Iggy Azalea - Irving Plaza - 5/5/14
Better Than: Merely dancing to one of her songs in a club.
Iggy Azalea knows how to make a grand entrance. She's fashionably late and the last to appear after her dancers, back-up singers, and DJ are firmly in place. Through the doors of the eponymous hotel set backlit by a large neon sign bearing the title of her just-released debut LP The New Classic, Azalea marks what she hopes to be her territory as a star right in front of our eyes. She carries herself as such, without an ounce of doubt she should be at the center, and drives that self-assurance home with every apathetic look she gives just after every flip of her long, blonde hair that follows after she rhymes or moves in a way that states how she's not one to fuck with. Yet every flip, every blank stare is like going through the motions, making her just an old classic rehashed.
See also: We Can't Stop: Our Year With Miley
Azalea, between all her perplexities, is significantly compelling as an artist. Beneath the affected Southern drawl she rhymes with is talent rife with wit and agility. Her songs have humor, some lightheartedness, and, of course, the same impenetrable self-assurance she pounced on the stage with. Yet, everything about her show felt stock, beginning with the string of East Village bro-bar staples DJ Wizz Kidd spun before the main act, even the beats on the Australian rapper's own songs, which felt like they were stringing together with little differentiation. All of this was pristinely packaged and presented as manufactured rawness, begging the audience to get animalistic when the energy on stage was anything but. Caught between pop and trap, Azalea doesn't actually dive right into either, which effectively results in a jumbling of the two worlds.
Of course, there's nothing particularly flawed in attempting to combine the sheen of pop with the grittier sound of trap. Especially in the past year, the sound has been continuously appropriated by even the most bubblegum acts (see: Katy Perry) and Iggy is no stranger to the dichotomy in her own singles, like her current hit "Fancy" with its yo-yo beat complementing Charli XCX's irresistible hook. From the time she opened with the Steve Aoki-produced "Beat Down," Azalea seemed to be posing as a pop star who was actually more of a party liaison for the great time her fans were having in the pit.
It doesn't help that everything about Azalea appears as if she's just going through the motions of some arbitrary idea of what it means to be a hip-hop star. As she says on "Work," it seems like she "studied the Carters till a deal was offered" a little too hard. Everything from the now obligatory twerking to her Tony Montana shirt to the names of songs on her setlist that read like a Ying Yang Twins grocery list took some of the looseness and edge out of her own recordings and boiled it down to a script. An intermission featuring the Eddie Murphy and Grace Jones dinner scene from Boomerang where Jones repeatedly yells "PUSSY" at Murphy offered the night's most seamless moment, Azalea appropriately going into her own single "Pu$$Y" after it played.
Azalea left the stage not a second after 10:30, without an encore. She ended her mini-rave with the single that helped solidify her as one-to-watch, "Work," which was introduced with a sample from RuPaul's "Supermodel (You Better Work)" that hinted at a camp aesthetic she could easily master, but doesn't really devote herself to pursuing. Confused by the lack of more, the audience petered out of a venue now covered in an abnormally high amount of crushed Red Bull and beer cans along with the yellow ribbons she shot from over-sized champagne bottles. The club-lite night ended just as it was starting to begin.