The stages at the Curb Event Center and Marathon Music Works may be similar in size but during Thursday’s Red Bull SoundClash one thing was clear — Bren Joy and Jake Wesley Rogers aren’t at Belmont anymore.
Rogers and Joy, who graduated in 2018 and 2019 respectively, haven’t shared the stage since 2019’s Best of the Best showcase at Belmont but reunited for the face-off style concert sponsored by Red Bull.
“SoundClash” pitted both Rogers and Joy against each other on one stage to compete in various challenges. In “The Takeover,” the artists had to take turns singing parts of each other’s songs.
“It’s just phenomenal,” Rogers said about singing Joy’s lyrics. “Especially the orchestration and the arrangements of them are really inspiring. They pushed me in new ways, and they’re stretching my voice.”
Rogers rose to fame through his bold style, powerful pop songwriting and raw, unfiltered emotion while Joy made a name for himself with soulful R&B ballads, catchy lyrics and a stage presence that captures audiences from the first song.
On Wednesday, the two artists took part in a panel for Belmont students about SoundClash where they reflected on their time on campus and how their careers have taken off since graduation.
“And it’s also pretty remarkable to suddenly realize what you have in common, too,” Rogers told the audience before looking over at Joy. “ Because I think you did pop showcase the year after me. We both won that and then we both signed to Warner. We both went to Belmont.”
“We were in Best of the Best together,” Joy added in.
“We were in Best of the Best together, and here we are,” Rogers said. “The universe, I guess, likes us together.”
And Belmont isn’t the only thing these two up-and-comers have in common.
“We’re very musically inclined, too,” Joy said as the bands sound checked in the background after the panel. “We just love music, and I think we love instrumentation and we love the ability to be freeform in our musicality. And I think that makes a really powerful pairing.”
Joy is no stranger to the stage, having won Belmont’s Urban Pop Showcase in 2018, but the Nashville-native knows the importance of playing in music city’s hallowed halls.
“I love Nashville. I’m from here, born and raised. So I feel like it’s a rite of passage,” Joy said, whose first big show was at local landmark Exit-In.
“Performing here is a big thing,” Joy said about Marathon. “I feel like after here you have the Ryman and you have just moments and this is kind of like the Troubadour of Nashville.”
Joy was the first to grace the stage Thursday night, wearing a cutoff sweater vest over a white shirt and textured green pants. Joy sang on his half of the stage that featured a big blue screen and blue lights that illuminated him and his band.
He was all smiles as he took his rightful place at the mic stand, perfectly in sync with his soul and with his musicians.
He kicked off the set with a few hits, including his toe-tapping dance duet “Sweet” featuring Kentucky crooner Landon Sears, before host Noelle Scaggs shifted the crowd’s attention to the left side of the stage, red lights flooding in, for Rogers’ first set.
Wearing a black suit, a floor-length cloak and a single dove earring, Rogers emerged to the gospel-like introduction of his song “Middle of Love.”
After drinking his signature sip of tea and bounding away from his piano in his heeled black boots, Rogers tossed the cloak aside for his emotional ballad “Jacob From the Bible.”
But that was only the beginning.
In the first official round of the SoundClash, Rogers and Joy both took on Adele’s 2011 classic “Rolling in the Deep.” Joy brought his strong, soulful sound to the British superstar’s timeless lyrics.
Rogers invited Nashville-based singer-songwriter Joy Oladokun to the stage for his take on the cover, letting Oladokun’s vocals and guitar take the lead.
Joy and Rogers may have different musical styles, but that didn’t keep them from putting their own spin on each other’s melodies.
Joy kicked it off, singing the first few bars of his song “IDGAF” before Rogers took over.
When the song ended, Rogers switched gears to sing the start of his 2019 single, “Little Queen,” which Joy couldn’t wait to perform.
“‘Little Queen’, for example, I’m obsessed with,” Joy said. “I’m so excited to just sing and hopefully do it justice.”
What do you get when you take a pop or an R&B ballad and challenge the singers to perform them in an entirely different style?
You get the concert’s namesake and its third round — “The SoundClash.”
Following the flow of the first half of the show, Joy kicked it off with an acoustic version of his first album’s title song “Twenties.”
Simmering high notes sent the crowd ablaze as his lyricism echoed throughout the venue.
Rogers was tasked with performing a doo-wop version of his powerful piano-backed ballad “Cause of a Scene,” which he sang downstage with his band surrounding him.
“The SoundClash” came to a close, the lights on Rogers’ side of the stage briefly dimmed and fans readied themselves for the final round, “The Wildcard.”
And Rogers and Joy had some surprises up their sleeves.
Breaking tradition, the round started off with Rogers, who could barely contain his excitement.
While sitting at his 70s-style piano, Rogers invited Sheryl Crow out to the stage to duet one of his favorite songs, 1993’s “Strong Enough.”
When she left the stage, Rogers jokingly fell from his piano bench onto the floor to express his utter shock over the previous four minutes.
After Rogers was back on his feet, Joy sang the first few notes of his song “Insecure” before welcoming 22-year-old Nashville local Lennon Stella to the stage.
Joy and the “Older Than I Am” singer danced their way through the song as the crowd joined in before Stella and Joy embraced and the final round came to an end.
But Rogers and Joy weren’t ready to leave the stage quite yet.
After the shock of his duet with Crow wore off, Rogers strutted across the stage singing “Momentary,” his final song of the night.
Joy joined in as the duo met in the middle of the stage to cruise from Rogers’ ballad to Joy’s gripping, groovy hit “Henny in the Hamptons.”
And as the lights came up and the curtain closed on Nashville SoundClash, it’s clear that Rogers and Joy aren’t at Belmont anymore — they’re onto bigger, brighter things.
And that’s exactly where they’re supposed to be.
PHOTO: Bren Joy and Jake Wesley Rogers sing during the finale of Red Bull SoundClash at Marathon Music Works. Belmont Vision / Sarah Maninger
This article was written by Sarah Maninger.