The line between respectable pop music and its gauche, teenage-courting offspring had a physical address on Friday night: Chick Hearn Court in downtown L.A. That’s the street that divides
But at Staples Center, Jingle Ball celebrated the tarter, girlier yet often still great stuff that the Grammys rarely acknowledge -- the ‘90s-frizzy dance pop of Fifth Harmony, Ariana Grande’s featherweight R&B, and yes,
The two worlds weren’t entirely separate, of course. Both Macklemeore and
But this year's Jingle Ball dived into the teenage fandom that pays the bills for the music business but gets none of its accolades.
Fifth Harmony, an all-girl quintet formed on TV's
Alas, she was the first of several artists crippled by obvious sound problems, and Ariana Grande unfortunately fared the worst. She was by far the best vocalist at Jingle Ball, with a
Maybe no one better embodied the bizarro-Grammy pop universe of Jingle Ball than Austin Mahone. He emerged from the Bieber-fever swamps of YouTube to become one of the biggest pop stars who is entirely absent from the mainstream music biz. If you're soured on Bieber's swaggy reign of terror, Mahone's set probably didn't do much for you. But he's got a cocky presence that the right producer could strong-arm into some fun songs.
If you've somehow been too distracted by world events to keep up with the Miley Cyrus scandal arcana, then good for you. But for those who find a certain resonant Americana in an ex-Disney starlet twerking on a lecherous Santa's loins, Cyrus' set was a knockout.
When she's not trying to taste her own earlobes, Cyrus has a heck of a voice: a brassy pop-Nashville twang that shined in takes on "Party in the U.S.A." as well as an acoustic cover of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness." And of course, "Wrecking Ball" was an absolute monster. It's the year's best power ballad, embodying everything big and dumb yet smart, moving and perfect about pop today.
It may not win a Grammy, but you can bet everyone was singing it in the parking lots around Chick Hearn Court.