As the 106.1 KISS FM Jingle Ball wound its way into its third hour (of an eventual four) Monday night at American Airlines Center, I suddenly found myself thinking about the Starbucks “red cup” controversy from a few weeks ago.
Both things, each theoretically involving the holiday season, were united by a common trait: sound and fury signifying nothing.
The annual Jingle Ball, which does take a dollar from every ticket sold and donates it to the Kidd’s Kids foundation, provided no shortage of either sound or fury, thanks to a sold-out crowd shaking the foundations of the venue in varying degrees of anticipation for the parade of performers crossing the mildly Christmas-y stage for blink-and-miss-it sets.
The Anticipatory Shriek Level (trademark pending) generated by the overwhelmingly young, overwhelmingly female audience varied greatly from artist to artist — sorry, Calvin Harris, but your ASL pales in comparison to Shawn Mendes, Ellie Goulding and, oh my achin’ Eustachian tubes, One Direction — which, given the night’s running order, made the overall event feel anti-climactic.
Hometown heroine Demi Lovato was the final act of the night — how anyone had any energy left to cheer, let alone dance, at that point remains an unsolved mystery — but the real finale had been served up two performances earlier, when a Zayn Malik-less One Direction appeared for a 40-minute set.
The foursome performing in a room like the AAC at this point is effectively a club show, given that they’ve already sold out both Gexa Energy Pavilion and AT&T Stadium. (1D is appearing at just two Jingle Ball concerts, the other being Thursday’s event in Los Angeles.) The fellas worked through tracks from their recent Made in the A.M. LP, while sprinkling in what they snarked were “golden oldies,” i.e. What Makes You Beautiful and the like from three short years ago.
Given the mass exodus that began as soon as One Direction departed, it was clear who the evening’s main attraction was, even if there was still over an hour of music left.
Elsewhere, Goulding (back after her cameo at Taylor Swift’s AT&T Stadium gig in October) reeled off hits old and new, capping her set with Love Me Like You Do, a cut from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, which had to have made for some supremely awkward parent-child sing-alongs, especially as scantily clad men and women writhed on the video screens behind her.
Shawn Mendes, he of bland countenance and pedestrian acousti-pop songs, made the gathered swoon mightily as he plucked his way through Stitches and other hit singles, although the screams intensified sharply when Fifth Harmony’s Camila Cabello materialized to sing the pair’s I Know What You Did Last Summer (a song which, from what I gather from my fragmented notes, basically involves repeating that phrase to the point of numbness).
A pair of EDM acts — Zedd and Calvin Harris — were inserted into the line-up, giving everyone a break from thumping bass, blinding lights and shrill choruses by playing relentless mash-ups rich with thumping bass and shrill choruses, accompanied by blinding lights, bursts of smoke, sparks and lasers. The kids, as they say, were turnt and lit.
The rest of the line-up fell somewhere between forgettable and passable.
Five Seconds of Summer led off the night, earning a respectably painful ASL, although not a single song they played stuck with me. DNCE, the bizarre alt-pop experiment Joe Jonas has undertaken, tried mightily to stand out — entering through the crowd; drinking from a trophy while Queen’s We Are the Champions blared — but only underlined how easily his brother Nick has transitioned away from that sort of nonsense. Charlie Puth, making his arena debut, sat a piano and played songs that weren’t as rapturously received as See You Again, his treacly ode to the late Paul Walker.
When it was all over, and we stumbled out into the cold night dizzy and fatigued, had any of what just transpired put us in a more festive mood?
Did the KISS Jingle Ball, for all of its Christmas sweater-clad shouting and ceaseless ads for things its audience didn’t even need (credit counseling and roofing companies?) and blitzkrieg of banality, impart the spirit of the season?
No, it did not.
Much like a drained Starbucks “red cup,” the source of so much consternation and righteous indignation, there was an empty feeling, the sense that, just maybe, it had all been much ado about absolutely nothing.