When Jackson Wang was announced as one of the entertainment headliners of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix 2023, it wasn’t all that surprising – the Hong Kong-born popstar is no stranger to the country, having performed his own sold-out show at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in December and popping up several times at clubs and fan events last year.
But what was fresh was the news that he’d be part of a full day’s program presented by the label 88rising, which would include newer artists and lots of Southeast Asian talent – from must-see rookies XG to fiery rap talent MILLI and many more.
Yesterday (September 15), 88rising brought the party to Singapore – read on for our recap and photos from the day.
Warren Hue keeps it short and sweet
The artist with the intimidating task of opening the massive Padang stage at the Grand Prix this year was Warren Hue. The Indonesian rapper came out in the stifling heat in a black-and-red ensemble, complete with chain and fringed jacket, kicking things off with the energetic ‘Omomo Punk’. His four-song set was short and sweet, ending with ‘In My Bag’ and some funny views on the screen courtesy of the GoPro he affixed to his mic.
MILLI makes her mark
Thai rapper MILLI – of mango sticky rice at Coachella fame – knows how to make the most of her moment. She needed just six songs to prove she’s the complete package, executing choreography with her dancers, spitting her rhymes in Thai and English, and bantering with the crowd (“do you wanna ride with me?” she asked slyly as she flaunted her belt, which was appropriately adorned with toy cars). Highlights included opener ‘Welcome’, ‘Saa-Tuu’ and ‘Mirror Mirror’, the last of which was a hit with the many K-pop fans in the crowd.
Massive singalongs for XG
XG, the global girl group hailing from Japan, have had a stratospheric rise ever since their early-2023 drop of ‘Shooting Star’ and ‘Left Right’. It was their first appearance in Singapore, but the singalongs were thunderous during both tracks – fans even screamed the ad libs.
- READ MORE: Girl group XG talk new single ‘Shooting Star’: “I want people to remember us as ‘Xtraordinary’”
The seven-piece, decked out in neon-green, also performed their second-ever single ‘Mascara’, and upped the anticipation for their upcoming debut mini-album ‘New DNA’ with the bops ‘TGIF’ and ‘New Dance’.
Atarashii Gakko! bring the irreverence
Like MILLI and XG before them, Atarashii Gakko! had lots of choreography planned. But what distinguishes the Japanese girl group – besides their striking schoolgirl costumes – is the irreverence of their performance routines. And their Singapore debut was characteristically cheeky and chaotic, filled with thumping beats and cheerleading-esque pyramids. When their set was done, they pretended to be driving race cars and vroomed offstage. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better entertainers than Atarashii Gakko!.
BIBI turns up the heat
Friday night was already plenty steamy, but when BIBI sauntered onto the Padang stage, temps soared and lusty screams filled the air. The South Korean singer clearly knows the power of a smouldering gaze and the devastating impact of a well-timed hip thrust or body roll – but her dryly hilarious banter seemed unplanned.
Before ‘Kazino’, she asked if casinos were legal in Singapore, quipping: “I’ve never been involved in any gambling, please don’t call the cops.” She introduced closer ‘BIBI Vengeance’ as a song about being a “bad bitch”, then added: “I wasn’t supposed to say that… will I go to jail?” Don’t worry BIBI, we’ll bail you out.
Rich Brian showcases his versatility
While MILLI and BIBI nodded to Formula One with their stage outfits, Rich Brian did so through his setlist, which included the songs ‘Drive Safe’ and ‘Slow Down Turbo’. But the Indonesian rapper’s performance was generally on the lower-key side of things, showcasing how he’s dipped more into singing and R&B flavours than the comedic hip-hop he’s been known for. There was no ‘Edamame’ on the menu, but it was nevertheless impressive to witness his genre explorations in a live setting.
NIKI keeps it upbeat
There were a couple of firsts for Niki Zefanya’s set – the Indonesian singer-songwriter was the first act to have a fan chant going, and she brought out the first live band of the night. NIKI took the stage in a stunning, sophisticated denim outfit heavy on straps and silver eyelets, plus boots that went up to her thighs.
- READ MORE: NIKI – ‘Nicole’ review: 88rising star revisits her teen years in Jakarta with folk-pop confessionals
This was NIKI’s second performance in Singapore in nine months, having delivered a sold-out headlining concert at the Star Theatre last December. For this abbreviated set, she focused on the upbeat tunes, closing with an excellent, fan-pleasing run of ‘High School in Jakarta’, ‘Lowkey’ and ‘Every Summertime’.
Jackson Wang casts his spell on Singapore
And finally, it was time for headliner Jackson Wang. The crowd – which was made up of younger, mostly Asian fans – surged forward after the conclusion of NIKI’s set, excited to see the ‘Magic Man’ himself. Wang arrived on stage already drenched in sweat, and the Singapore heat left him audibly exhausted at some points. But he still spared no effort staging his ‘Magic Man’ set in the Lion City, inhabiting the titular character of his 2022 album through black-and-red costuming, a Harvey Dent-esque haircut and smeared, black makeup over his eyes.
Through song and dance, Wang spun a dramatic narrative of conflict, seduction and struggle, signalling his ambitious creative direction as a solo artist. Though it was a set with far fewer singalong moments than previous performances, it still held the crowd’s attention, their rapt gazes following Wang as he cavorted one-on-one with his female dancers or delivered a Michael Jackson-evoking routine for unreleased song ‘Her Type of Party’. And there were still moments of funny fanservice, like when he put his Singaporean slang to the test and declared it would be a “very kiasu night”. And true to his word, Jackson Wang’s set was an undisputed victory.
A medley – and exciting collaborations – to close the night
Fans started to stream out of the pit the moment Wang ended his set. But 88rising had a surprise up their sleeves: a medley segment that showcased the fan-favourite collaborations between artists on the line-up. People rejoined the audience when BIBI and MILLI came out for the latter’s remix of ‘The Weekend’, and even more ran back in when Rich Brian and Warren Hue followed up with ‘Getcho Mans’.
It all came to a climax when Jackson Wang returned (in a black sleeveless top, having shed his heavy jacket) to join Brian and Hue for his remix of ‘California’. And with this last display of creative community, 88rising’s showcase at the Singapore Grand Prix came to a triumphant close.