The last time Camila Cabello performed at the Z100 Jingle Ball at New York City’s Madison Square Garden was also one of her final appearances as part of the pop powerhouse Fifth Harmony. At that same show, Cabello was an MVP on the lineup, joining Machine Gun Kelly onstage as a last-minute fill-in for Meghan Trainer, who had to cancel due to laryngitis.
One full year later, Cabello is transforming into a full blown solo superstar, as was evidenced by one of the loudest reactions of Friday night (Dec. 8) as she took to the stage to perform her smash, “Havana.”
Cabello’s performance was one of many highlights at the New York stop of iHeartRadio’s Jingle Ball tour, which featured Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, The Chainsmokers, Sam Smith, Halsey with Special Guest G-Eazy, Fall Out Boy, Demi Lovato with Special Guests Cheat Codes, Logic, Charlie Puth, Niall Horan, Camila Cabello, Liam Payne, Julia Michaels and Why Don’t We.
The petite Cabello — who suffered a wardrobe malfunction minutes before hitting the stage, prompting an emergency repair from wardrobe department to fix a tear in her pants — certainly has plenty to celebrate. The day before the show, she announced that her debut album is set for release on Jan 12, and gave fans a taste of a terrific track, “Never Be the Same,” strapping on a guitar and show a musical side she was never able to express within the confines of a girl group.
Another song on the album also points to her time in Fifth Harmony. “Real Friends” was inspired by her journey to the “paper town” of Los Angeles, “by myself,” Cabello told Variety. The song, which is already resonating with her fan base, surprisingly almost didn’t make the album. “’Real Friends’ was the last song that I wrote for the album, and ‘Havana’ was the first one,” she explained, saying that both songs as well as the collective finished record reveals both her Cuban side as well as the more “emo” parts of her personality. “I finished it two weeks ago, and then it had to be mixed and mastered in two days,” she added.
During Cabello’s performance at Jingle Ball, she was clearly feeling the love from the many young girls in the arena, which lit up in a sea of lights and screams of fandom. Later in the evening, she happily stopped to snap pictures with fans and hung out with Bleachers frontman and Taylor Swift/Pink producer Jack Antonoff as she checked out the other performers and cheered from the wings. It’s no wonder she was the belle of the Jingle Ball.
“One thing I have noticed about these pop stars lately, is how nice they are,” marveled Z100 morning man Elvis Duran, who presided over the festivities and mingled with “Dear Evan Hansen” Tony Award winner Ben Platt before the two introduced Sam Smith’s set onstage. “They are so appreciative of everything.”
The tour exemplifies the heart of that appreciation with the succession of surprise artist collaborations onstage, including Sheeran joining headliner Swift for their reputation collaboration, “End Game,” in Los Angeles; Lovato bringing out Cheat Codes for “No Promises;” Halsey calling on G-Eazy and Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui for collabs on “Him + I” and “Strangers,” and Halsey again taking the stage to perform “Closer” with The Chainsmokers (a treat considering the group did not have her available at last year’s Jingle Ball for the same song). The Chainsmokers also brought out co-writer Emily Warren to perform “Don’t Let Me Down.”
Backstage, the scene on the red carpet, the gifting suite, and a taxi that served as a sleigh was equally festive. Other highlights included:
· Taylor Swift, who was accompanied by boyfriend Joe Alwyn to the show, had a big little fan introduce her: Suri Cruise. The adorable 11-year old was joined by her mother, Katie Holmes, as she excitedly announced Swift’s set.
· Logic interrupted his set to acknowledge a 13-year old fan in the front row, prompting the entire arena — including actress Lindsay Lohan who took in the entire show by the side of the stage — to sing “Happy Birthday.” The vibe in the room mirrored Logic’s message of “positivity,” as he encouraged the crowd to light up the night for his Grammy award nominated song—“1-800-273-8255” (with Best New Artist nominees Khalid and Alessia Cara). Asked about his nominations, Logic (who walked the carpet in a “Star Wars” themed sweatshirt (and excitedly talked about his anticipation for the new film, “The Last Jedi”) praised Khalid and Cara. “It feels good to know that me, my friends and my peers are all going to go together and enjoy and celebrate and enjoy one another,” Logic told Variety.
