iHeartMedia‘s 103.5 WKTU radio station in New York kicked the summer off with its annual dance party and concert event, #KTUphoria 2019, alongside the evening’s presenter, Pepsi, on Saturday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m.
A crowd of millennial and Gen Z attendees clad in quintessential festival gear kept the energy of the musical, star-studded lineup, including, The Chainsmokers, Ellie Goulding, Bebe Rexha, Becky G, Bryce Vine, CNCO, Ava Max and Loud Luxury. The Knockturnal made its first pit stop on the 103.5 KTU blue festival carpet, at Jones Beach Theater — to connect with the pop starlet, Ava Max, before her set.
The Knockturnal: Ava Max, your latest single is, “So Am I,” the Steve Void Dance Remix. Tell listeners how this collaboration came to be.
Ava Max: It is funny you asked. The process was not traditional. I heard the song and just fell in love with it. I told them that they had to release it asap. [Laughs] That was how it happened. Truly! I am in love with the remix.
The Knockturnal: In 2018, the single, “Sweet but Psycho,” became a global hit. How did that breakthrough feel?
Ava Max: To be honest, I still do not believe it. I keep telling everyone around me that if I hear my song, “So Am I,” on the radio, that will be when I really start believing. It is hard to be an artist in the industry trying to make it for ten years, and then all of a sudden one song does so much. I am traveling the world for the first time. That rarely happens. So, I am still processing it all. [Laughs] My album will be out this year!
(6:30 p.m.) So, with the atmosphere shifted by music from KTU’s resident DJ, Ava Max, and her publicity crew waltz everyone to the press pit. Donning a half-bob, half-waist-length blonde haircut — it was evident that the starlet’s music wasn’t the only thing eclectic. The anthemic, “Not Your Barbie,” cued up as two backup dancers joined the stage. Together, they powered through crisp choreography, as Max sang, “I’m livin’ in my own world/ I ain’t plastic, call me classic/ You can’t touch me there, you can’t touch my body/ Unless I say so, ain’t your barbie.”
Soaking in her praises, the singer jolted into her latest cut, “So Am I,” as interactive neon strobes flashed behind her. Some of her meet-and-greet fans inched in closer to the KTU gate when her most popular tune dropped, “Sweet but Psycho.” The song peaked her set, so Max thanked her #KTUphoria 2019 audience and bowed out backstage.
(6:55 p.m.) An announcement from Executive Vice President of Hot AC Programming & Strategy, Rob Miller, aired for concert-goers. “KTUphoria is a beloved tradition to celebrate the start of summer and this year’s show will not disappoint,” he said. This message served as a testament to what was en route, Loud Luxury. The genre-bending, music production, and DJ tandem are known for recent hits, such as, “I Don’t Care” (with Justin Bieber) — still, what they best displayed at center stage was showmanship.
With seamless blends, the Canadian stars kept the crowd moving with their songs, “Fill Me In,” and “Love No More.” Even so, what their listeners were excited about was the virally-praised jam, “Body.” The track has evolved into a slew of remixes, but the version most-played soon followed. With its Pitbull introduction, the earworm, “Body On My,” boasts infectious assist from singer-songwriter, Nicky Jam, and leading vocalist, Brando. And as the mass followed, Loud Luxury cued the lyrics, “Body on my, losin’ all my innocence, yeah/ Body on my, grindin’ on my innocence.” Now beaming smiles, the twosome’s stage sparklers shot over the outdoor venue before they both dropped the mic.
(7:20 p.m.) A brief intermission took place, as the internationally acclaimed triple-threat, Becky G, made her rounds on the blue carpet. She glowed a with flawless contour, and a down-to-earth persona. Soon, the Staten Island-grown musician, Bebe Rexha followed. Sporting a snug Nike bodysuit, and matching kicks — Rexha was a spotlighted well during her KTU photo op. In time, high horns began to blare, as Becky G’s DJ spun a snippet of the Jennifer-Lopez co-signed tune, “Becky from The Block.” Her devotees became spastic as Becky G rapped towards center stage, sporting a slicked-back ponytail, and golden jogging suit.
To the melodic earworm, “Zooted,” Becky G held her own, proving herself a real dancer, without the song’s verses from French Montana, or Farruko. The siren’s offering on Sean Paul, and David Guetta’s Spanglish record, “Mad Love” was significantly enhanced with four seductive dancers and smoke machines. The bilingual artist held nothing back on the all-star collab, “Next To You” featuring Digital Farm Animals & Rvssian.
Her jumbotrons signaled a few emerald images as soon as the ditty, “Green Light” began. To which the audience resounded, “Okay, nobody stop me, I’m on my green light, go/ Everything I do is big, I’m on my fee, fi, fo/ I came up from out the dirt, I’m like a concrete rose.” An impressive break in choreography led into a Bad Bunny voiceover, launching hysteria for their duet, “Mayores.” All-in-all, Becky G was the A-lister to top before her curtain dropped.
(7:55 p.m.) Bryce Vine‘s music is becoming increasingly popular across streaming platforms. However, much of the 103.5 KTU mob reacted as if they were beginning to place a face to a name for the singer-rapper. In a floral button-down shirt and red high-cut pant, the artist excitedly waved to introduce himself to Jones Beach Theater.
