Robin Thicke, Kool and The Gang, Kasabian, Jessie Ware and more
Blended is one of the city’s most eclectic music festivals. The first event was held last year and it seems that the cross-genre offering had more than enough appeal, as it returns to the Dubai Media Amphitheatre on Thursday April 30 and Friday May 1. The two-day event will mix soul, rock, funk and electro and feature a strong line-up of international award-winning artists, as well as future sounds worth discovering.
Undoubtedly one of the most talked-about members of this year’s line-up is R&B artist Robin Thicke. Best known for 2013’s sensational (and controversial) ‘Blurred Lines’ featuring Pharrell Williams and T.I. – which was that year’s biggest-selling song in the UK, shifting 1.5 million copies – the American-Canadian singer-songwriter will hit the main stage on the festival’s second night. Despite having recently been through a costly legal wrangle and divorce from his wife of nine years, he’s looking forward to his first performance in the city. ‘We’re coming with the whole shebang; horns and percussion, guitars… all of it,’ says Thicke as we chat on the phone about his set for Blended. ‘I always do a little bit of everything. I’ll play some stuff from my older albums and some tracks that perhaps the audience won’t have heard. I like to mix it up and make as exciting a show as possible.’
The four-time Billboard Music Award-winning artist has released seven albums, but his biggest hit is ‘Blurred Lines’ and, despite being marred by criticism and legalities, Thicke still gets a kick from singing it. He says it’s one of his favourites to perform just because of how the crowd responds. ‘That’s why I’m there – just to cater to them and that sometimes is the peak of the show,’ he says. ‘The other song I love to perform is ‘Oh Shooter’ from my first album A Beautiful World. I love performing that live. The whole band loves it and we all get to rock out.’
Thicke has been in the studio working on a new album and he tells us he’s excited about a track made with rapper Juicy J, who penned hip-hop hit ‘Bandz A Make Her Dance’. He also has a new summertime tune with Flo Rida called ‘I Don’t Like It, I Love it’. Thicke has collaborated with many big names in the industry across pop, R&B and hip-hop, including Mary J. Blige, Usher and Nicki Minaj, but he wasn’t always the smooth singer we know now.
‘The first album I ever bought was one by Billy Idol,’ he says. ‘I used to love Billy Idol. I’d dress like him, cut my hair like him and everything. I don’t remember the name of the album, but I loved ‘Dancing with Myself’.’
While Thicke may not be channelling his inner punk-rocker at Blended, he still feels that mixing styles and genres is the way forward. ‘I’m always trying to do a little bit of everything. I love to dabble in many different inspirations of life.’
But Blended isn’t, of course, all about Pharell’s now notorious collaborator. From a musical perspective alone there’s going to be lots going on. Headlining on Thursday April 30 is UK rock band Kasabian. Expect to hear their hits ‘Club Foot’, ‘Fire’, ‘Underdog’ and more. The four-piece will be accompanied by a string quartet. Also putting in an appearance on opening night are the UK indie band Red Emperor, R&B singer Craig David, who will be performing an all-acoustic guitar set of tracks including ‘Rewind’ and ‘7 Days’ and yet another Brit singer, Jessie Ware, whose modern, haunting, soulful vocals and creative lyrics make her a must-see. Friday evening sees the festival get really funked up, with veteran disco group Kool & The Gang gracing the main stage. The band will close the festival with groove-laden hits such as ‘Jungle Boogie’, ‘Ladies’ Night’, and the 1981 party hit ‘Get Down on It’. Prior to the grandfathers of funk taking to the stage, Nico & Vinz from Norway will be performing their own brand of soulful pop and their hit ‘Am I Wrong’.
The British singer talks love and going mainstream. Interview by James Manning.
Jessie Ware isn’t your average pop star – she’s way too nice. And honest too. ‘I’m not mysterious,’ she says within the first few minutes of our conversation. ‘I’m very open and I talk about everything. Part of this job is talking about yourself a lot, and sometimes it feels a bit gross.’
You broke out of south London’s underground bass scene and you’re working towards the mainstream on your album Tough Love. Do you think you can bring those two worlds together? Yeah! Why not? I’m a bit of this and a bit of that. I love pop music, I love soul music, I love electronic music, and I don’t see why I have to be one thing or the other.
Do you ever get bored of writing love songs? Actually, I don’t. Because I think it’s one of the rawest emotions and everyone feels it in some kind of way – whether it’s love or the complete opposite. It’s something that I’m obsessed with. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra: they sang love song after love song after love song and it never seems to bore me at all.
You sound so happy and settled, but there’s a lot of heartbreak in your songs – how’s that? Well, unrequited love is one of my favourite themes. I still find it very easy to write about. I don’t know – maybe it’s some subconscious uncertainty that compels me to write that. But I’m in a really stable, wonderful relationship, and my songs aren’t necessarily all about me.
Plan the perfect Blended weekend
Thursday April 30 6pm: Doors open and guests start to arrive.
6.10pm: Get yourself to the main stage as the performances get underway. Be sure to check out up-and-coming indie rock band Red Emperor.
7.10pm: Don’t miss Abri & Radius.
8pm: Two-step to the soulful R&B of Craig David.
9.15pm: Tune in to the sounds of Jessie Ware.
10.45pm: Rock out to Kasabian.
Friday May 1 4pm: Doors open
4.30pm: Take a wander around the Promenade Boutique Market and get kitted out in bohemian festival accessories from the fashion and craft stalls.
5.10pm: Head back to the main stage to check out Abri & Radius.
6pm: Listen to some Danish jazz from Montells Jazz Gala.
6.30pm: Check out the Jazz@PizzaExpress Garden to see local and up-and-coming bands.
7pm: Head to the main stage to enjoy uplifting pop with Nico & Vinz. 8.15pm: Sing along with soul crooner Robin Thicke.
10pm: Get your funk on with Kool & The Gang. Blended Picnic Style: Dhs395 (day pass), Dhs650 (weekend pass). Blended Lounge: Dhs695 (day pass), Dhs1,100 (weekend pass), Blended VIP (including all food and beverages) Dhs1,395 (day pass), Dhs2,200 (weekend pass). Thu April 30-Fri May 1. Thu 6pm-midnight; Fri 4pm-midnight. Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, www.blended.ae.