By Jennifer Boyer
The latest overseas import to explode in America is not, I repeat not, the British version of Justin Bieber. At least that is what the 20-year-old English singer Conor Paul Maynard would like you to believe. The comparison is warranted, however. Both Bieber and Maynard are of the undergraduate collegiate age; mentored by eminent R&B maestros (Bieber by Usher, Maynard by Ne-Yo); and are the Justin Timberlakes for teen girls born in the 1990s.
After witnessing Maynard’s inaugural gig in the States, held at The Studio at Webster Hall, there is one noticeable difference that could keep him from being clumped together with his Canadian twin: The lack of dancing involved in the singer’s live show. If this British pop sensation can keep the choreo at bay, he might just have a fighting chance to ward off the inevitable similitudes that will follow his career.
The bouncy synth riff of “Animal,” the lead track off Maynard’s debut record Contrast, kicked off the heartthrob’s celebratory mini U.S. tour and made all the girls feel fly like a G6. "NYC!” exclaimed an elated Maynard. “How does it feel to be my first headlining show in New York?" Just as the deafening screams were dying down in response to Maynard’s question, the earsplitting shrieks started right back up again for “Can’t Say No.” Shockingly, the song was not written, nor was it produced, by The Neptunes. Although I would’ve put money on it that Pharrell Williams had a hand in the production.
"You guys having fun?” surveyed Maynard. After running through “Pictures,” the young star let fans have their way with him. Via cameras, that is. "Take as many pictures as you can. Tweet them and who knows? Maybe I'll follow you back." Cue excessively loud cries of excitement as admirers imagined the unimaginable: Conor Maynard following them on Twitter! "Now that you've had a chance to take a picture of me,” said Maynard. “It's my time to take a picture of you. Left side I'm coming!"
"For those of you who don't know, the way that I started was posting songs online,” explained Maynard. “You're probably going to know these songs,” concluded the British YouTube phenomenon. A lá Bieber, Maynard’s record deal is the result of amassing millions of YouTube views of himself singing. Backed only by an acoustic guitar, Maynard sang a leisurely rendition of Nicki Minaj’s “Starships,” yielding girly giggles from the crowd as he interjected with, “My name is Conor and you can call me Conor.”
"Before I start this next one, I want to see a light in the air from every single one of you," instructed the Timberlake-tinged artist. “Don't You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia followed. An apt choice as the video of Maynard covering the track was uploaded the day of Contrast’s release (January 8, 2013). Another viral success in the books.
"Have you ever felt like...” Maynard trailed off, lost in a memory. “Something inside you is making you hold onto that person. The thing is they've completely moved on; they're with someone else." And on that bitter note, the singer played the first half of ballad “Just In Case” on a keyboard before serenading his “Mayniacs” (U.S. Maynard fanatics, fyi...) with the Pharrell penned “Glass Girl.”
It was only a matter of time until Maynard removed his jacket causing mass hysteria among the teenage girls grabbing for just a touch. “Vegas Girl” and “Turn Around,” two of Maynard’s most well-known songs, rounded out the night and secured this British boy a place in 300 hearts belonging to devoted NYC Mayniacs. Especially after Maynard concluded “Vegas Girl” with the line, “Like a New York City girl.” Yup, that did it.