Pop isn't easy to pin down, especially in 2015, a year that's seen Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney collaborate on a ballad, Fallout Boy release an album of remixed bangers, and genres blur past the point of recognition. As Y100's annual Jingle Ball tour descends on BB&T Center this week, a first glance at the lineup seems to offer the usual mélange of familiar names, Billboard mainstays, and up-and-coming bubblegum toss-ins. But a good dose of these artists dominated airwaves in 2015 by embracing underground sounds and a fringe ethos.
Here are our picks for the top five can't-miss acts at the 2015 Jingle Ball.
The Weeknd. Some people have been following the Weeknd since his early days, when he was collaborating with unknown Toronto producer Jeremy Rose in 2010, developing his new, now-signature "dark R&B" sound, and making all the music-blog rounds. Others learned of him through the radio and memorized all the words to this year's insanely popular "Can't Feel My Face" before even knowing his name. With the backing of fellow Toronto native Drake, the 25-year-old Abel Tesfaye has gone from mysterious internet persona to one of music's most sought-after artists in the span of a few years, delivering a new kind of sordid, self-mutilating R&B to our jaded, Tinder-swiping millennial masses.
Demi Lovato. It's refreshing to see even more young stars pushing back on industry pressures to fill one kind of mold and instead blast out messages of body positivity and inner confidence. The 23-year-old pop princess who got her start on the Disney Channel made waves this year promoting self-love and generally slaying onstage, with a fresh Old Hollywood style and fierce attitude to match. With a newly minted collaboration with cult favorite director Robert Rodriguez on her video for "Confident," Lovato's made it clear she's willing to push boundaries and be her own woman. We like it.
Nick Jonas. When a sexy underwear photo shoot led to squeaky-clean former Disney star Nick Jonas finding a new gay fanbase, the JoBro was not one to shy away from the attention. Combined with his new role as a gay martial artist on the TV show Kingdom and a handful of performances at gay clubs, in 2015 Nick was suddenly being hailed by major outlets like Rolling Stone and Vice as a "new gay icon." As a solo artist, Nick's music is markedly more funky, slowed-down, and R&B-infused — a sure departure from his sugary, purity-ring-wearing past. His new scruff and shaved head make for an edgy new look too. While we can't say we're entirely sold on the swift rebrand, we're proud of the 23-year-old for exploring all kinds of new territory while still keeping it classy in 2015.
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Zedd. At the risk of sounding old, we're still trying to put our finger on what it is exactly about Russian producer Zedd's strain of fist-pumping, seizure-inducing EDM that makes today's youth go spring-break crazy. We are certain, however, that whatever knob-twisting, button-pushing, or head-bobbing he produces onstage at Jingle Ball will yield unbridled euphoria from the Snapchatting crowd. Zedd might bring out the kind of music you'd expect to hear walking down South Beach or pouring out of bottles at a Vegas VIP table, but the 26-year-old DJ and producer has become known for interacting with fans in some pretty unique ways, from synchronizing a light show to his music onto the Empire State Building to visiting a haunted house in Denver and lighting up the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Tove Lo. Tove Lo is the Swedish singer/songwriter behind big genre-crossing hits like "Talking Body" and "Habits (Stay High)." Described by the New Yorker as "of the moment: simple, spare, electronic, and unfussy," Tove Lo's sound is both accessible and gritty, danceable with a somber undertow. "And I drank up all my money/Dazed and kinda lonely," sings Lo. In short, it's the perfect kind of pop for 2015: More connected than ever, it seems we're all still just trying to make sense of chaos, have some fun, and perhaps feel a little along the way.
Y100's Jingle Ball 2015
With the Weeknd, 5 Seconds of Summer, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Zedd, and others. 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 18, at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise; 954-835-8000; ticketmaster.com. Tickets cost $51 to $251 plus fees.