Pop-R&B singer Jessie Reyez brought her unique brand of raw vocal delivery and confessional songwriting to the Vogue Theatre recently, hitting an emotional peak with her #MeToo anthem “Gatekeeper” which was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.
The song accuses Reyez’s former producer Detail of sexual misconduct. As she introduced the song and told the story, the audience vocalized their outrage over her traumatic experience. Violently letting her black hair down as the room flashed with red spotlights, it was the show’s dramatic peak.
“We’re trying to make a change that’s bigger than music,” she yelled, repeating “The #MeToo movement is not f**king new” until people chanted the words with her.
The rise of this new, darker brand of pop singer signals an exciting shift. Citing Amy Winehouse as one of her major influences, Reyez is gaining fame alongside equally theatrical contemporaries such as SZA, Jorja Smith and Lana Del Rey. Dramatically confronting her own personal traumas on stage, Reyez created both spectacle and space for emotional validation.
Reyez opened the show by bounding onto the stage with the feisty half-rapped track “Dear Yessie,” featuring the lyrics “This is the realest I’ve ever been.” This sense of authenticity was evident throughout, as Reyez tackled some deeply personal content. There is a blunt, matter-of-fact inflection to her words, which she over enunciates for added snarl.
Reyez’ infectious personality and energy shone through as well. After a performance of “F**k Being Friends,” where she stomped wildly around the stage, in what looked like a kind of cathartic release, she apologized to younger guests for swearing: “Don’t swear like this to your mom! But if someone’s mean to you…”
Celebrating her first number-one single as a songwriter, Calvin Harris’ “One Kiss,” she mused that, since it isn’t her vocals on the song, she prefers dancing to it. The song “Shutter Island” got the biggest cheer of the night, as Reyez held the entire mic stand out to the audience as they sang along.
“They’re lit,” she declared. She continued to exhibit a more chaotic edge than the typical pop star when she called for a mosh, to “let out some aggressive energy,” during her Eminem collaboration “Nice Guy.”
Closing the main set with her biggest hit in “Figures,” Reyez told her fans she appreciated their support. Calling it her saddest song, the lyrics lay bare her own struggle with depression. She said when she first heard fans sing it back to her, “something so dark somehow turned into something so beautiful. If I had known that, I would have loved myself faster.”