performance. It was so simple and subtle yet so powerful. I was completely hypnotized. Why isn't the recorded version on the internet?!
Grey killed it. Her voice is one of a kind -- that blissful delicacy that would be put to best use scoring a beautifully tragic movie soundtrack. And she also proved that she's more than just a gorgeous voice, she's also a skilled pop songwriter who has probably written some of your favorite songs.
And maybe check out our SXSW concert with the evening's headliners below.