On Saturday night’s annual Welcome Week concert, students of all ages found themselves at McCarthy Quad — cotton candy in one hand, boba tea in another — hoping to sing and dance the night away to this year’s guest artist, Nico & Vinz.
The student body is abuzz with excitement every year before the Concerts Committee reveals the headliner. As soon as Welcome Week starts, it doesn’t take long before people start guessing which artist will be performing. This year, there was news that the headliner had a major hit all summer.
Would USC get “fancy” with Australian hip-hop sensation Iggy Azalea or British soul singer-songwriter Sam Smith? With the VMAs the following night, every artist seemed to be spending the weekend in Los Angeles, which made the list of options endless. After many agonizing days of suspense though, it was revealed that Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz, whose single “Am I Wrong” had been on repeat on every radio station this summer, would perform at USC’s hallowed McCarthy Quad.
The night began with a performance by Robert DeLong, a rising star in the genre of electronic rock ‘n’ roll. Touted by MTV and Billboard as “2013 Artist to Watch” and having earned performance slots at Ultra Music Festival and Coachella, he worked the crowd into a frenzy with his dazzling combination of electronic dance beats and live instrumentals.
Few electronic dance music disc jockeys play instruments during their performances. Even fewer provide the vocals for their own tracks. As a one-man band with a full array of keyboards, drum kits and guitars, DeLong created the perfect combination of synthesized recordings and live music, demonstrating his immense talent in merging two isolated genres into a musical spectacle.
As DeLong completed his sets and exited the stage, the crowd began to swell with excitement in preparation for Nico & Vinz. The Concerts Committee is known for bringing up-and-coming artists to the school. In previous years, the outdoor venue has hosted superstars like Katy Perry, Cold War Kids, Hellogoodbye and White Panda. It’s clear that Nico & Vinz very much fit this category.
Formerly known as Envy, Nico Sereba and Vincent Dery began singing and writing music together in 2009. It wasn’t until earlier this year, however, that the two saw their work become an international success.
“I went to their concert knowing one song,” said Zachary Suite, a sophomore majoring in interactive entertainment. “But I came back to my room and pre-ordered their new album right away on iTunes. I think in a year’s time, everyone will have Nico & Vinz on their iPods.”
The duo did not disappoint, entering in a cloud of smoke and quickly working the crowd into a communal euphoria.
As musicians with roots in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, respectively, the laid-back tribal vibes in their music were evident from the beginning. Their energy and smiles were infectious, and they quickly built an intimate connection with the audience. Students couldn’t help but dance and sway their hands to the music perfect for a beach resort. Because it was their first college show, Nico & Vinz were eager to please and show off their talents, shouting out to the crowd and showing off some impressive dance moves to complement their silky smooth vocals.
Though they’ve only recently risen to fame, it’s clear that both artists are very comfortable on stage. “Am I Wrong” was naturally the crowd favorite, but other less well-known songs such as “In Your Arms” and “One Song” were enthusiastically received.
While some artists hope to connect with their listeners through tales about romance, heartbreaks and revenge, Vinz explains on his website that he and Nico hope to inspire people to find happiness through their music. “We sing about things we’ve been going through and about finding ourselves,” he wrote.
Nico & Vinz’s new album Black Star Elephant will be released on Sept. 16. If their summer anthem is any indication at all, this album will surely be an epic one, with a solid 4.5 stars rating already on iTunes. The two Norwegians certainly have a bright future ahead, and even though they’re relatively new to the limelight, it’s known around campus that USC’s Concerts Committee definitely wasn’t wrong to select Nico and Vinz for the Welcome Back Concert this year.