The 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival

by The Cowl Editor on September 30, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

The 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival

Why All Music Fans Wish They Were There

Talia Rueda ’23

2021 has been a huge year for music. 

Is it because there is a flux of albums coming from the most iconic artists of our generation? Or because of several expected world tours? While both are true, neither is why this has been such a paramount year for music. 

Music is nothing without the kicking-and-screaming and belting-of-the-lungs that comes with a live performance, especially at the festival of America’s #1 radio company. After a tortuous year of listening to our favorite artists alone in our bedrooms, iHeartRadio has come to reclaim its place in our lives as the world of live music returns. 

The iHeartRadio Music Festival returned to Las Vegas on the weekend of Sept. 17 with a lineup that provoked all the music lovers that were not in attendance to scour the internet for every full performance. The lineup ranged from the sisters of pop (Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, and Olivia Rodrigo) to hip-hop legends Lil Baby and J Cole, not to mention country’s boys Sam Hunt and Darius Rucker. 

The audience’s excitement to see live performances from these pop sensations was palpable. Newcomer Olivia Rodrigo received the loudest on-stage welcome of the entire weekend. This is not surprising, as her rise to fame did not only move at a rapid pace but also seemed inevitable. Rodrigo had all the tools and talents necessary for success, and the quality of her first live performance in front of a crowd exemplified the natural greatness that she continues to demonstrate. 

Indeed, her professionalism at such an early stage in her career proved true when her set did not begin with one of the first-released singles that made her famous, such as “driver’s license” or “deja vu,” but rather with “brutal,” an alt-rock anthem that left the crowd intoxicated with excitement. With her iHeartRadio set, one of her first live performances, Rodrigo has let everyone know that she is more than a lyrical poet, and rather a true artist who knows how to evoke in a crowd exactly what they had been yearning for throughout a difficult year without live music. 

With that being said, it’s impossible to forget Billie Eilish’s gut-wrenching yet thrilling set, and specifically, her first live performance of “Happier Than Ever.” There was not a single audience member who didn’t sing along with the line, “you make me hate this city.” Even those in happy relationships were guaranteed to cry along to this one. 

Now, a music festival would not be complete without the electric, fiery sounds of hip-hop and rap. This proved accurate when Lil Baby’s set reworked the stage and the audience’s energy, with tactics similar to that of Rodrigo.

The main goal of a music festival is to entice extreme eagerness from the crowd throughout the entire set, and Lil Baby did just that. He not only performed one of the most famous verses of 2021, his unmatched “Wants and Needs” verse from his feature with Drake, but also brought out special guests. 

Lil Baby welcomed several background dancers to perform the TikTok chant, “Woah,” spreading an exuberance of dance throughout the crowd. As mundane as it seems, learning Tik Tok dances was something that many bonded over throughout the pandemic. The emulation of these dances in a public setting proves that Lil Baby and other performers not only wanted to excite the crowd but to bring people back together. 

It is moments like these, the feelings of animation and emotion from Lil Baby’s beloved verse and Eilish’s deep self-reflection, that make live music what it is. Indeed, these moments are more than listening to music. Verses like Lil Baby’s allowed us to celebrate during a year of cheerlessness, while many of Eilish’s tracks represent the internal reflection that we all underwent during the pandemic. When hearing these iconic, deeply meaningful songs being in-person with one another for the first time, it is clear just how relieved music lovers are to be together again. 

That is the thing about iHeartRadio Music Festival: it is not just a live concert, but also a celebration of the ways in which people come together to show how much they love to listen to their favorite artists. 

This is evident in the fact that iHeartRadio has produced several events before and after the festival. For instance, they are broadcasting a two-night special on the CW Network on the weekend of Oct. 2 so that the fun does not have to end. Needless to say, their brand name is very accurate: we love the radio.