Bruin Bash and sensitive sociopolitical topics typically don’t go together. This year they did – and tickets still sold faster than Bird scooters flying down Bruin Walk.
Bruin Bash is an annual concert organized by the Campus Events Commission and the Cultural Affairs Commission, and is part of True Bruin Welcome week. While all students are welcome to attend, the event is largely seen as meant for incoming first-years.
In previous years, artists such as Ty Dolla $ign, Madeon, Chance the Rapper, Kandace Springs and Tyga have performed at Bruin Bash. While some of these artists have also expressed their political views through their music, the music performed this year has drawn attention to issues such as sexuality in a far more pointed way than before, including an artist fingering herself on stage.
Bruin Bash 2018 was indeed a historical moment for UCLA – and a good one at that.
The choice of Bruin Bash artists has been relatively neutral in the past, as previous Campus Events commissioners did not want to take on a very opinionated or political stance with concerts. The CEC has historically tried to remain apolitical and refrained from inviting artists whose music can be considered overly controversial, so as to not alienate students.
However, this year CAC and CEC brought in CupcakKe, Charli XCX and Buddy to perform at Bruin Bash – artists who regularly and boldly vocalize their opinions on several socially and politically charged topics through their music – a big and intentional shift from concerts of years past.
By exposing Bruins to divisive yet nonetheless important topics in a lighthearted concert, UCLA is enabling students to critically think about pressing issues. In doing so, the university is allowing students to not only have an opinion of their own but also to accept and understand those of their peers.
CupcaKke is known for her many pro-sex songs, such as “Vagina” and “Deepthroat,” that usually contain highly controversial lyrics and acts that seek to normalize conversations about female sexuality. Charli XCX, this year’s headliner, also often sings about feminism and women’s rights. This lineup is markedly different from last year’s Bruin Bash, which featured Mura Masa, Aminé and Mr. Carmack – artists whose music focuses on relatively conventional topics, including relationships, friendship and partying.
“We have been pushing people to pay attention to artists and topics that have been previously called ‘too divisive’ and ‘too specific (to) an audience'”, said Sarena Khasawneh, the Cultural Affairs commissioner.
She added Bruins need to give credit to and appreciate the radical and truly progressive people of color, such as CupcaKke, who have paved the way for others in their industries to follow their leads, while students continue to be more critical of themselves and the society they live in.
This year’s Bruin Bash acted as a catalyst for students to think about and discuss important and relevant topics that affect the world today. CupcaKke’s performance presented a platform for students to contemplate female sexuality and the intersection between race and gender. Similarly, Charli XCX’s performance pushed Bruins to think about feminism and what people can do to strive toward greater gender equality.
“I enjoyed that the artists had strong messages because it made the performances more interesting,” said Anam Husain, a third-year international development studies and political science student who attended Bruin Bash. “The crowd was very receptive of the topics that the artists were bringing up.”
That’s a sentiment many students share. Those supportive of the artist choice, including Khasawneh, believe her music sheds light on the hypersexuality placed on Black women and helps normalize conversations about sex, thus promoting safe sex and relationship practices. They also argue CupcaKke’s music is just as inappropriate as that of male artists, such as Bruno Mars, who are widely accepted.
On the other hand, it’s easy to see CupcaKke’s music as vulgar and something that should simply not be promoted on a university campus.
But given concert floor tickets were sold out at a record time of just 90 minutes, it’s apparent Bruins were open to varying opinions and wanted to participate in healthy conversations about sexuality and other important social and political issues.
Even students who did not attend the concert were happy with this year’s Bruin Bash artists.
“While CupcaKke’s actions may be considered a bit inappropriate, it is her way of expressing herself and we should allow that because UCLA is a university that promotes freedom of expression,” said Adriana Rafael, a first-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student.
UCLA should continue inviting artists with strong opinions to perform at university events to start a conversation about important political and social issues. And the fact that these discussions are happening through art only helps to bring students together and build a coherent, multifaceted campus community.
What better True Bruin Welcome week could you ask for?