Don’t sleep on Bibi Bourelly, ACL’s secret pop genius

Bibi Bourelly wrote Rihanna’s “B*tch Better Have My Money,” so you’ve already appreciated her writing. She can riff on mean lovers and the circumstantial self-reliance of your early 20s with anyone, which is why she’s been tapped by the likes of Usher and Selena Gomez for credits.

Bibi Bourelly performs at the Honda Stage during weekend two of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. TINA PHAN / FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As a solo artist, she hit Zilker Park’s Honda Stage with great pre-song zingers: “This is about my ex-boyfriends other b*tch.”

She has some Frank Ocean in her, another strong-minded auteur who first caught a break writing for pop stars. Difference is Bourelly is still building her sonic palette.

“I got fired from Old Navy, landlord keeps on knocking,” she sings with populist contempt on “Ballin.”

Wearing frayed jeans and a plaid blouse, the Berlin-born singer-songwriter plugged in her stage show Sunday with a three-piece rock backline that played over R&B beats and gave them a friendly fire, No Doubt-inspired spark.

Her songs are about feeling isolated in wide spaces, like her adopted Los Angeles, where people are “a little too perfect.” She has the writing about-the-human-experience part down at just 23 years old.

But at ACL, a pensive and quiet soft open.

“Damn Austin I know it’s early but come on,” Bibi Bourelly told a thin crowd Sunday. She’d been up there for nine minutes, but the most enthusiastic onlookers seemed to be the fans in Gorillaz T-shirts apparently camping out for tonight’s set.

Most patrons are taking Instagrams at brunch spots, and some at Zilker Park are thinking about what time they need to be at the airport. The tunes carried purpose all the same: “I don’t take compliments well, but I’m so self-obsessed that I think up a storm and I dream up a mess” she riffed on “Sunshine.”

“You’re my cocaine,” she sang with urgency on “Poet.” Her songs drive into dark corners you may miss because they’re written so brightly.

“Have an amazing f**king time tonight and follow your dreams,” Bourelly signed off to her well-presented, 40-minute set.

Bourelly never leaned on past hits to lull in new fans. That independent streak will serve her well next time.


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