Y100 Jingle Ball 2011
With Pitbull, David Guetta, Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, LMFAO, Cobra Starship, Cody Simpson, Karmin, Gym Class Heroes, and Foster the People
BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
Saturday, December 10, 2011
View a slide show from the concert here.
Better Than: Sitting in the BankAtlantic Center parking lot for five hours.
Y100's yearly showcase of pop, the Jingle Ball show proved to be an evening to return to youth for anyone in attendance not in the target teen demographic -- but not in a positive way. Remember impatiently waiting for the end-of-the-day bell at school that seemed to never come? The 2011 edition of this concert was a bloated monstrosity that kept decent citizens peeking at their watches in just that way as a series of undertalented, undermotivated performers took the stage Saturday at BankAtlantic Center.
But first, a word from
the most solid moment from the evening -- this is the first of exactly two. In a black suit and shades, Pitbull very much looks the entertainer he has become. (He was also the only guy in the whole
lineup who definitely knew where the BankAtlantic Center is in relation
to Miami (~35 miles northwest), and so he shouted out Miami-Dade,
Broward, and Palm Beach counties on the reg during his 40 minutes
onstage.) Employing a wide stance and sometimes waving a towel, the uncontainable Mr. Worldwide/305 brought on a cavalcade of hits -- some his, many just songs he's featured on -- with a confidence that may someday earn his smiling mug a Vegas residency. Although Marc Anthony's disembodied head singing the part from "Rain Over Me" on the screen behind him was a little creepy, it didn't slow the tempo set by "Bom Bom." Enrique Iglesias' "I Like It," Usher's "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love," and Jennifer Lopez's "On the Floor" figured in as well.
He capped the night with his Ne-Yo collabo "Give Me Everything." As
the confetti sprayed, it was not surprising that Pitbull is "gettin' money like Seacrest" in front of a hometown crowd. Things were finally in a sort of harmony. In a little speech before the song, he spoke about having to change a negative to
a positive in his life. Performancewise, he did as much as anyone there to shift what was shaping up to be a very negative night, and here's what happened beforehand.
Kelly Clarkson was undeniably great, but is she getting any radio support? The
feisty Clarkson was the only other worthwhile performer of the
entire evening -- and it immediately showed the difference between a seasoned American Idol vet and the rest of the Jingle Ball crop. Kelly's a diva with some Texas twang to her speaking voice, and she tilted that mic stand like Steven Tyler when she wanted to. In a white coat and sparkly top, she made performing seem like a joy and not the chore of many of the preceding acts. But you wouldn't
know it by looking at the dead crowd. A lot of her jubilant calls to "come on!" were met with
confusion. After opening powerfully with "Since U Been Gone" and a strong segue into "Walk Away," things went limp. Although "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" and closer "My Life Would Suck Without You" were two of the catchiest songs that echoed from the stage all evening, it seemed like many of the young attendees had only a basic idea of who Clarkson was. It didn't help that a slow, jazz-note-filled version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" came in the middle of her set either.
Cohesion was nil. The little tempo shift in the middle of Clarkson's set was a mere hiccup compared to the night on the whole. Although there were two stages set up -- the main one and a small one on the other end of the arena by the soundboard -- the DJs still got plenty of time to spin in between sets while lagging setup continued. Perhaps this was to distract from the fact that direct transitions between Gym Class Heroes, Avril Lavigne, the Script, and Cobra Starship would be even more jarring.
Rock is dead on Top 40, if you haven't heard. If Pitbull's guitarist rolling out a bit of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way" is the best riff of the night, we have a problem. Los Angeles keyboard pop act Foster the People probably rocked the hardest of the Jingle Ball bands, but it'd be more accurate to call them the easiest pill to swallow. During "Pumped Up
Kicks," the only FTP song you'd ever remember, falsetto-heavy singer Mark Foster was inches away from just putting his hands in his pockets. Jogging the length of the stage does not
equal presence, and one hooky chorus doesn't heighten something above embarrassing -- especially with a dubstep coda featuring extra cowbell. For all of the "indie cred" this band has received, there's virtually nothing different between them and Maroon 5's wretched attempts at soul.
