Jingle Ball: The Weeknd, Demi Lovato Celebrate Pop’s Strange 2015
Last night, the annual Z100 Jingle Ball concert at Madison Square Garden celebrated the year of the underdog, collecting most of pop’s unlikeliest success stories under one roof.
Just a year ago, who would have guessed that the druggy narrator of dark, despondent sex stories, the Weeknd, would close out a family-friendly pop show with radio edits of his multiple Number One hits? Five years ago, who would have placed a bet that Disney’s biggest stars would birth two solo divas in Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez? Who would have known that purity ring-wearing boy band the Jonas Brothers would produce one guaranteed solo superstar in Nick Jonas and another lead singer of the year’s best live bands, DNCE? Who would have ever predicted that an app built upon sharing six-second videos would provide a road to fame for a 17-year-old singer-songwriter named Shawn Mendes?
The surprising paths to fame gave weight to a line-up which presented a five-hour marathon of music and screaming girls who began their night with a shot of energy in the form of 5 Seconds of Summer. The teen dreams were an early kick in the groin, playing their biggest hit to date, “She Looks So Perfect,” before powering through singles off their sophomore LP, Sounds Good Feel Good, and mulling over the fact that in a year, they will have headlined the iconic Garden on their own during their 2016 tour.
Tove Lo may have been the night’s wild card, serving dark, Weeknd-y pop in the form of infectious hits like “Talking Body” and “Habits (Stay High).” She strutted across the stage while being one of the few acts to rebel and not even attempt to edit lyrics like “If you love me right, we fuck for life” for the family-oriented audience.
Following the strong start, R. City, Charlie Puth and Conrad Sewell took the stage to the night’s most tepid responses — though the audience lit up for Puth’s mega-hit “See You Again” and when R. City played the hits they had written for other people, like Miley’ Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and Rihanna’s “Pour It Up.”
Following was DNCE, Joe Jonas’ new funk-pop band that’s still finding its audience but has no problem putting on an excellent stage show. The band was pure fire for a three-song set that devolved into blissful chaos during single “Cake by the Ocean” when a sea of dancing Santas were welcomed on-stage. Bassist Cole Whittle, wearing what appeared to be JNCO shorts, played his instrument on the back of one Santa while Jonas ran deep into the audience, performing from the 100s section before “We Are the Champions” closed them out.
The real showstoppers, however, were Zedd and Calvin Harris, who are probably the most comfortable of all the Jingle Ball acts with keeping an arena in the palm of their hands. Zedd came first, getting single “Beautiful Now” out of the way before playing his many radio hits, including “Break Free,” “Stay the Night” and “Clarity.” He welcomed fellow performer Selena Gomez out for their hit collaboration “I Want You to Know.” Later in the evening, Harris brought just as much energy and drops as he transformed a pop concert into EDC. Both proved that EDM at its best is pop served in its purest form, something unifying and unrefined in its delivery of raw fun.
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