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Z100s Jingle Ball 2022 At Madison Square Garden, Friday, December 9th, Review

Dua Lipa, Backstreet Boys, Charlie Puth, The Kid Laroi: I missed the lot. Three hours into the show with my 20 year old Grandniece (or second cousin, but that isn’t fair: my brother’s granddaughter) Juliet Lababedi and we hit the road. It was the worst Jingle Ball I’ve ever seen and let me be clear, not necessarily because of the music, which included two excellent sets, AJR and a brilliant Demi Lovato. But because IHEARTRADIO had messed with the format once too often. The last completely undeniable Jingle Ball was probably 2014 for Taylor Swift’s 25th birthday at the stroke of midnight (here) but since then not only has IHEARTRADIO expanded to Top 40 radio stations across the country but also signed up with CW who have tinkered with the format so much that it now resembles a CW YA program and is the worse for it. After every 20 minute performance ten minutes of commercials kills all momentum.

It lost the feel of the only Christmas show that matters and among other things stopped noticing that hip hop is a mainstream, top forty genre and while dance pop is a Top 40s genre, it isn’t the only one. Hell, not even country? A live concert may not be radio but it certainly isn’t Young Adult television presentation. There was a sense of we are not doing this right, no more ticker tape where the audience could thank those who brought them and shout their favorite performers, instead commerce -always the selling point, had taken over, the audience was relatively quiet and none of it can compare to the reception One Direction got (I believe) in 2010 where they didn’t even perform and the entire Garden shook with the roar of teenage girls at the sight of them backstage.

It wasn’t the thrill it had been and it is IHEARTRADIO’s fault.

But say, business is business that still means New York was first and best and there is no excuse for us not getting Jack Harlow, Pitbull, Khalid, Bebe Rexha, Lewis Capaldi, -all of whom performed in Inglewood on December 2nd. Since it is yesterday’s Jingle Ball that is leaving us for primetime CW, why wouldn’t they have the bigger names? With all due respect, while Jax’s “Teenage Dirtbag” is a goodie it isn’t a concert opener, JVKE is an outstanding nonentity, and if former Disney princess Dove Cameron has a terrific “Girl Like Me” that she killed with and big hits and high tides “Boyfriend”, what she couldn’t do is perform them very well, static while dancers pranced around her she seemed uncertain how to sell us. Ava Max (aka Amanda Koçi,), a first generation American but long standing Albanian can move, and Juliet specifically enjoyed her singing though I found it nondescript and while “Psycho” was a showstopper that was about it: in the end, Ava is too generic for the assignment. Lauv is a talented stand up guy for sit down bedroom pop and he performs with a high energy which might well be higher and more in keeping with Demi Lovato’s best in show; Demi gave us a twenty minute pop punk set with an outstanding “Cool For The Summer” the evening’s high point. The audience really woke up for AJR -the New York pop and experimental vaguely arty trios received the best response. BUT NOBODY got the response of a Lady Gaga or Harry Styles (who should have been available) and without that big name the response isn’t what we are used to at Jingle. AJR didn’t even notice it and they still were a fun and playful alt pop rockers. Lizzo didn’t get the response she deserved either and stopped the concert and stared at us till she got it. I’ve seen Lizzo many times and the last time at Jingle Ball she was in tears, and she puts on a first rate performance always, with one of rocknyc’s top five albums of the year under her belt, she came across as a fun loving The Grinch Who Ate Christmas and performed and danced with that poise and, dare I say it, grace you can find in some larger performers, there is something that belies her physique and she was as charming as Lauv and as skilful as Demi.

Juliet thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening, the third one we had been to together, and the 20 year old certainly hit the zeitgeist on the head, and while just as a part of having gone to Jingle Ball over two dozen times I thought the mid 05s – 2009 were a much better period: it all feels cliched and not as good as it might to the initiated. But it isn’t just that: one year I saw J Lo there (her first live performance), Lady Gaga dressed as a tree, Michael Buble perform his not even released Christmas album, in 2022 it just isn’t anything to take your breath away.

So let’s wrap it up till 2023.

Grade: C

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