HANNAH DIAMOND IN GLASGOW
Full of energy and zest, the hyperpop princess rules SWG3.
The crowd rose and fell in unison with flashes of silver light. Hannah Diamond bounded across the stage, inciting frenzy as she reached down towards outstretched hands. As the music built towards a powerful refrain and she extended both hands high into the air, the crowd became a chorus with her as conductor. When one fan proclaimed, ‘I love you!’, you could hear the sincerity in their voice.
From where I stood at the SWG3 in Glasgow on Thursday night, I felt like I was at the heart of the adoring crowd. In fact, I was near the back of it. But the back of a Hannah Diamond audience is different to the sparsely populated regions of gently swaying spectators that you find at most concerts. She turned the whole crowd into the kind of animated superfans usually found only in the front row. Whether she’s supporting Carly Rae Jepsen on a world tour or entertaining the somewhat smaller crowd of Glasgow’s bubblegum hyperpop fanbase, Hannah Diamond presents herself as a pop superstar. Adopting her trademark innocent persona, she allowed herself to be stirred into youthful excitement by the music, and it was impossible not to share in the feeling. After one number, she cheekily confessed, ‘I actually really love that song.’
Diamond’s DJ brought just as much energy to the stage as the star, so it was a shame that she wasn’t better integrated into the performance. The two performers stood one in front of the other and made no real attempt to coordinate their actions. Every time Diamond spoke to her co-performer, she had to turn her back on the audience. It all looked a bit disorganised.
There was clearly much more thought put into the vocals. It’s not easy to sing effectively on stage when so much of your material is characterised by exaggeratedly synthetic vocals. When she felt that this tone was crucial to the music, she supplemented her voice with pre-recorded vocals. When she wanted to create a more intimate atmosphere, she left her live vocals bare. For those signature hyperpop melodies in a ridiculously high register that are completely impractical to sing live, she danced to the pre-recorded vocals as if to an instrumental solo. There were moments when she fell a bit out of time with the recording as she sang along, but otherwise she delivered her vocals wonderfully.
The appeal of Diamond’s music relies on her playing with conventions of pop music. Were she to give too polished a performance, she might run the risk of taking herself slightly too seriously. Diamond’s claim that her new single ‘Staring at the Ceiling’ is an attempt to make some ‘seriously good pop music’ could easily be misinterpreted. The music, though, made clear that the Hannah Diamond charm is still alive. It was full of energy and zest, and against lyrics that describe scenes of depression and loneliness it conjured a wonderfully anempathetic effect.
There were other hints that Diamond approaches her music a bit more seriously in the context of live performance. Sometimes the beat drifted from that of a kitschy pop number into a captivating groove. Sometimes her lively dancing was interrupted by slow, expressive gestures. On one occasion, the music lingered on a striking chord with a remarkable shimmering tone. She managed to keep all of these features sufficiently subtle by exaggerating the visual spectacle, showing off her pink tutu, glossy hair, bouncing twirls, playful kicks, and her sparkling ‘Miss HD’ graphics.
Finding the perfect stylistic balance is important in all kinds of hyperpop. Diamond’s balancing act is as delicate as any, so much so that some find the whole concept difficult to grasp. However, it seemed everyone at the SWG3 on Thursday night was on the same wavelength. After her performance was met with emphatic cheers, Diamond remarked, ‘You guys get it.’