X Games Music: What to expect from Rae Sremmurd, Alesso, Illenium and Bazzi in Aspen
Over in the SuperPipe and on the slopestyle course the competitions may be all about bronze, silver and gold. But in the concert arena next door, the artists’ precious metal is platinum.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday night’s headliners Rae Sremmurd, Alesso and Bazzi are all platinum-selling pop stars of the moment. Along with Denver bass DJ Illenium, whose Saturday afternoon show was the first to sell out, these are artists who dominate clubs, pop charts and, of course, ski playlists.
X Games, since it started hosting stadium-style outdoor shows at the Buttermilk venue in 2015, has usually put a long-established hip-hop star or two on the bill (Snoop Dogg, Nas, Lil Wayne) but 2020 is straight from the youth and the zeitgeist, none older than 29 and all with recent runaway hits.
The concerts open with the prolific and eccentric Atlanta-based sibling hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd, who’ve been on a run of hits that started with “No Flex Zone” five years ago. Saturday’s double-bill opens with home-state hero Illenium, riding high off his breakout 2019, and closes with the Swedish heavyweight DJ and remixer to the stars Alesso. After those three rowdy shows, R&B singer and songwriter Bazzi promises to wind things down with his luscious mix of delicate vocals and trap beats.
Here’s what to expect at the X Games music festival:
X Games: Friday, Jan. 24, 10 p.m.
Belly Up: Saturday, Jan. 25, 10 p.m.
Key Track: “Black Beatles,” 2016
What’s New? Maybe “Sremmlife 4.” The Rae Sremmurd brothers have been teasing the release of a fourth installment in the LP series for nearly a year now. The international eyeballs and social media promotional machine of ESPN and X Games just might be what the duo has been waiting for to make a surprise album drop. If not that, count on some previews of unreleased tracks.
What to Expect: A relentless hit-after-hit party of a set from a young and still-hungry duo that’s on top of the hip-hop world at this moment. Swae and Slim Jxmmi tend not to waste time in concert — they’ll play fan-pleasing, truncated versions of the tracks everybody in this crowd is going to want to hear, backed by Mike Will Made-It’s era-defining beats and some remixes, plucking from the Rae Sremmurd catalog, their solo material and guest spots (yes, expect the Swae/Post Malone mega-hit “Sunflower” on the set list).
X Games: Saturday, Jan. 25, 4:30 p.m.
Key Track: “Takeaway,” 2019
What’s New? Pop stardom. Around here, Illenium’s been a staple of the EDM scene since his days as a University of Colorado-Denver student and his early releases in 2013 and 2014. But his LP “Ascend,” released in August, and singles like “Good Things Fall Apart” (with John Bellon) and “Takeaway” (with The Chainsmokers and Lennon Stella) saw him crossing over to the top of the pop charts.
What to Expect: A triumphal home-state celebration of Illenium’s sold-out X Games moment. The throngs of CU-DU-CSU students who fill the X Games concert crowds are the same who filled Illenium’s Denver club shows before international superstardom hit. He’s playing his home turf, so expect him to make it special.
X Games: Saturday, Jan. 25, 9:30 p.m.
Belly Up: Friday, Jan. 24, 10 p.m.
Key Track: “Heroes (we could be),” 2015
What’s New? “In the Middle,” a hooky collaboration with SUMR CAMP released this fall.
What to Expect: At least a dose of old-school Swedish house music. After winning millions of fans with pop collaborations and remixes with the likes of OneRepublic and Florida Georgia Line, Alesso last year released the three-track progressive house mixtape “Progresso Volume 1” that celebrated the old rave style.
X Games: Sunday, Jan. 26, 4:30 p.m.
Belly Up: Sunday, Jan. 26, 9:30 p.m.
Key Track: “Mine,” 2018
What’s New? “Soul Searching,” the 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist and R&B singer’s debut mixtape, released in August. Including the breakout hit “Paradise,” it followed the stratospheric single “Mine,” from 2017, and Bazzi’s sprawling debut album “Cosmic,” from 2018.
What to Expect: Public make-out sessions and maybe the best time you’ll have all weekend. X Games in recent years has nailed it with their Sunday afternoon bookings and been blessed with sunny weather for laid-back closing day shows from artists like Kygo. Bazzi’s sexy, electronic-infused R&B fits the bill for another beautiful paradise of a Sunday in the snow at X Games with a fitting soundtrack.