American Express presents BST Hyde Park kicked off in style with an incredible set from American R&B superstar SZA. The multi-award winning singer put on a modern masterclass, welcoming Hyde Park into her own cavernous botanical paradise.

With a stunning backdrop of insects and trees, SZA arrived on a podium, surrounded by a troupe of dancers and brought hit after hit for the next 90 minutes, switching effortlessly between her five-time Grammy nominated album Ctrl, her incredibly rich and complex second record SOS and everything in between. At one point during the electric performance, SZA even sang while riding a giant ant, proving that the star truly can do anything.

SZA gave the crowd everything; “Love Language,” “Broken Clocks,” “All the Stars,” “Drew Barrymore,” “F2F,” “Ghost in the Machine,” “Blind,” “Shirt,” her hit song with Doja Cat, “Kiss Me More,” a cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” “I Hate U,” “Snooze,” and “Kill Bill, whilst wielding a sword in homage to the Quentin Tarantino classic. There was room for some big announcements too, “New album, you ready?” she asked the crowd before teasing an unreleased song. As she concluded her spectacular set with “20 Something,” she told BST Hyde Park, “Today was my first day performing with the new set. You’re like my second home. I’ll always come back here. You’re the best crowd. I love you. Goodnight!”

Earlier on in the day, London independent legend Sampha graced the Great Oak Stage, showcasing his two enigmatic albums, 2017’s Mercury prize winning “Process” and last year’s acclaimed return “Lahai.” The 6 year break only enhanced his legend and the favoured collaborator of Kanye West, Drake, Solange, Beyoncé and Frank Ocean is reminding everyone of his own wondrous music.

Sampha – Photo Credit: Isha Shah @ishashahphotography

Snoh Aalegra added her class to the lineup of soulful R&B. The Swedish/Iranian, Grammy nominated singer is a favourite for those in the know, an independent artist who writes songs that run the gamut of every stage of a relationship. From early favourites “Nothing Burns Like the Cold” feat Vince Staples, which samples Portishead, sampling Isaac Hayes, to the brutal but melodic spurn of a lover ‘Nothing To Me’ and torch vocal of “DYING 4 YOUR LOVE,” she has the audience wrapped in her stories from first minute to last.

Snoha Alegra – Photo Credit: @sharonlopez

But the Brits also shone in the park today. Two hotly tipped vocalists and songwriters, Elmiene was first on the main stage. The Oxford artist told Esquire this week that his original plan was to move to the desert and become an Islamic scholar, but he has been diverted as one the most talked about singers for 2024. He does 21st century R&B, inspired by 90s neo-soul like D’Angelo and charmed BST Hyde Park with his searing vocal runs and shimmering songs.

“You’re sounding beautiful,” he told the audience, “And they say festivals are hard. I don’t know what they’re chatting about. This is the sh*t!” By the time he finished with the hook laden, laid back, ‘Someday’, he had made 1000s of new friends.

In a similar vein, Leicester’s Sekou serenaded the sun-kissed crowd on The Rainbow Stage. The ambitious 19 year old grew up singing in church and translated that to a new kind of soul, personified by breakthrough single “Better Man.” “I’m very excited,” he admitted, the line up is insane!”

Emerging stars No Guidnce headlined The Rainbow Stage, resurrecting the golden age of R&B. London’s newest prodigal boy band released their first EP Is It A Crime? just last year, after going viral on TikTok and catching the attention of artists like Anderson .Paak, Labrinth and more.

Also performing today were hypnotic vocalist Hope Tala who started proceedings, “It’’s my first time here even though I live 20 minutes away,” she said, “Who’s here’s for SZA? I’m so excited, I’ve never seen her live before, we’re going to warm up together.”

Pop-star-in-the-making Fabiana Palladino, soulful storyteller Nia Smith, and “hood folk” artist Jessy Blakemore completed a fantastic day of music.

BST Hyde Park continues today with Kings of Leon, Paolo Nutini, The Vaccines, Gary Clark Jr, Cannons, Somebody’s Child, Red Rum Club, The Meffs, Daydreamers and Nieve Ella.


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