Mya Cashes in on 90s nostalgia in Vancouver (Live) [Review/Photos]
Vancouver, BC – Grammy award-winning R&B songstress Mya has been on a hiatus for three long years and out of the public eye for even longer so when I told friends that I was going to see her, their reactions were mostly along the lines of “Mya? You mean Mya, Mya? She’s still around?”
Listening to her music in prep for the show, I couldn’t help but wonder why she would choose to be away for so long, especially when she has all the qualities that are desired in current music. The market is hot for female vocalists with good range, strong fashion sense, prodigious dancing ability and comfort with sexuality. Beyonce and Rihanna are running the show at the moment, but they lack the depth that Mya’s generation of R&B brought to the table. Mya comes from the golden era of R&B that goes a few levels below the superficial. It relied more on strong melodies and less on PR fireworks. Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah, Brandy, Monica, Mariah Carey, TLC are Mya’s peers and she represents the genre all too well. These names evoke, for an entire generation who grew up in the 90s, visions of soulful and awkward high school dances.
Mya is aware of this nostalgic connection that she has with her fans. She was making proud allusions to it throughout her show this past Wednesday night in Vancouver. Still, one wonders how far that can take her. At some point new connections with new material will have to be forged. Mya is currently working on her seventh album and judging by the turnout of her fans on Wednesday, she might still have a good shot at rebuilding herself in a market that is thirsting for female R&B vocalists.
As is the case with shows at Vancouver’s most beloved and respected club, Fortune Soundclub, the show did not start till late into the night. The DJ for the night, DJ Adlib, built up the 90s ambiance song by song until the crowd was steeped in nostalgia. Diamonds in the Rough, a local hip-hop dance crew continued with the same theme. They rocked the stage with a Rhythm Nation routine, complete with military uniforms. Their choreography was knock-out powerful. These ladies are of a world-class caliber and they are Vancouver’s very own.
Following them were another dance crew who really mixed it up by dancing tap to contemporary hip-hop. Tap dancing to Destiny’s Child’s “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” and Lil Wayne makes so much sense when you witness it. Mya herself is a tap dancer so she could not have asked for a better-suited opener.
After much anticipation, a little after half past eleven, Mya sauntered onto to the stage with her biggest career hit, “Case of the Ex”, which was a surprising move because I thought she would save it for the end to sign off the show with a bang. Dressed in a little black dress, big hair and gold makeup, Mya was a vision of femininity. The crowd seemed to forgive her tardiness because of her sheer beauty. Her voice was on point as she performed the songs she is most well known for: “Ghetto Superstar”, “My love is like… Wo” and “Free”. Mya’s voice is distinctively elegant and thin, but strong enough to carry the mighty melodies of her songs. She also incorporated a lot of dancing in her performance and smiled her 1000W smile through and through. She truly is a strong performer and extremely fun to watch.
Fortune is an intimate venue so shows held there always have a rough and spontaneous quality to them. The absence of a merch table meant that Mya had to hand out the new EP, Sweet XV1, herself to the crowd. The EP was released on Valentine’s Day this year to commemorate 16 years since her first single was released. She bought romance to the stage with “My First Night With You”. Mya later brought out her newer songs such as “Fallen and Space”, and had a whole lot of fun with “It’s My Birthday”. She had great energy with which she communicated with the crowd, pulling a couple and a single guy onto the stage to cover Robin Thicke’s “Lost Without U” for a double slow dance.
Everybody was waiting for “Lady Marmalade” with bated breath and Mya had the crowd dancing when she brought out the giant hit. The crowd was energized but there was a feeling of disappointment in the air for the late start and the disappointment continued to attenuate further when Mya ended her set after around half an hour of performance. A hurried goodbye on Mya’s part ended the show abruptly and left the audience cold. The crowd was on it’s way out well before the show ended, as it was tired of waiting for hours on a weeknight. Mya unfortunately did not sing entire songs, mostly sticking to choruses. For an 11.30pm start, Mya’s fans expected more and she was not able to deliver. The DJ however, who built up the atmosphere, and the two dance openers, ensured that the crowd had a great night of 90s nostalgia. If Mya had extended her performance, the crowd would have gone home much happier.
For an artist to have fans come to see her out of pure loyalty and love, when she has not put out an album in three years, is quite impressive. Mya’s organic voice and sexy persona is much needed in today’s overly manufactured, superficial music scene. Perhaps her coming album will bring back her full glory. But until then she might have to give her fans a little more than a lukewarm, half hour performance. Here’s hoping this was a one off, bad day show, and that her shows are usually much more fleshed out and satiating than this. Either way a night at Fortune with their cutting-edge DJs is never a waste. Despite the disappointment, I came home and watched a few more Mya videos and after a few I realized, I can’t stay mad at her. She is much too beautiful.
Written by Prachi Kamble for HipHopCanada
Photography by Daniel Young for HipHopCanada