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Two Teens Helped Me Review Jingle Ball 2014

Ariana Grande got 'em screaming at Jingle Ball 2014.

Ariana Grande got 'em screaming at Jingle Ball 2014.

101.3 KDWB Jingle Ball 2014
With Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, Jessie J, Meghan Trainor, Rita Ora, OneRepublic, Demi Lovato Becky G, Shawn Mendes, Kiesza
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Monday, December 8, 2014

It's easy to forget as you go about your daily adult life, but there is a huge population of teenagers and tweens living in your city whose lifestyles and interests differ drastically from your own. Never is this more apparent than at KDWB's annual Top 40 holiday spectacular Jingle Ball. For one night downtown St. Paul is overrun with young people who love boys, Snapchat, and music. They tend to text a lot, scream a lot, and wear a lot of makeup, and they congregated at the Xcel Energy Center last night to do all of these things in the presence of some of the greatest pop talents of their generation.

As an adult, I was entirely under-equipped to assess last night's show. The sisters seated behind me ("Teen #1," age 17; "Teen #2," age 13) assisted in measuring each artist's performance.

See also:
Slideshow: Festive Folks at KDWB's Jingle Ball 2014

[jump] Meghan Trainor
The "All About That Bass" star started the night off in relatively lackluster style with some generic soul tunes followed by a generic soul tune that became a hit single. The teens seemed to respond well to her watered-down third-wave feminism, especially when she declared,"You are beautiful!" -- a refrain that became something of a theme throughout the evening.

Teen assessment: JINGLE BALL 2014 WOOO!

Becky G
It was easy to be charmed by Becky G when she first popped out of Compton doing gap-toothed covers of J. Lo songs. Unfortunately so was Dr. Luke (:/) and now she's turning into an unnecessarily sexed-up pop star with standard sexed-up dance moves and standard sexed-up red skirts. At least her big hit "Showers" sounded great. With any luck she will quit this pop business and go on to live out her potential as her generation's Lauryn Hill.

Teen assessment: Busy downloading the heavily promoted "Words With Friends" update for a chance to win free tickets to next year's Jingle Ball!!!

OneRepublic
OneRepublic are actually a really good live band -- who would have known? "I Feel Alright" was, like, genuinely pretty cool: the dark bass hits, the primal thudding drums, the powerful vocals. And Ryan Tedder is pretty good at piano! All things considered this may have been the best performance of the night. I haven't felt this confused about the world since I accidentally saw John Mayer live and he was amazing.

Teen assessment: They cheered wildly for first three songs, then got bored and sat down.

Shawn Mendes 
Me: Who is Shawn Mendes?
Teen #1: Idk who he is. (Nods to sister.) She knows.
Teen #2: [guitar emoji] [video camera emoji] [cat with heart eyes emoji]
Teen #1: (translating) He was a thing a while ago; he had some songs on YouTube.
Me: What are his hits?
Teen #1: Idk, she knows.
Teen #2: [girl with blank stare emoji]
Teen #1: Idk, I guess he's cute.
[Shawn Mendes comes onstage.]
Teens #1 & 2: [every emoji ever at universe-shattering volume]
[page]
Demi Lovato
Television judge and recently declared mortal enemy of Miley Cyrus gave one of the best performances of the night to a deeply divided audience. Demi's anti-Miley stance and general extreme behavior have made her a controversial figure in teen world, and even her phenomenal performances of "Really Don't Care" and "Heart Attack" weren't enough to get a few haters off their feet. Luckily she has Frozen's "Let It Go" in her arsenal, so for a moment time stopped and the entire audience basked in the transcendental beauty of giant animated snowflakes falling to Elsa's heart-wrenching cry for emotional freedom. At least 1,000 people cried.

Teen assessment:
Me: "What show was Demi Lovato on?"
Teen #1: "Um, wasn't she on Camp Rock'or something?"
Teen #2: "[girl with blank stare emoji]"
Teen #1: "I think she's too young for that."

