The University announced Kehlani as the headliner for the 2023 Spring Fair Concert on April 19, which will be held in the Ralph S. O'Connor Center for Recreation and Well-Being on April 29. Within one hour of opening registration on April 20, 1,843 tickets were sold out.
The Office of Leadership Engagement & Experiential Development (LEED) has been planning the 2023 Spring Fair. This year, the concert was sponsored by the HopkinsParents Fund and did not receive financial support from any individual registered student organization, but the LEED office consulted with students throughout the process.
In an email to The News-Letter, Senior Director of LEED Calvin Smith shared how they selected Kehlani as the performer. He explained that the LEED office sent out a poll to all undergraduate and graduate students after Lighting of the Quads to seek feedback on the genre of music and artists for Spring Fair.
“We received over 1,300 responses. Based on the genre that is most popular and the artists that students listed most often, the LEED office works with our talent agency to determine which artists are available and within our budget constraints,” he wrote. “Kehlani was one of approximately 10 names the LEED office provided to the talent agency for consideration.”
Originally from Oakland, Calif., Kehlani is a contemporary R&B singer and songwriter. Since their music debut as a member of the teen group Poplyfe in 2011, they have released three studio albums, with the most recent one Blue Water Road.
In an interview with The News-Letter, freshman Kelsey Njembu shared her reaction after the announcement came out.
“My jaw literally dropped. I was surprised they found someone that good, especially because they were taking forever and someone was saying it was just going to be student performers,” she said. “I’m really glad they picked an R&B artist, and I also love that [they are] a queer woman of color.”
Some students raised concerns about the choice of location, since the Rec Center is indoors. In an email to The News-Letter, Hopkins alum Pranav Samineni referred back to his experience at last year’s spring concert.
“[I am] incredibly excited that Kehlani is headlining for my last Hopkins spring fair. I am really hoping they change to an outdoor venue though, given that now 1800+ people registered and the COVID outbreak that happened last year on campus after the Meek Mill concert,” he wrote. “Nearly all my friends and I got COVID before final exams.”
Smith provided the University’s reasoning behind choosing the Rec Center.
“The Practice Fields and Homewood Stadium are the only outdoor facilities that can host an event of this size on campus,” he wrote. “We requested to host the event outside; however, those venues were not available on the weekend Spring Fair is scheduled to occur.”
In response to potential health concerns, he noted that face masks will be available for concert participants at the Rec Center as a precautionary measure.
Njembu also pointed out issues with the ticket-buying process, as she waited over an hour to receive a confirmation.
In an interview with The News-Letter, junior Cherise Kim described similar experiences with CampusGroups when purchasing tickets.
“The website crashed at least three, four times before I was able to log in,” she said. “If there’s anything we learned from everyone trying to get Taylor Swift Era’s tour tickets and how badly that went, it is that the ticket-buying process everywhere needs to be revamped.”
Despite the technical difficulties she encountered, Kim expressed enthusiasm for the upcoming concert.
“I will definitely have to listen to a lot of [their] songs in the next week because I am not super familiar with all of them, but I’m looking forward to having fun with all my friends there,” she said.
Njembu, who is a long-time follower of Kehlani and a fan of their earlier music, encouraged everyone to attend the concert, even if they are not familiar with their songs.
“I cannot wait to hear [them] sing ‘Honey.’ That is the song that I definitely want to hear at the concert,” she said. “Anyone that’s saying [they are] a no-name on Sidechat is delusional because everyone knows who Kehlani is, and if they don’t, they should go and learn who [they are].”