“Pop” music can still be emotionally vulnerable and personal. “Emo” can still be catchy and broadly accessible.
In embracing the “emo girl pop” label, Maisie Peters is declaring her belief in these concepts.
With her fantastic and ever-improving discography (her just-released EP “It’s Your Bed Babe, It’s Your Funeral” features some of her best work yet), the promising singer-songwriter is walking the talk. Her catchiest, most marketable songs are still rich with intricate, personal songwriting and honest delivery. Her most intimate and vulnerable songs still feature inviting melodies and engaging hooks.
Her songs provide listeners with the ultimate duality: the ability to excitedly sing and bop along while passionately feeling and connecting. It is why she has been able to cultivate a passionate following and millions of active Spotify listeners from just a few radio spins, playlist looks and “Love Island” features.
Maisie Peters’ brand of “emo girl pop” clearly works for her recordings. Would it also work in a live environment?
It is important to understand the context of the question. Whereas stereotypical pop stars simply have to confirm they can “sing live,” Peters faces a more nuanced challenge. Her goal is to prove she can make “emo girl pop” resonate in concert. In essence, she has to deliver the fun energy of a pop concert with the raw emotion of a singer-songwriter showcase.
Based on her strong debut North American show at Mercury Lounge in New York City, Peters is definitely up for the challenge.
As someone who heard good things about her UK performances and witnessed her talent first-hand at a March record label showcase, I was not surprised by Peters’ success in rocking a live show. I was, however, impressed by how comfortable and commanding she has become. Though she still has room to grow, it would be a crime to merely call her set “promising.” It was unequivocally engaging.
Through her low-key yet confident banter, Peters perfectly translated her “social media charm” into an appealing, real-life presence. She made for a rather likable headliner.
But while the jokes and banter may have been endearing, it was the music through which Peters made her biggest statement. With support from a “band” of two multi-instrumentalists, Peters took the audience through a fairly comprehensive tour of her music (she skipped some songs, including a few from her 2018 EP, but nothing that markedly hurt the experience). At every turn, Peters showcased the power of her brand of “emo girl pop.”
Some songs were exhilarating. Some were quirky. Some were restrained. Some were vulnerable and emotional. All were Maisie Peters.
From start-to-finish, she invited the world to experience her unfiltered happiness, vulnerability and pain. She never even felt like she was performing, let alone attempting to mirror the style of another artist. She was simply being herself — and speaking herself — through music, and the result was an immensely engaging tour debut.
Her individuality and connection brought nearly every song to life in a new and special way. Her stunning rendition of “Best I’ll Ever Sing” made for an utterly captivating few minutes. “Look At Me Now” powerfully connected with the crowd even though it had only been released three days before the performance. Songs like “Worst Of You” and “Place We Were Made” are minor hits in the grand scheme of things, yet they felt like big-time smashes in the venue. New EP tracks “Adore You” and “This Is On You” demonstrated undeniable hit potential.
Peters is unquestionably still best at delivering intimate, singer-songwriter numbers — an unplugged take on an unreleased song (“Back To You”?) may have been the night’s highlight — but she can definitely be fun and lively. Her light dancing and gestures in quirky “April Showers” won points from the audience. And even though it seemed to spur some brief vocal issues, her attempt to call out the “this dress too nice for a jacket” line during “In My Head” was an encouraging, refreshing move. It showed how comfortable Peters is becoming on stage, as well as how enthusiastic she is for putting on a memorable show.
Though the intimate show could scale for a theater 2-3x the size, it is not quite meant for arenas. Peters does, however, absolutely have the charm, presence and discography to create something for a much bigger environment.
She, after all, commits to the most important part of songwriting and performing: emotional honesty. Not simply refreshing, her authentic approach yields meaningful connections with her audience. If they cannot outright relate to her, they can at least understand her. They can see her. They can feel great about rooting for her.
You can’t create that type of connection simply through bright lights, big sound systems and aggressive visuals. You can, however, use those production elements to amplify pure, honest artistry.
Peters surely will someday soon. For now, take the opportunity to see Peters in a more intimate venue — and witness undeniable proof that music can indeed be personal, emotional and fun. The remaining North American dates are as follows:
October 13 – Cambridge, MA
October 14 – Washington, DC
October 16 – Chicago, IL
October 18 – Nashville, TN
October 21 – Los Angeles, CA
October 22 – San Francisco, CA