By Selena Fragassi
For Sun-Times Media
This year’s expansive lineup might have you feeling a little lost-a-palooza while planning out who to see next weekend. With today’s ever-widening net of indie artists and marquee acts that continue to evolve, categorizing bands is nearly impossible.
Now, alt-country mixes with emo, electro pop can come with a side of hardcore and trying to describe a band and all its sub-genres to your festival buddies can end up as a long-winded thesis. We break down Lollapalooza by looking at the equations that make each of these 13 highlights stand out—along with a hashtag to help put it all together in your own terms.
Sonny and Cher nostalgia + Otis Redding porch jams + a coffeehouse rush =
A husband-and-wife duo featuring Donna Summer’s daughter and the son of a preacher man. They have Nashville clout but pop and soul searching gets them closer to modern spirituals.
Robyn’s Euro vision + Katy Perry declawed + everyday pride parade =
Australian singer is our generation’s Cyndi Lauper. The girl may just be having fun with her Flashdance-inspired videos but songs like the dance hall crasher “Somebody Loves You” will leave everyone wondering just ‘Who’ she is.
Southern rock roadies + Alabama Shakes stirred up + Jerry Lee Lewis on Fireball =
Tennessee rockers have both Cameron Crowe films and musical show tunes in their blood. True piano ballads, an arsenal of tambourines and scratchy vocals could best headliners Kings of Leon.
Brit hip-pop junkies + The Libertines while they were away + a new breed of Arctic Monkeys =
This UK quartet is not to be confused with The Kinks even if they sound just like them. A fusion of indie rock, post-punk and funk pits the group in the echelon of Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand while also standing out.
Motor city rap + trials of the trailer park + Dr. Dre’s polish =
No one can forget the name Slim Shady. As one of the most successful rappers of all time, Em practices what he preaches in “Lose Yourself” with eight miles of Grammy nods, cameos and a highly lucrative career even after that extended break.
Deadpan Bob Dylan + exiled Liz Phair + Angela Chase’s diary =
Tell-it-like-it-is singer-songwriter who could double as a stand-up comedian. Example: Barnett wrote a whole song about a weed-pulling asthma attack. Her lyrics will tempt you but her effortless performances will keep you hooked.
Portishead pout + Florence Welch’s lungs + surround sound opuses =
Emotive Brits will make you crawl into fetus position while also rejoicing you happened to discover them. Ambient electronic gems are made more surreal with the inconceivable vocals of frontwoman Hannah Reid.
Sublime’s happy hooks + Bob Marley rasta roots + Haight-Ashbury in its heyday =
Of course this reggae rock band is from California where hippie nation had its rule. Yet their horn-heavy tracks, shaman vocals and Santana-style guitar also carries a bit of worldly flavor.
Gwen’s “Rich Girl” bravado + Nicki Minaj’s hustle and flow + a southern Miami twist =
Australian teenager went on a holiday and never came back, studying American styles of hip-hop and pairing it with high fashion swagger. Although much has been said of her unnatural twangy dialect, make no mistake—she’s the real deal.
Sinead O’Connor’s holy moments + John Lee Hooker’s delta spirit + ‘70s folk crusades
He’s the Irish singer-songwriter who came out of nowhere with the sensational song and music video for “Take Me to Church,” a justice league vendetta against homophobic persecution and basic human rights. A strong message is met with even bolder song structure.
Daria’s teenage angst + Lana Del Rey’s death wish + Sky Ferreira’s anxiety pop
By now even the Queen of England has heard “Royals,” the breakout hit from this New Zealand megastar. Although she’s still only a child, her gothic-tinged alt rock art pop is as jaded (and catchy) as they come.
Jazz scat flow + Kendrick Lamar’s critical cues + spoken word’s non-violent protest =
Chicago rapper worked on his game since his days attending Jones College Prep, fueled by online mixtape infamy and set apart from the urban thrash of artists like Chief Keef. He’s made just as many headlines but moreso for his brainy, artsy style along the lines of Earl Sweatshirt and local cohort (and Lolla artist) Vic Mensa.
Mod squad remixes + Haim’s high harmonies + The Supremes from Brooklyn =
Spirit twins Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. They walk alike, they talk alike and at times you’ll lose your mind for their retro-drenched indie pop hits.