DJ and presenter Clara Amfo picks five unmissable performances ahead of Radio 1’s Big Weekend.
Dust off your Hunters and stock up on biodegradable glitter: festival season is officially underway. Tomorrow (Friday 24 May) sees the return of BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, which this year takes place in Stewart Park in Middlesbrough.
If you were lucky enough to get hold of tickets for the event, we asked Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo to pick the female artists not to miss on the line-up – and the tracks to add to your playlist now. And if you didn’t manage to secure your spot in the crowd, you can watch all the performances on the Radio 1 iPlayer channel.
1. Charli XCX
“Charli XCX is one of those artists who I feel doesn’t always get the accolades she deserves. She is a proper pop polymath: she produces, she writes, she arranges. She’s such a great alchemist the way she can put people together, whether it’s on her own songs or writing for other artists, and she’s just fun and fierce. She’s the type of pop star I think we need.”
If you listen to one track make it: Break The Rules
“Break The Rules for me is one of Charli’s standout tunes. It’s naughty and raucous and it has this wicked pop punk element to it which I really like.”
“Anne-Marie has got an amazing personality and such a cool, fun and honest approach to her music. It’s cheeky but it’s still cool. When she first started out she used to call herself the Essex Ninja – she’s a former karate champion – and I think the kind of pop music she makes has a cool, global appeal but is very much Essex and proud, and I think that really bursts through in her sound – that cheeky, round-the-way girl vibe.”
If you listen to one track make it: Ciao Adios
“Ciao Adios is one of the best pop songs I’ve heard in the past five years. It’s so catchy and just perfect pop music.”
3. Billie Eilish
“Billie Eilish is definitely one to check out: I think the hype is justified. She has an air of mystery to her but it doesn’t come across as stand-offish. She’s 17 and she writes in a way that you’d expect a teenager to write but it’s so much more than that, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way at all. There’s a reason why 16-year-old girls love her because she’s in their minds, and she’s got this sense of self and this confidence that a lot of girls who follow her find inspiring and want to emulate. Look, I know women double her age who want to emulate that!”
If you listen to one track make it: Bury A Friend
“We play this loads on Radio 1 and it’s one of those songs that kind of slowly crept up on me. It’s got this casual nod to the Marilyn Manson track The Beautiful People, it’s got that sort of beat to it.”
“I think Mabel has really come into her own over the last year. I remember when she was first on my show and she was quite shy and she’s just become this woman. Even from the way she performs I can see how she’s changed on stage. Her live vocal is beautiful. We had her on the show as a guest vocalist for one of Stormzy’s Live Lounges and that was her very first time in the Live Lounge. Since then she’s gone on to do two Live Lounges of her own and she’s just bossed it, and it’s been so cool to watch her grow as an artist. I can’t wait to see what she does live at Big Weekend, it’s going to be really fun.”
If you listen to one track make it: Don’t Call Me Up
“I’d say Don’t Call Me Up because it’s really going global and it’s funny, every time we play it someone always texts in like, ‘Oh my god, do you know what? I was almost going to text my ex and I didn’t because of this song.’”
5. Little Mix
“I’ve got to say Little Mix. Little Mix for life! I love those four. I think the thing that keeps them together and the thing that shines through is that they genuinely like each other, they are four best friends – they’re like sisters. Their last record, LM5, I think it’s the album they wanted to make – it’s very much their Destiny’s Child’s The Writing’s On The Wall – from the production to the lyrics to how everything’s been styled, it’s just them. And their live shows are wicked. They’re always so fun.”
If you listen to one track make it: More Than Words ft. Kamille
“From the new album there’s a song called More Than Words and it features a friend of theirs called Kamille. Kamille is an amazing songwriter who has written for Mable, Dua Lipa… they call her their secret fifth member. Timbaland produced it, and it’s just a really lovely celebration of friendship.”
Radio 1’s Big Weekend 2019 in Middlesbrough is on 24-26 May. Listeners can hear all the action on BBC Radio 1, watch on Radio 1’s iPlayer channel. You can also watch all the highlights on BBC One on Monday 27 May at 11pm.
Photography: BBC, Sarah Jeynes, Laura Palmer, Michael Leckie