R&B singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe will headline this year’s Spring Fling, the Yale College Council announced Wednesday.
Monáe, the first black female artist to headline the annual performance, will be joined by opener Vince Staples, a critically acclaimed rapper from Long Beach, California, and closer, Canadian DJ and record producer A-Trak. The YCC announced the lineup in a three-minute promotional video to a crowd of hundreds at Toad’s Place just after midnight.
“We want a lineup that is as well-rounded and inclusive as possible, which happens relatively organically as we see who we’re considering for headliner or opener and then try to balance different genres,” Spring Fling committee member Adam Willems ’17 said. “[We want] to make sure they complement each other in a way that would be as appealing to as many students on campus as possible.”
Committee members interviewed said they were excited about this year’s notably diverse lineup, especially after completing the semester-long process of selecting and booking artists. According to YCC Events Director Amour Alexandre ’17, the 30-member committee takes into account the results of a survey sent out to Yale College students in October, the personal intuitions and tastes of committee members, videos of live performances, artists’ reputations, how interactive artists are and how well they fit into the Spring Fling persona.
According to committee member Mikaela Rabb ’18, Monáe — whose first studio album made it into the Billboard 200 — was chosen as this year’s headliner because of her musical versatility and her ability to engage with audiences. Willems added that her songs, which he said cannot be reduced to one genre, make her more “inclusive” so all students can enjoy her performance.
“A common theme [in her music] is embracing the other — whatever that may be — and self-love. There are worse messages to have spouted from the stage on Old Campus,” Spring Fling Committee Chairman Tobias Holden ’17 said.
Holden said the planning committee was especially proud of booking the first performer, Staples, because many students said hip-hop and R&B have been underrepresented genres at Spring Fling in the past. Holden added that Staples’ music touches on such topics as violence and police brutality. Alexandre also noted that she has seen Yale students posting about his newest album, “Summertime ’06,” on social media.
“His music is super energetic, which is good for people earlier in the day, because in the past, that spot has been the cue for people to take their naps,” Holden said. “That will be different this year.”
A-Trak, the first person to win five DJ World Championships, was chosen because a DJ act as a closer has been popular in previous years, committee members said. A-Trak differs from most DJs in that he is widely known for scratching records and performing energetically, Holden said, adding that A-Trak’s act will not be the performer simply pressing “play on a Spotify playlist.”
Willems called A-Trak the “Francis Bacon of the DJ world,” suggesting that students have probably heard his music in the past even if they did not know it was his.
Holden said the committee will be making other changes to Spring Fling in order to make it “feel more like a music festival.” Committee members mentioned the addition of booths, giveaways and activities to expand the experience on Old Campus and provide different perks, such as temporary tattoos.
Willems said that in the months leading up to Spring Fling, the planning committee will provide further information about logo and T-shirt design contests, as well as applications for student musical groups and DJs. Other resources, including a Spotify playlist featuring this year’s artists and a website for information on logistics, food, restrooms and the festival schedule, will also be made available.
“We’re having a party, and all of Yale is invited,” Holden said.
Students cheered as the YCC video announcing the performers aired on stage. Students interviewed after the announcement expressed generally positive feedback, especially about Monáe.
Seven students including Alicia Lovelace ’17 and Aman Kabeer ’19, said they were very enthusiastic about the committee’s choices.
However, such positive reviews were not universal. Ollie Wynne-Griffith ’17 said he was underwhelmed with this year’s lineup. He called previous performers Diplo and Ja Rule more impressive Spring Fling acts.
Still, Eshe Sherley ’16 expressed excitement about this year’s headliner.
“Janelle Monáe is the best thing to happen to this campus in literally a billion years,” Sherley said. “She’s not just a pop artist. She speaks to people of color, and women of color, in a really big way.”
Spring Fling is scheduled for April 30.