Courtesy of Sydney Holmes

An all-female lineup — featuring Ari Lennox, the Aces, Elohim and Rico Nasty — was set to headline the 25th anniversary of Yale’s Spring Fling on April 25.  

The concert, traditionally held on Old Campus prior to final exams, was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But performances in past years have spanned a variety of genres, including pop artists JoJo and Dagny, rappers Cupcakke and Playboi Carti, hip-hop artists A$AP Ferg and Tory Lanez and EDM DJs Madeon and Anna Lunoe. 

Each year, a student-run Spring Fling committee selects the featured artists through deliberation and a survey sent to Yale College students. Typically, over 9000 undergraduate and graduate students and Yale community members attend the concert. 

In addition to the survey, the committee often attempts to gauge student preferences by attending parties and social events. According to past committee members, both performers’ talent and diversity across performances are key considerations in their selection process. The committee also reviews artists’ past live performances to identify artists who may not be well-known but are rising in their careers.

“Obviously not everyone on campus is going to know every artist, but we want to make sure that anyone who shows up will be able to enjoy the performance,” said Tyler Bleuel ’20, YCC events director during Spring Fling 2018. “So we want to make sure that the artist has good live energy and that the artists are able to feed off of the crowd, and the crowd is able to feed off of the artist.”

An annual competition called “Battle of the Bands” determines student acts at the concert. In order to be chosen, interested groups send samples of their music to the Spring Fling committee. The winner is then chosen by an audience vote after the event. 

Since 2016, Yale’s Spring Fling has seen its first black female headliner, Janelle Monae,  the cancellation of a headlining artist and controversy over an opening act.

R&B singer-songwriter Monae performed alongside rapper Vince Staples and DJ A-Trak in 2016. Then committee chairman Tobias Holden ’17 described Monae’s music as “embracing the other — whatever that may be — and self-love.” 

The inclusion of Cupcakke in 2018 had a mixed reception: While some students celebrated the musician’s talent and openness, others were apprehensive about the content of the rapper’s lyrics. 

Some students took to expressing these diverging sentiments in opinion columns in the News. For example, Aaron Sibarium ’18 wrote that Cupcakke “demystifies what should be mysterious, makes ugly what should be beautiful and, in doing so, it sterilizes intimacy,” while Nolan Phillips ’18 said, “It is unfair to dismiss the importance of Cupcakke’s work because of its profanity.”

The following year, headliner Lil Uzi Vert cancelled his performance three days before the concert due to “internal issues.” The committee replaced him with rapper Playboi Carti. They said their decision was driven by the hip-hop genre’s popularity across the student body.

In past years, the committee’s lineup announcements at Toads have consistently been met with excitement. Committee Chair Lydia Schooler ’21 said they are always excited to introduce students to a “new kind of sound.”

The first Spring Fling concert was held in 1995 and featured the alternative rock band They Might Be Giants.

Neha Middela |

Correction, May 20: A previous version of this article stated Tyler Bleuel ’19. In fact, he graduated in 2020.