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Z100 Jingle Bell 2013 At Madison Square Garden, Friday, December 13th, 2013, Reviewed

The state of the pop dance art




















If New York’ Radio station Z100’s Jingle Ball 2012 was the Christmas show as artform, Jingle Ball 2013 finds the biggest Top 40 show of the year completely eclipsed by MTV’s VMA. Both Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke were at the VMAs and so was Macklemore And Lewis, so been there done that,  but much worse were those that were at the VMAs and didn’t make it to Jingle Ball: Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga, With all three of these acts it  could’ve retained its crown, without them it was overly apparent that the radio station gave a party and killed the Stadiums but didn’t touch the arenas.  Perhaps due to the inclusion of Miley, ticket requests to the show were nowhere near as frenzied as long year in the advertising community.

What we expect from Jingle Ball is not just the charts come to life but in its own way a summation of the year in pop and we don’t get it in 2013. The two biggest names this evening, Robin and Miley, played an L.A. ball last week, and are in Tampa next week. Big fucking exclusive. The other big name, Pitbull, has played two previous times, Enrique Iglesias is a perennial performance. Macklemore And Lewis are probably the biggest act of the year, I’d be shocked if they didn’t clean up at the but they couldn’t fill the Theater here last month. Paramore and Fall Out Boy had one medium sized hit apiece. To put it plainly, this show could’ve played Hartford, Connecticut. Two surprises, R. Kelly just before Pitbull performed played a song and Lindsay Lohan introducing Miley, didn’t make up for the lack of star power.

It is an odd state of affairs, with Z100 being the prototype for owners Clear Channel’s IHeartRadio Platform, and with IheartRadio being name checked quite literally after every single act, I find it unbelievable that at least Katy Perry couldn’t be convinced to make an appearance. I don’t know who booked the show but whoever it is probably won’t be doing so in 2014.

IHeartRadio has a good come on though all it is is radio on demand via the Internet, hardly a new concept, and the come on is download the app for free and get millions of songs but they might wanna refine it to if you like Z100 here is Z100 on steroids. Obviously the tweens who pack out MSG once again, don’t want to do their own digging for sounds. Equally obvious, MSG is relatively quiet this year, Austin Mahone ain’t enough for a show that had both The Wanted and One Direction last year. Last night never came within a million miles of the Swift-1D reaction in 2012. Hell, 2011 had  Lady Gaga, David Guetta,  and LMFAO.

The first hour was as bad as I’ve ever seen Jingle Ball. Jason DeRulo is too loud, Fifth Harmony  define amateurism, Selena Gomez is too loud and too frantic though she creams “Love You Like a Love Song”. Then come two for the tweens, Austin Mahone and Ariane Grande. A haircut does not a heartthrob make. I saw Justin Beiber play Jingle Ball in 2009 WITH A BROKEN ANKLE and Austin might have the same fringe but he ain’t the same guy, not in Bieber’s league. Ariane performs the worst set of the night, she has a voice but maybe nerves have gotten to her because after a screetchy first song, she falls during an acoustic number and can’t save “The Way” even with the video of Mac Miller is doing half the work for you.

It takes R. Kelly performing a song before Pitbull puts the Arena away with 20 odd minutes of what Pitbull always does best to set the evening to right. Pitbull, opening with “International Love”, fronts a drums and bass and synth band singalong to samples and trading on his trademark smirk! This isn’t the first time Pitbull has saved a Jingle Ball, they always bat him in clean up and that’s because you can absolutely rely on the man. Robin Thicke follows him on stage and the man is terrific.  I have a ticket to Robin’s March gig at the Theater next door (a 5000 seater that’s part of the MSG complex) and was gonna just pass on it, but he has an original mix of sincere and smirk and kills “Blurred Lines”.

Even Enrique Iglesias has a good set and he NEVER HAS A GOOD SET! Finally putting away the immensely creepy set piece where he pulls some poor very young girl on stage and fondles her, Iglesias keeps to a handful of songs, including 2010’s excellent “Tonight, I’m Lovin’ You” and ends the set by bringing out Pitbull for “I Like It”. Balloons fall from the sky and Enrique says “I love you”, to Pitbull not us, and kisses Pitbull on his shiny bald head! Best moment of the evening.

Hayley Williams, though excellent earlier this year at Hammerstein, was a disappointment at last years Jingle Ball, tonight she is somewhere in between as she takes her band through a three song set that really should have been better. She gets an audience member to sing with her on the first song, “Misery Business” a terrible idea in a three song set, and while the band themselves and Hayley are full strength all the way through the 20 minutes, only “Still Into You” does them any favors.

On the other hand, after despising them at the VMAs, Macklemore And Lewis finally broke through my immense dislike for the duo where, after not hearing it for the better part of a year, the “THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME” hook clicked. Macklemore did something no one else seemed quite capable of, he made it an event. The last night of a three  month tour (though they haven’t stopped playing in a year) and Macklemore had a real sense of occasion. Going home to Seattle, he imagines discusses the past year with his family. It was intimate and sweet and pulled me through “Same Love”  and “The Heist” both of which I don’t hate any more.

And finally Miley Lewis, twerking with Santa just like last week in L.A. -here’s a clue Miley, we don’t want your second hand schtick, this is New York, bring your A Game. And I guess she does. Despite a sub-Lady Gaga stage set with moving trees and partiers in the USA, Miley is near perfection on the first two songs: “Party In The USA” and “We Can’t Stop”. I really feel that “We Can’t Stop” is more important than “Same Love”. “We Can’t Stop” exists as a testament to Miley’s freedom and by extension our freedom. Can I get a hell yeah? Hell yeah you can. But despite the beautiful “Adore You”, the rest of her set isn’t as good. Really, “We Can’t Stop” is the end of the night for me.

So, not a great year but great moments, not the state of Top 40, though they did get one thing right, EDM is so folded into popular music that it didn’t appear as a THING at all, rather, you will find it in things like Selena Gomez’s use of loops (or is that backing tapes). Hip hop is also severely underrepresented for once. No Drake, Jay Z, J. Cole, certainly they wouldn’t dare bring Kanye out! According to Z100, pop music 2013 is dance pop and that’s really it. Perhaps they are right, or perhaps it was just a bad year for Z100 talent promoters and a less than stellar year for pop music as a whole.

Grade: B

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