On a sweltering Sunday (Aug. 21) afternoon at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival, Skylar Grey kept things fresh during her set on the main stage, performing almost entirely new material from her forthcoming Interscope album, Natural Causes, due out Sept. 23. With a successful songwriting career under her belt already, it served as a glimpse of the direction she’s going with her second LP for the label.
While she’s probably best known for her contributions to hip-hop records from Dr. Dre (“I Need a Doctor” with Eminem), Diddy (“Coming Home”) and Eminem (as a writer on “Love the Way You Lie”), her own music tends to reflect her alt-rock background with Linkin Park, to whose record label she signed a decade ago. Her set was extremely heavy, almost hypnotic in its dedication to low-end beats; at times her soaring vocals seemed almost eerie in contrast.
With its distorted vocals, opening song “Straight Shooter” was an example of exactly that, as her drummer and DJ held down a driving, bass-heavy beat while Grey’s vocals flew above them. But others had an almost country ballad feel, showing off her versatility and ability to adapt to several different aesthetics.
“How many people here have seen Suicide Squad?” she asked the crowd a few songs into her performance. As fans cheered in response, she launched into “Wreak Havoc,” one of her two contributions to the film’s successful soundtrack, which is currently atop the Billboard 200 albums chart. (She also co-wrote the soundtrack cut “Gangsta,” performed by Kehlani.) Songs from Natural Causes like her latest single “Off Road” and the still-unreleased “In My Garden” rounded out the set list before she brought things to a close a touch early, promising plenty more to come on her upcoming 12-city Natural Causes Tour this fall.