Rita Ora
The highlight of this set was when Rita started to take off her jacket but then got caught in the sleeve. Don't worry though! Her backup dancers rushed to her aid and she was quickly liberated. Semi-exuberant cheers ensued.

Teen assessment: Left to get food.

Ariana Grande
Object of my ardor/immense terror Ariana Grande was supposed to be the biggest deal of the night, so it was a bit of a disappointment when she came out second-to-last and only ripped through four songs. They were all great, but I wish there had been more of them. Opener "Problem" featured an awkward recording of (a very present) Iggy Azalea's verse, and "Love Me Harder" was a Weeknd-less performance so lonely and isolating that it felt a bit like a real Weeknd track. Jessie J at least managed to show up for her feature on "Bang Bang," which was probably the highlight of the entire night, both fame- and volume-wise.

Overall, though, the crowd really didn't seem to be that into it. They cheered, but they didn't cheer THAT much. This July, Ariana Grande was probably the most famous person on the planet. But that was five months ago -- the world is a different place now. Her reign of terror might be over.

Teen assessment: Totalitarian glow-stick waving.
[page]
Iggy Azalea
I don't want to be petty and turn the focus away from the music and the strength of the performance, but I think there's definitely some beef going down between Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande. Because Ariana Grande was definitely headlining this thing, but Iggy Azalea definitely closed the show. And Iggy Azalea definitely performed "Problem," NOT featuring Ariana Grande, 20 minutes after Ariana Grande performed "Problem," NOT featuring Iggy Azalea.

Was Iggy's performance good enough to warrant this brazen display of malice? Sure, it was fine. Everyone stood and danced -- some of them seemed to be doing it by their own free will. Iggy is a good performer even if her music is, at best, generic and, at worst, disgustingly appropriative. Rita Ora's appearance for "Black Widow" was nice, and the two seemed to genuinely enjoy performing together. Obvious closer "Fancy" was met with great enthusiasm. By this point I was exhausted and not really feeling the show, so I sent a selfie Snapchat with the stage in the background to get back into the spirit. It worked. I cheered and waved my glow stick vigorously.

Teen assessment: "LOVE her!" Danced throughout. Knew all the words to "Fancy"; sang to one another. I'm happy their night ended on a high note and that they had fun!

In the end, this year's Jingle Ball seemed to be missing the crucial element of outrageous, zeitgeist-y fame that it had with Miley Cyrus last year. Blame that on fickle teenage hearts; blame that on the relatively proven fact that in the crazy world of teen-pop royalty there really can only be one, Taylor Swift. That one had a Jingle Ball in London -- we won't be getting any more of her until next fall.

As it was, though, the teens were happy enough. At the very least they had something to scream at.

SET LIST

Meghan Trainor

"Dear Future Husband"
"Close Your Eyes"
"Lips Are Movin"
"All About That Bass"

Becky G

"Say It"
"Can't Stop Dancing"
"Shower"

Kiesza

"Hideaway"
"Giant In My Heart"

Nico & Vinz

"Am I Wrong"
"In Your Arms"

OneRepublic

"I Feel Alright"
"Counting Stars"
"Apologize"
"Stay With Me" (Sam Smith cover)
"I Lived"

Shawn Mendes

"Show You"
"Something Big"
"The Weight"
"Life Of The Party"

Demi Levato

"Really Don't Care"
"Heart Attack"
"Let It Go"
"Give Your Heart A Break"
"Neon Lights"

Rita Ora

"How We Do (Party)"
"I Will Never Let You Down"

Jessie J

"Burnin' Up"

Ariana Grande

"Problem"
"Love Me Harder"
"Break Free"
"Bang Bang" (featuring Jessie J)

Iggy Azalea

"Bounce"
"Booty"
"Problem"
"Iggy SZN"
"Beg For It"
"Black Widow" (feat. Rita Ora)
"Work"
"Fancy"

Personal Bias: [praying hands emoji] [cat with no eyes emoji]

The Crowd: Ummm, duh?

Overheard:
Teen boy after show: "I have no voice left."
Older male Xcel employee: "Try going to a football game."
 

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