His latest single, “La La Land,” featuring YG got heads bobbin’ along to his verses, as he casually paced the KTU podium. With an under the radar demeanor, Vine’s assist to the song, “Control” made for a more prominent stage presence. Still, it was his 2017 breakout jingle, “Drew Barrymore,” that caused a ruckus. The “Drew Barrymore” audiovisual accumulated an upward of 43 million viewers on YouTube — and made attendees chant, “I want this forever/ Just you in the grotto/ With nothin’ but your nights on.” In time, he extended his gratitude towards the claps below his mic and made his way back to the blue carpet to chat.
The Knockturnal: Byrce Vine, your new single, “La La Land,” features YG. How did this collaboration come about?
Bryce Vine: “La La Land” came together with some friends in the hills. We were discussing the kinds of things people say to one another in LA. The song then became an anthem for it.
The Knockturnal: You are best-known for the single, “Drew Barrymore.” What did its success following its 2017 release teach you about the music industry?
Bryce Vine: That song taught me that it takes a lot of people to get a song heard by as many people as possible. Additionally, it takes a team to develop everything that comes along with a song. It was hands-on. You know? I and the head of my label go to the store together just to pick out a music video outfit. It is really intricate, [our involvement.] We work together for every aspect of the common goal.
The Knockturnal: How was your recent experience performing, “La La Land,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live?
Wow! It was great. It was a nerve-wracking experience. Jimmy was super cool. So, there is a funny story! My father and I accidentally met him two days before my appearance on his television show.
We randomly ran into him at a store. Jimmy mentioned me, but I saw [in my mind] what was going to happen with the “La La Land” TV performance. I had my idea through a mental filter. Yes, I had a vision for it, being that I already live in LA. I enjoyed the experience.
(8:20 p.m.) Bebe Rexha was an absolute #KTUphoria favorite from the moment she surfaced. High-kicking from the backstage, the singer, got right to it. Her introduction on “Me, Myself & I,” needed no G-Eazy adlibs, as she professed, “Oh, it’s just me, myself and I/ Solo ride until I die/’Cause I got me for life!” With arms above her head, Rexha transitioned to lay on the stage floor, appearing a bit more vulnerable for the lovesick hit, “I’m a Mess.” Each time she extended her mic, the crowd met her with robust lyrics.
Catching a vibe, Rexha faced her drummer and twerked with her back towards the venue. A mosh of energy shook the stage gate as she sang the chorus of David Guetta’s global smash, “Hey Mama.” Her perfectly-pitched vocals offer more than just raw talent, and the soloist represents some much-needed body positivity in the pop sphere. She’s beautiful. She’s real. Appropriately, the new bop, “Last Hurrah,” served as her final number, and pandemonium ensued as she made her sultry exit.
(8:55 p.m.) CNCO made their 103.5 KTU debut look easy. The Latinx boy band formed on the first season of La Banda, inking a 5-year contract with Sony Music Latin in the process. They’ve since become an international sensation. The ear-piercing approval of their tunes, “Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos)” and “Hey DJ” were teamed up with intricate dance steps and fanfare. Soon, a Spanglish song introduction chimed above their Prince Royce duet, “Llegaste Tú.” It was showered with thunderous claps. “Pretend,” CNCO’s latest release, brought bilingual hooks to the KTU forefront — before the group sang acapella for their closing. Withal, their talent was undeniable, and CNCO graciously pulled off one-by-one.
(9:25 p.m.) In a velvet, royal blue unitard, which read, “Make It Possible,” Ellie Goulding twirled out to her mic stand. The English singer-songwriter unleashed a bevy of top-tier contenders for #KTUphoria, including, “Love Me Like You Do,” and “Close To Me.” All of which, she blessed with free-flowing interpretive movement. The vocalist is a feature queen in her own right, and her eager fist pump into the uptempo track, “Lights,” was well-received. With the one-of-one voice that made its way across the pond, Goulding amplified her new song, “Sixteen,” before she thanked her New York loyalist for their devotion, and blew a kiss goodbye.
(10:05 p.m.) The headliners, The Chainsmokers‘ light production became as epic as their catalog. Together, musical members, Alex Pall, and Rhett Bixler kept an EDM rhythm going, as Andrew Taggart yelled, “New York! What the f*ck is up? This is how we feel!” A remixed version of their Daya collaboration, “Don’t Let Me Down,” thronged above, as massive smoke clouds circled about Jones Beach’s Amphitheater. The band’s pulsating logo soon glowed from every corner of their platform.
With a point to prove, a full-out rage continued into the song, “Who Do You Love” featuring 5 Seconds of Summer. Peaking the evening, The Chainsmokers scratched their fan-favorites, “Something Just Like This,” and “Closer,” offering loyalists some skillful genre-fusing throughout their set. Still, 103.5 KTU was provided a first-ever spectacle by the chart-topping trio. BeBe Rexha returned unexpectedly for a live performance of the reminiscent song, “Call You Mine.” Clutching her chest, the starlet laid bare her heartfelt bridge, “Think about what you believe in now/ Am I someone you cannot live without?/ ‘Cause I know I don’t wanna live without you,” sounding off the truest testament of the evening. And, withal, this shared moment between Bebe Rexha and The Chainsmokers made for the toughest #KTUphoria number to follow.