By Rachel O’Brien and Sophia Abbey-Kuipers
The air was thick with the scent of preteen sweat and Fantasy by Britney Spears perfume. A selfie stick floated above a sea of fake flower crowns. She appeared from the side of the stage like an angel descending from the heavens. It was her, the original Queen B, Blair Waldorf—I mean Leighton Meester. She was sans-headband, flower crown, or barrette. In fact, the only jewelry she wore was a simple wedding band from Adam Brody. She was dressed casually, in what can only be described as 50 shades of brown (brown t-shirt, brown flannel tied around her waist, brown jeans, etc.). She whipped her unwashed ombré hair back and forth in front of her makeup-free face; in an effort to appeal to the locals, she clearly embraced the Allston look. We expected her to come out in a floral romper and a wide brimmed hat in a muted neutral color, but alas, no botanical prints (nor headwear of any kind) were spotted.
At first, not even the hint of a smile graced her heavenly face. We were concerned that she didn’t want to be onstage in front of a bunch of Gossip Girl aficionados. Did she resent us for watching all six seasons? Most of the people there were undoubtedly expecting Blair: jewel-tone tights, a judging glare, general snobbery. And there were hints of Blair—subtle burlesque moves, a snub at girls who screamed at her to take a picture with them (she stopped the song, glared, and resumed strumming her acoustic guitar). But what we got was Blair on her off days—toned down, carefree, most likely wearing a sports bra.
Her music can only be described as SoCal folk. Her voice is akin to Lana Del Rey when she sang all high and breathy. It was perfectly suited for her cover of “Lovefool” by The Cardigans and country music. During her cover of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough” she played her acoustic guitar and swayed. It was during this song that her vocals truly shined; she is perfectly suited for twangy music and should’ve been wearing cowgirl boots. She belonged on a rolling grass hill, serenading us at a spring wedding.
And we got the feeling Leighton would’ve preferred to be performing at a backyard reception—that she just wanted to move on, to not be synonymous with Queen B. When the warm-up act asked who watched Gossip Girl (undoubtedly to Leighton’s chagrin) there was uproarious shrieking, even among the dads. Leighton cringed when girls screamed, “YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL,” and “WE LOVE YOU BLAIR!” She refused to acknowledge her time on the show, even ignoring the “Where’s Chuck?” questions. But if they hadn’t religiously watch GG they probably wouldn’t even know who Leighton was, let alone have waited outside Brighton Music Hall in 20-degree weather to see her. And they sensed that she was a bit annoyed that we bought Heartstrings almost solely because they want to be her minions. She clearly wants to move on from the character, but should she? After all, Blair is the reason she’s famous. Her journey can be described as a reverse-Miley trajectory: bad girl gone good. She wants to shed her image and be a country singer who’s a lucky girl, just like you. But without B she wouldn’t have sold out Brighton Music Hall.
When artists change direction it’s hard to grow with them and make the same changes because we’re not in the same place they are. And we want them to stay in the same place—to stay stuck in our favorite TV shows, to keep churning out the same choruses. But maybe it’s time to let them shed their headbands, spread their wings, and fly (even if it’s far away from where we are, in the corner, with our five best friends.)