Events at the University of Nevada, Reno aim to “engage, educate and empower undergraduate students… in the best interest of the student body and the university community,” per the mission statement of the Center for Student Engagement, but the recent concert’s apparent low attendance and polarizing acts suggest they might have missed the mark.
The latest performance at Lawlor Events Center by R&B and rap artist Ty Dolla $ign didn’t resonate with many students. Nearly all the stands surrounding the floor seating for the concert were empty throughout the show. The diminished attendance compared to past events signaled a lack of interest in the chosen headliner and many students have expressed their distaste for the event.
“Tickets were too expensive for music I don’t listen to,” said Kristina Knight, a sophomore student heading to class. This sentiment was echoed by many interviewed. “I don’t know who Ty Dolla $ign is,” said Aidan, another student. “It wasn’t worth it for me.”
This disconnect limits the events’ potential to educate or empower. Those who did attend, hoping for a unifying university event, were somewhat disappointed.
“Make some noise, Nevada State!” Ty Dolla $ign shouted to University of Nevada, Reno students, most likely confusing their institution with Nevada State College in Henderson, roughly 460 miles away. Many took the error in stride, finding humor in it, but the artist’s lack of awareness detracts from the sense of community these events aim to foster.
Throughout the concert, videos played featuring sexualized women. Though sexuality is present in many music genres, these videos resembled the advertisements of a beer commercial, rather than art enhancing the atmosphere.
Music critics have previously noted misogynistic themes in Ty Dolla $ign’s work, and this concert amplified those concerns. This is corroborated and excused by an article from Slant Magazine. “Ty Dolla $ign’s lyrics are often sexist and objectifying” Charles Lyons-Burt writes in “Review: Ty Dolla $ign’s Featuring Ty Dolla $ign Is Catchy but Lacks Clarity of Vision.” He goes on to explain that the artist’s music and onstage presence do not reflect his actual beliefs and are no more than perceived sexism.
Still, the artist’s comments to female attendees, including inviting them to an afterparty and singling out their appearance, were particularly objectifying. Whether meant for that reason or not, how the actions are taken by students is what is most important.
“You interested or not?” the artist asked a group of young women in the audience, referring to an invite to an after party with him and his DJ. Requests to spotlight “the sexy women” or identify the “single ladies” made it feel less like a musical event and more like a showcase.
Roy Taylor, an attendee and sophomore at the University, said, “It’s his music, but the comments and implications… is that the image the student body wants? It doesn’t promote equality, especially towards women.”
Many left the concert early, put off by the atmosphere and the performance’s general lack of appeal. The crowd became sparse as the night went on, with groups of people leaving en masse out the doors, sometimes not even waiting for the courteous time in between songs.
“He’s known, but not for his music,” Lukas Taylor said, a Nevada State College student visiting and attending the concert, “Ty Dolla $ign is a background artist.”
The decision to feature Ty Dolla $ign for a welcome concert misfired. Students at the University of Nevada, Reno hope future events will foster genuine empowerment and unity. It’s in the university’s best interest to strive for this ideal, if only to ensure future events are financially worthwhile.
Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or its staff. Emma Tomeo is a student at the University of Nevada studying journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.