This spring, we Princetonians are experiencing what has been called “easily the worst lineup of all the Ivies.” I am referring, of course, to USG’s disappointing decision to subject us to GRiZ and Mayer Hawthorne this Lawnparties. Picking two acts who are generally unknown to the Princeton population is bad enough, and that decision was made even worse by the April Fool’s joke that preceded it.
On April 1, all Princeton students received a USG email telling us that this year’s Lawnparties headliners would be JoJo and Nickelback. Perhaps this was never the intent of the joke, but excitement was instantaneous. I don’t think that they accounted for the fact that JoJo was the soundtrack to many a Princetonian’s life back in middle school. And the fact that she hasn’t released anything recently made her just washed-up enough to be plausible (hello, Aaron Carter!). I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I, along with many of my friends, was already picturing myself singing along to “Leave (Get Out)” and “Too Little, Too Late” minutes after the email was sent out. Even Nickelback, the Internet’s most hated band, would be preferable to the acts who were eventually announced; we know them, at least, and we have heard their songs on the radio.
But GRiZ and Mayer Hawthorne? Come on, GRiZ doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, and Mayer Hawthorne plays sleepy soul music, which hardly seems appropriate for the Lawnparties atmosphere. So instead of an exciting afternoon belting out throwback songs from middle school, we will either be staring at a virtually unknown producer or falling asleep in front of some soul singer. The contrast between our potential Lawnparties and the actual event is extremely strong and disappointing.
These acts would have been unsatisfactory in any case because of the infinitely superior acts at our fellow Ivy League schools. For example, Harvard will have Janelle Monáe, and Columbia will have Lupe Fiasco. USG should have realized that Princetonians would not exactly be pleased with the choices, especially in the face of such competition. Therefore, USG should have done everything in its power to mitigate the inevitable discontent. I am not necessarily blaming it for choosing such unknown musicians because it is clear that they were the best we could afford. As USG social chair Logan Roth ’15 told The Daily Princetonian directly after the announcement was made, “The best part, of course, is that they fit into our budget, that they’re available and that they’re down to come and play.” With this kind of rousing endorsement from the very guy who booked the acts, the larger Princeton community cannot have been expected to be excited about Lawnparties. However, his quote also makes it obvious why they were picked; anyone we would have actually heard of would be too expensive or wouldn’t care to come.
Perhaps the problem is that we have two concerts whereas most schools only have one in the spring. Take Harvard, for example. It spends the entire year’s concert budget on one performance in the spring, Yardfest. Harvard also cuts costs by having student bands open for the main act, Janelle Monáe. These cost-cutting measures are probably what allowed the school to hire an established and popular musician.
The question for Princetonians then becomes: Which would we prefer? Do we want to keep Lawnparties as a biannual event with the risk that the acts hired will then be substandard, or would we prefer one big, blow-out event? Do we need two headliners, or could we settle for one? If the money spent booking GRiZ and Mayer Hawthorne were combined, then perhaps we could have gotten one musician who was greater than the sum of their parts. Of course, this means we might have to settle for an amateur opener, the way Harvard did with its student bands. However, I think the payoff of having one larger, more crowd-pleasing act would be worth such a small sacrifice. Of course, here at Princeton, we have a secret weapon that has no counterpart at Harvard: the eating clubs. Since, traditionally, the eating clubs also organize acts during Lawnparties, perhaps they could join forces to host one act that would please the student population. The main issue with Lawnparties is we need to develop an attitude of quality over quantity. Whether we reduce the number of Lawnparties in the year or the number of performers at each Lawnparties, we need to scale something down. With this new focus on less is more, we should be able to afford people who would really get us excited. Who knows, maybe we could even get JoJo.
Zeena Mubarak is a freshman from Fairfax, Va. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.