No matter which trend has its grip on the zeitgeist, no matter which craze has pop culture in its all too fleeting headlock, if you’re innately charming, you’ll do more than ok – that was the larger truth that Craig David proved at his Valentine’s Day showing at Zouk in Singapore, via Collective Minds.
The other revelations that he affirmed dashingly were in this order: His croon is still transportive and exquisite; as a DJ, his ear is savvy and his tastes immaculate; he can out-rap your favourite rapper; he can transition from R&B coos to spitfire grime bars with supernatural seamlessness and after doing all of this, he had more energy than the packed-out crowd that had gathered to see him.
Let me set the scene: It’s Valentine’s Day. Couples toting roses and teddies litter Clarke Quay. The more daring among them have those stowed away in bulging plastic bags. But inside the full main room at Zouk – where no roses are spotted – there’s a kinetic hum of energy. Expectation hangs in the air. Drinks are ordered at a breathtaking clip. Lush house music suffuses the room. Bodies are pushed up close against each other. And then, Craig David hops onstage. TS5 is in session.
A word on TS5: Christened after David’s apartment in Miami, Tower Suite 5, this party format began as intimate DJ sets he played for guests he hosted at his weekly house parties. Then, it became global. Also, commandeering the decks isn’t a new skill David picked up – it’s what he started with before he became a 6X platinum R&B god. He could’ve easily played a ballad-drenched set with a full band like the lothario-godfathers of the sound, and come off as the preeminent Valentine’s Day attraction. Instead, he treated us to TS5, a tradition that is entirely his own.
Throughout the night, he unraveled his own hits as well as those of others. All of them were club-ready and instantly recognisable. But he didn’t just hit play. Across the two-hour set, he mixed, sung, rapped and danced – without taking a beat. That night, the full-house crowd received an education in how impeccable a selector David is. Blasting through the spectrums of R&B, pop, hip-hop and garage, he played hits both familiar (Sean Paul’s immortal ‘Temperature’ and his own romp 'What's Your Flava?') and foreign, which the heaving bodies took in with gratitude.
He seemed to have gotten more energetic with age and his act, more impressively contemporary. Even though he could only operate from the confines of his DJ set-up, he made the whole club his stage. So when the final one-two punch came in the form of ‘Seven Days’ and '16', the energy was white-hot and transcendental – Zouk was the one area in Singapore with highest endorphin count.
After that night, some might say they witnessed the best DJ set they had ever seen. Some might even say they had witnessed the best rapping they’d ever seen live. And they’ll all be right.
Mr. Craig David, if you’re reading this, please bring TS5 back to Singapore sometime soon. You are much, much needed.