There’s something insufferable about a person who is constantly mandating that you “check out” a new up-and-coming artist you’ve never heard of and wouldn’t ordinarily listen to. We all have those friends. Then again, when someone is absolutely right about their recommendations—you really do need to check out this new act—that person becomes your cherished musical guru, whose golden aural tastes you worship at the altar of.
Since 2005, VH1’s “You Oughta Know” franchise has been that musical Midas. The series has been taking the temperature of “who’s hot”—or who will soon be, rather—for the past eight years, spotlighting breakout artists on the channel and other branded media. The “You Oughta Know” track record is indisputable. Adele, Bruno Mars, Mumford and Sons, Gotye, Sara Bareilles, Regina Spektor, and Foster the People are just a handful of the industry-minted superstars that VH1 thought you should “check out” first.
Last week the network held its first-ever “You Oughta Know” concert at New York’s Roseland Ballroom. (Fitting, considering the venue has long been an “I made it” performance space for new artists.) Current members of the “You Oughta Know” roster and a handful of alumni performed at the event, a lineup that could essentially have been billed as “These Are the Aritsts Who Should Be on Your iTunes Playlist Now”: Lorde, Haim, The Lumineers, Emeli Sandé, Matt Nathanson, Ed Sheeran, and Johnnyswim.
It’s a delightful lineup on its own, more than enough reason for you to tune in when the showcase airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET on VH1. But then the concert gifted us with the Haim and Lorde collaboration that we never knew we wanted, but turns out we always needed, and the event rose to must-see status.
Lorde and Haim are two of the most recent “You Oughta Know” artists. New Zealand import Lorde is all of a 17 with the reigning number one single in the country, “Royals.” She has the soulful maturity and grit in her voice of an Adele and Shirley Bassey hybrid, but with the quirk and musical intrigue of Bjork—a comparison all the more apt during her transifixing, herky-jerky live set. (“She’s like a baby Bjork,” one audience member raved.)
Haim is just as infuriatingly young and impossibly gifted. The sisters from L.A. have been steadily building an “oh my god I love them” fanbase this year with the part-Blondie, part-Benatar, part-Pretenders—but all modern—indie pop sound of songs like “Falling” and “The Wire.” As it happens, they’re also effortlessly cool, the kind of performers that put on a fun concert by so-very-clearly having even more fun on stage. For proof of that, check out the epic faces pulled by bassist and guitarist Este Haim on this brilliant Tumblr.
The Haim sisters brought out Lorde during their set for an unexpected and unexpectedly astounding collaboration of Sheryl Crowe’s “Strong Enough,” for which the audience went crazy because it was, in a word, perfect.
The concert wasn’t completely dominated by spunky, can’t-legally-drink rising stars. Scottish soul singer Emeli Sandé opened the night with booming Beyoncé vocals on a string of her hits, culminating in last spring’s inescapable, bouncy hit “Next to Me.” Matt Nathanson pulled double-duty as mainstage performer and house band for the night. The singer-songwriter did his best heartthrob-on-the-quad rendition of his song “Come On Get Higher,” instantly transporting swooning girls in the audience back to their sorority days. Between acts he also serenaded the house with hits from other past “You Oughta Know” artists, including Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Now” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”
But if the idea behind the “You Oughta Know” concert was to promote new artists that you hadn’t heard a lot from yet, then the night’s biggest success story was Johnnyswim, a husband and wife act from Nashville that sounded like Mumford and Sons…with a female singer. (And don’t female singers make everything sound better?) The group was already winning over the crowd with energetic with songs like “Heart Beats,” but solidified their place in everyone’s hearts with a country-blues cover of Britney Spears’s “Til the World Ends.”
The closing act was the artist everyone was most likely to already know, Grammy nominees The Lumineers, who brought the entire lineup from the night on stage for a performance of their massive hit “Ho Hey.” The sing-a-long from the diverse group of rising music stars joyously solidified VH1’s status as musical tastemakers, with each artist proving why they’re worthy of “know”-ing.
If there’s one disappointment to be had from a show billed as the “You Oughta Know” concert, it’s that there was no appearance by singer who inspired the franchise’s name, Alanis Morrissette. But if Haim and Lorde are covering Sheryl Crowe in place of that surprise, well, all is forgiven.