Backstage at Jingle Ball, the annual holiday concert for New York radio station Z100, the show’s big names — from teen sensation Justin Bieber to Adam Lambert — celebrated the end of 2009, a year that propelled many of them into megastardom.
Fifteen-year-old Bieber, who solicited the most screams and swoons from the mostly teenage sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden, greeted reporters by beatboxing and coyly answered “Beyoncé” to nearly every question, from which celebrity he had a crush on to who he’d most like to work with to the reason for his broken foot (he actually fractured it onstage at Wembley Arena). On performing at MSG — with Usher, who discovered the young up-and-comer — Bieber matter-of-factly stated, “it’s legendary, so it’s going to be awesome.”
Two of the night’s other big stars, John Mayer and Taylor Swift, declined to comment to the press, instead opting to sum up their thoughts onstage. “Get the old dude off the stage and get Justin Bieber on here!” joked Mayer at the end of his polished six-song performance reflecting how, at 32, he was the elder statesman at the show. Swift performed three times: a headlining set of hits (and a cover of Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around … / … Comes Around”) plus her duets with Boys Like Girls (“Two is Better Than One”) and John Mayer (“Half of My Heart”). “Those are songs that I knew I wanted to play live for the very first time in front of a special crowd,” she told the audience. “I’m so glad it was you tonight!”
Earlier in the evening, Boys Like Girls frontman Martin Johnson told reporters the band had known Swift before “she became the biggest star in the universe,” so it was akin to “shooting for the stars” asking her to sing on their recently released album. Drummer John Keefe — who played on Swift’s Fearless LP — added, “Taylor Swift is the perfect human being.”
Adam Lambert, who was on hand to introduce Swift, shared that his biggest fear of the moment was people not continuing to buy his music, and waxed on the perfectly timed release of his second single “Whataya Want From Me,” co-written by Pink and Max Martin: “Now it’s so appropriate… the best lyric in the song is, ‘Yeah I’m a freak, but thanks for loving me, you’re doing it perfectly.’ “
Lambert’s favorite new entertainer, “TiK ToK” singer Ke$ha opened the show. Ke$ha, who shouts out Mick Jagger in her hit party anthem, revealed to reporters she draws fashion inspiration from “African safari animals and/or Keith Richards” and maintained young girls can look up to her as a role model. “I do think it’s an important thing I’m promoting that the amount of money you have or make has absolutely no correlation [to your worth],” she explained.
Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester, who introduced “Down” singer Jay Sean, told Rolling Stone she’s been accruing tips for her burgeoning music career from some legendary divas (she inked a record deal in April). “I talked to Lady Gaga [when she filmed an episode of Gossip Girl] and she’s really cool, really down to earth and normal. I also talked to Cyndi Lauper recently a good amount — she was on the show too. That was a very different experience because I saw her more in her element [at the ’09 Woodie Awards] and she’s amazing.”