Elle Varner: Hardly 'Imperfect'
The R&B ingénue celebrates her debut album with an impressive show at New York’s Highline Ballroom
By Larry Gilchrist
Special to MSN Music
R&B newcomer Elle Varner had quite a week. In addition to releasing her debut album, “Perfectly Imperfect,” to rave reviews and a projected debut in the top 10 on Billboard’s album chart, she also played to a sold-out crowd of fans and industry elite at New York’s Highline Ballroom.
Commanding the stage in a geometric jumpsuit and sky-high heels, the 23-year-old songstress kicked off the 45-minute set with the Jay-Z-inspired “EV” from her “Conversational Lush” mixtape. It made sense, as the song served as the final track of the set that introduced the crowd to Varner. It also worked because the bouncing backbeat, lifted from Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” got the show off to an uptempo start. From there, backed by her band and vocal percussionist Anointed-S, she launched into her ironic self-esteem anthem, “So Fly.” As the crowd crooned along to Varner’s lyrics of self-deprecation and then enlightenment, you could see that the audience – both men and women alike – truly identified with Varner’s open and honest lyrics about loving yourself just as you are.
By the time Varner hit the audience with “Only Wanna Give It To You,” her first single, she had them eating out of the palm of her hand. The track, which features J. Cole, is a perfect summer song of falling in love with the new someone set to a backdrop of an old school Biz Markie sample. The crowd sang along to every word.
The show served as a homecoming of sorts for Los Angeles native Varner, who attended New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. It was a moment that wasn’t lost on her when she asked “Is NYU in the house?” and the crowd roared back. In addition to recognizing her alma mater, Varner thanked her label and family (who was in attendance) for all their love and support.
Rounding out the set with a few ballads, including “I Don’t Care” and the impassioned “Refill,” Varner showed her more sensitive side. As the audience filed out for the night, it seemed pretty evident that Elle Varner was pretty close to perfect to them.