Daya Is Taylor Swift Crossed With Meghan Trainor and a Hint of Avril Lavigne at the Billboard Lounge
Throughout the 2015-16 NBA and NHL season, the Billboard Lounge at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center has hosted post-game performances by Hungarian pop stars, Aussie blues guitarists, local soul divas, and everyone in between. Like fourth-quarter free throws or overtime penalty shots, many of these stripped-down shows have given emerging artists the chance to stand up and shine without a ton of outside help.
On Monday night (April 11), the series came to a splendid end with Daya, a 17-year-old singer who definitely doesn’t need the machinery of modern pop. Backed by just an acoustic guitar, the Pittsburgh native sang big-voice songs about little dramas, earning her spot in the unofficial squad of young empowering females that counts Halsey, Hailee Steinfeld, and Alessia Cara as its members.
“I’m never gonna be that girl who’s living in a Barbie world,” Daya sang on opener “Sit Still, Look Pretty,” a tune holds together nicely without its shiny synths, clapping electronic beat, and whistled hook.
Rocking a snug black jacket and matching jeans ripped at the knees, Daya gave off the air of someone who’s pretty on her own terms. The look suited her sound: pure-hearted Taylor Swift pop crossed with Meghan Trainor R&B sass and a hint of Avril Lavigne. With her vocals way out front, Daya powered through slow jams like “U12” and faster tunes like “Cool,” a new one slated to appear on her upcoming debut album.
The acoustic accompaniments made those songs sound a bit like Extreme’s guilty-pleasure power ballad “More Than Words” and virtually any John Mayer hit from the ‘00s, respectively, but that’s all part of the deal. As Daya showed with a radically reworked version of “Don’t Let Me Down,” her hit collaboration with electronic duo The Chainsmokers, it’s voice, attitude, and lyrics that sell a song. She turned spare dance-pop to bluesy rock, delivering her most snarling vocals of the night.
Daya ended with her breakthrough hit, “Hide Away,” the easiest song in her repertoire to present without beats and synths. Sung from the perspective of someone who’s sick of BS and just wants to be treated right, it’s finely crafted pop with a timeless message. A note to all the Pittsburgh boys who failed to realize that Daya is “fly as a mother”: Way to blow it, dudes.