More than a few heads were turned when the jam-packed line-up of Atelier Live’s Dance Arena festival was announced. Hang on, we said: you’ve got (deep breath) Ne-Yo, Leona Lewis, Jay Sean, Natasha Bedingfield, Taio Cruz, Skylar Grey, Edward Maya and the Sugababes’ Amelle playing on the same night? We’d like to be backstage for this one, please.
Billed as the ‘Middle East’s biggest musical festival’, the event’s name won’t be winning any points for originality. But the greatest surprise is the speed it all happened – the line-up was announced less than a month ago, with the 12-hour all-dayer taking place at Dubai Sports City on Friday April 6. So in preparation for the big day we thumbed up on the line-up (so you don’t have to), and chatted to one of the headliners,
Mr ‘Stereo Love’ Edward Maya.
The American R&B star nominally heads this talent-packed bill. He’s been a household name since Billboard-topping 2006 hit ‘So Sick’. So many more hits followed that he was named as the 57th best-selling artist in America in the 2000s – despite only being in the charts for less than half of the decade. He lives a dual personality as songwriter-for-hire Shaffer Smith, and has penned scores of hit records for the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Mary J Blige.
Performing in the Middle East for the first time, Simon Cowell’s most successful protégé is the safest thing on the bill. With 20 million album sales under her belt, there can’t be a soul in the audience unfamiliar with mega-hit ‘Bleeding Love’. She told Time Out last year that she’s visited Dubai before, adding, ‘It’s so modern and it’s being built up. It’s amazing to see it happening. I think it would be cool to come back next year and see how far it has come.’ A wish that came true, clearly.
Urban star Sean became the first Brit to top the US Billboard charts in decades with debut single ‘Down’. Also known for international smash ‘Ride It’, Sean is a repeat visitor to Dubai, whose last gig was at a sweaty Chi in February 2011. At the time he told Time Out: ‘I love Wild Wadi – love it. I also enjoy the Madinat, that’s quite a cool place to have dinner. And that big mall with the ski slope in it.’
Cruz is another Brit who’s managed to crack the US, selling 16 million records in just two years off the back of house super-hits ‘Break Your Heart’ and ‘Dynamite’. He’s visited Dubai before – playing N’Dulge last November – but when Time Out asked if it was his first time in the emirate, Cruz said he ‘couldn’t remember’.
Tickets Dhs250-650. 2pm-3am, Friday April 6. Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City, www.timeouttickets.com
Five minutes with headliner Edward Maya
DJ turned pop star Maya is responsible for 2009 superhit ‘Stereo Love’, which clocked more than 100 million YouTube views and made the 25-year-old the first Romanian to enter the US Billboard charts. And he’s still a student. He plays at the Atelier Live Dance Arena festival next weekend.
Who are you looking forward to on the bill at Dance Arena?
They’re all great artists, but Ne-Yo is my fave – I like urban music.
How do you manage the demands of touring while studying at the Bucharest Conservatory?
It’s very difficult! It’s seven years of study and I have one more year to go – I manage by only going in for the exams.
You produced your country’s Eurovision Song Contest entry, ‘Tornerò’, in 2006. Is Eurovision cool in Romania?
It was the first commercial song I produced and I’m very proud, but I don’t think Eurovision is cool in any country.
Why was ‘Stereo Love’ such a hit?
It’s a combination of a bit of jazz and the right song at the right moment – it’s the magic. I can’t explain it, but I’ll never get bored of hearing it.
What do you think of Dubai?
I love Dubai – it’s like a Star Wars city. I love it very hot. It’s -21°C in Romania today.
You’ve helped make house the pop platform it is today. How long can the success continue?
Maybe one, two years. If house isn’t popular any more I’ll choose another instrument. I started on the accordion so I’ll learn the saxophone. I play in an orchestra so I’ve got 41 instruments to choose from…