“That was an all-timer. Here we go 10 years later with a new all-timer. Ya’ll are going to remember this night.” These were the words of Jeff Robinson, CEO of MBK Entertainment, before he welcomed Elle Varner to the stage last night at S.O.B.’s. Yes, the “only wanna give it to you” girl was the reason we all were there. Prior to Robinson’s foreshadowing introduction, a few other notable things occurred. Nola Darling, CJ Hilton and Shyvonne all took the stage respectively, before Jasmine Solano kicked a rap over the Ying Yang Twins‘ “Blow The Whistle” and an usually long band setup went under way.
Tons of women and quite a few men had arrived at the venue at 7:30 p.m. when doors opened in hopes of getting a good spot to watch Varner, an L.A. native, perform songs from her debut album, Perfectly Imperfect. It was only after her band assembled that DJ Solano stopped spinning and Robinson took the stage. He shared the story of how he discovered Alicia Keys in New York City and cultivated her career into the powerhouse it is today. Ten years later he was using a similar formula, grooming Varner for a successful career as a captivating artist. He informed the audience members that this would be a night they would all remember. And his confidence was matched by Varner’s talent.
At 10:45 p.m., an adorable curly-haired girl made her way to the stage decked out in a yellow-and-black dress with black spots, black leggings, a yellow necklace, charm bracelet and one yellow ring on each hand. Her quirky New York style would prove to be as vibrant as her personality. She opened her set with “So Fly,” a song about a woman struggling with common body issues, such as cellulite and an average bra size, who eventually realizes that she is beautiful just as she is. Varner continued to take the audience along a road map of each song, explaining the inspiration for each one and personalizing the moment by always staying in connection with the crowd. There was never a moment where she did not feel like she could be your friend or girlfriend.
Surprisingly, she even has a nice flow. She rapped on two songs during her seven-song set. The first one, a track about Robinson flying her and her girls to Miami and letting her borrow his car, which ended up spending the night at the club because she was too drunk from a night of partying to drive it back home. And the second one harbored little singing at all as she rapped alongside a beat boxer. Before leaving the stage she performed her single, “Only Wanna Give It To You,” and, per fans’ request, closed out the night with “Refill” and sang the shit out of it.
By the time the show ended everyone in the room knew that Robinson had told no lies. It was definitely a night that all of those in attendance would remember. Varner clearly has more than potential; she has the kind of infectious persona that makes you say “That was awesome. Let me stick around for more.” She was comfortable and most importantly seemed to be having fun the entire time. It is easy to tell that her jazz-fueled vocals and craftiness as a songwriter are just what R&B has been lacking. Elle Varner has come to resuscitate the game.