This was nothing compared to the contempt felt in Cobra Starship on the small stage, which was mixed poorly and centered on singer Gabe Saporta being above it all. This is a rock band only in appearance -- it's only the synthesizers of "Good Girls Go
Bad" and new hit "You
Make Me Feel" that are audible. The highlight of Gym Class Heroes' set came in the form of frontman Travie McCoy's single "Billionaire," which is basically Bruno Mars' song. And the lowlight was the unsexy entrance of
Neon Hitch for a collaboration on "Ass Back Home." Hitch looked like she was wearing a fanny pack the way she kept hiking up her
hippie dress to show off her legs.
Finally, the Script. My ears had never felt flaccid until hearing this Irish soft-rock band's dreck -- unless we count Cody Simpson's weepy confessionals earlier on -- which can't possibly figure heavily into Y100's playlists, right? But the Script played at the 2010 show too, and the crowd knew every anticharismatic line of "Going to Pieces." Singer Danny O'Donoghue, who looked to be wearing a lot of makeup, spoke at one point about putting together the "biggest sing-along ever," which with this material resounded like 12,000 young voices whining about misplacing their iPhones. "The Man Who Can't Be Moved" is one of their best-known songs, and witnessing it live unintentionally mirrors how utterly unmoving a band can be. We give up.
Overall, this lineup felt cheap, although it certainly was not. Plenty of artists who made an impact on Top 40 radio in 2011 could've been hired for the Y100 Jingle Ball. Among them, consummate performers like Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj all have dance moves, no shortage of strong material, and overall stage artistry. Instead, we got Avril Lavigne, the waifish star with raccoon eyes and sparkly red mic stand and only a high-stepping move that she employed throughout old hits like "Girlfriend" and "Complicated." Even her tight backing band seemed more excited to be there.
Last-minute addition Flo Rida came out for one song during David Guetta's DJ set and then later spent his one solo moment onstage riding around on the back of one of his henchmen while performing "Good Feeling." He barely worked up a sweat but still felt the need to
rip off two shirts. So unwelcome.
And then there was Karmin. A respected colleague finds them to be bland,
and Amy Heidemann's voice is undeniably aggressive. But worst thing
about their performance was also the best thing about their
performance -- they performed a pair of certifiable hits that got the crowd going, but neither of
them were Karmin songs. Hearing Heidemann perform "Look at Me Now" and "Firework" was just a damning reminder that Chris Brown and Katy Perry were nowhere near South Florida on this night.
Did we mention it was five hours long?! How is it possible that the Y100 Jingle Ball ran nearly five hours? According to the New York Times,
the Z100 edition on Friday at Madison Square Garden clocked in at
three-and-a-half and was capped by a 40-minute Lady Gaga performance.
That sounds civil, even humane, compared to nearly half an hour of LMFAO.
Z100 DJ Elvis
Duran introduced LMFAO by saying "the most exciting moment of your year
is about to happen." As it turned out, this led right into Redfoo announcing that his partner in the group Skyblu was out with a back injury. But since the duo's cynical neon slop is largely prerecorded backing tracks, this forced no adjustment. The inflatable zebra didn't care, the dancers with beer bongs were unaffected, and it didn't stop him from telling the underaged crowd, "If you don't have a drink, put your middle fingers up." Of course, the
assembled masses still danced to "Party Rock," and Redfoo still dutifully stripped down to just a banana hammock. It's impressive how one-note a performance can seem with so much "going on."
Introduced as the
world's number-one DJ, David Guetta's set -- which began well into the fourth hour of the night -- dragged. Shockwaves danced on the video screens, and
occasionally he lifted his hands and smiled with sick glee -- so now you experienced it too. Aside from working in some Daft Punk (and some suspiciously familiar neon creatures shooting sparks), the only thing worth noting was the Frenchman's unsophisticated use
of the volume controls when he silenced the blunt trauma beats to "excite" the crowd.
No one seemed concerned about the lack of compelling performers. Well, that's not true. Parents were concerned enough that they loaded up on drinks, according to a bartender friend. But the crowd responded well to this disorganized flagellation on the whole. They waited patiently through boring backstage video footage and even more boring stage breaks featuring Elvis Duran and the Y100 staff -- and 1-800-NEED-HELP ads. I guess if you've never been to a concert before, what do you have to compare it to?
The crowd: Sometime
during LMFAO, a guy in a suit and a woman in red evening gown who looked like they had just eaten an expensive
meal found their seats near the back of the floor area. Thirteen-year-old girls in outfits stolen from their older sisters.
Notebook dumps: "Someone please flip the Script."
Overheard: A father lamented: "Eight dollars for a scoop of ice cream?!"
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