Whenever someone asks me if homecoming weekend is fun, I say, “It’s overrated. If you have work to do, just do that instead. It happens every year and you won’t miss much.” While I skipped all other homecoming activities this weekend, the only one I thought was worth getting out of bed for was the concert — and not just because I had a free ticket.
Back when the lineup was announced for the homecoming concert, I could not believe that Cornell students chose CupcakKe to headline such an important event. CupcakKe is a female rapper from Chicago and her sexual, vulgar lyrics are unlike anything else (perhaps her most popular song is called “Deepthroat”). Often, when one of my peers listens to anything by CupcakKe, they say, “Oh my God I feel like I need to go to church,” which is why I never thought she would come to Cornell. DNCE, on the other hand, is a different story.
I’ll just say it now: DNCE does not make good music. It’s generic, nothing new and does not send any meaningful messages or convey emotions strongly or beautifully. Combine DNCE with drunk Cornell kids and you get a very obnoxious concert. Right away, I was crushed into a crowd of drunk boys: one making rape jokes, another messaging his Snapchat group called “Home-o-phobes” and the other jumping up and down trying to see and elbowing me every time. I defeatedly moved further back and was determined to still try to have a good time with this low-quality music, but it wasn’t happening.
The people towards the front all seemed to be having fun, but at the same time, most of them were pretty drunk. DNCE played their most popular songs “Toothbrush” and “Cake by the Ocean,” as well as an embarrassing early 2000s medley of covers which included “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls and “Oops I Did It Again.” Overall, the energy was high throughout the concert, but the atmosphere was bizarre. Either people were having a really good time, or they were aware the music was bad. After DNCE left the stage, people dispersed and sat on the floor to take a water break. But once everyone heard CupcakKe say “Hey y’all, it’s me” into the mic, everyone immediately got up and ran back to the stage screaming.
Compared to DNCE, CupcakKe brought an extremely different kind of energy. This wasn’t generic music that you could listen to and think it’s The Chainsmokers. This wasn’t Joe Jonas, who looks like the “sensitive” frat boy that ghosts you. This was CupcakKe, an unsigned, independent female rapper who uses her platform to advocate for LGBT rights and female empowerment. Did I still get body slammed by a drunk girl dancing very aggressively? Yeah, but at least I was enjoying the song “LGBT” instead of “Cake By the Ocean.”
The first song CupcakKe performed was “Vagina,” which provided any new listeners with a concise, accurate taste of what CupcakKe is all about. I was able to instantly pick out people in the crowd who had never listened to her music before: the ones screaming “Oh my God!” covering their mouths in shock or laughing in surprise. In addition to shocking lyrics, I knew that anyone unfamiliar with CupcakKe was in for another surprise. CupcakKe is notorious for flashing her breasts on stage. I was well aware of this. Most people were not. I didn’t have to look up at the stage to know what happened when everyone started screaming and recording, but I did, and I’m glad I got the whole CupcakKe experience live.
Something else that stuck out to me during CupcakKe’s performance was a small group of people with a sign that read “LGBT rides with CupcakKe,” a reference to the lyrics of the song “LGBT,” when she sings “I’m rolling with the LGBT.” This was a completely transformed space from the one that DNCE created, yet it was still physically the same place at the same concert. If anything, the homecoming concert reminded me that the way artists use their platform affects the type of space they create when performing live.
If artists make generic pop songs that don’t really speak on any pressing issues or reveal that they care about something, their live performance will be bland and even obnoxious, as I learned with DNCE. However, artists who create a space and empower more oppressed, overlooked or underrepresented people can craft a unique, fun atmosphere the way CupcakKe did.
Viri Garcia is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.