· Sabrina Carpenter looked like a snow angel in wintry white, and is looking forward to 2018 and the completion of her forthcoming album and new acting projects. After Jingle Ball, she plans to catch up with “sleep and a gingerbread cookie,” while keeping Taylor Swift’s new album, “Reputation,” in heavy rotation. “I really like ‘I Did Something Bad,'” said Carpenter. “She is one of those artists that is changing and evolving and it’s nice to be refreshed and not do what everybody else is doing, and she is doing a great job of that.”
· The Taylor Swift love was strong at the Jingle Ball. In the gifting suite, artists received bags from the play, “Dear Evan Hansen,” but only one was “tailor” made. Swift’s bag was monogrammed: “Dear Taylor Swift.”
· Overheard: YouTube star Jacob Sartorius—who got an enthusiastic response at the Coca Cola Preshow unveiling his single, “Cozy” — did not want to leave until he saw one act: “I want to see Taylor Swift.”
· Broadway star Todrick Hall made it to Madison Square Garden in record time, dashing from The Ambassador Theatre, where he is starring in “Chicago,” to MSG to catch Swift’s entire set. Hall dances in Swift’s video for “Look What You Made Me Do” and is playing Billy Flynn through Jan. 14.
· Former One Direction member Liam Payne was adorable warming up side stage before performing his set—which included the hit “Strip Down” and “Bedroom Floor”—dancing along to Sam Smith’s smooth ballad, “I’m Not the Only One.” The singer took in the moment onstage, reminiscing about his last appearance at the Jingle Ball when he was “seventeen.” He then praised his mate, Horan’s set to a screaming fan base.
· Cabello wasn’t the only Fifth Harmony member making waves at the Garden. Lauren Jauregui’s performance with Halsey was a big highlight. She told Variety that 2018 will be even busier with Fifth Harmony’s upcoming tours of Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. “I am so grateful to be working still with the girls and also getting to explore myself individually and experiment with myself and figure out who I am as an individual. It’s cool for me because I love collaborative art and I love working with other artists. Chart success doesn’t mean a lot to me, but that is not ever my intention when I am making music so that is always a plus. “
· Sheeran had some news to share during his set opener: his single, “Perfect” (featuring Beyonce) is No. 1 “in my home country, and hopefully, fingers crossed, it’s going to hit No. 1 here over the weekend.”
· Boy band Why Don’t We (featuring American Idol Season 14 alum Daniel Seavey –who reshared a tweet from exactly one year ago reading “Wonder what I’ll be doin a year from now” with the answer “Well Shoot…MSG Today”) had a blast at the Coca Cola Preshow, and was met with enthusiastic support on the main stage at Jingle Ball. The group also posed for pictures backstage with fans.
· G-Eazy supported girlfriend Halsey watching her performance with Chainsmokers side stage. The cute couple exited the building holding hands towards the end of the show.
· Fall Out Boy brought out the pyro for their rocking set which previewed tracks from their new record, “M A N I A.” The group, veterans of the Jingle Ball, got into the holiday spirit with intro music provided by the Transiberian Orchestra before opening with “Centuries.” Prior to their performance, Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz grabbed Demi Lovato for a hug and a photo.
· New Jersey native Charlie Puth marked his third appearance at the Jingle Ball honoring the memory of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell with a dedication of “See You Again.” Puth entertained with his newer, upbeat singles “Attention” and the catchy earworm “How Long” from his forthcoming record, “Voicenotes.”
· New Interscope signing Alex Aiono chatted up reporters after his set at the Coca Cola preshow promoting his new EP “Does it Feel Like Falling.” “There was an amazing energy out there today,” he said of the preshow, which featured sets from Olivia Holt, Sabrina Carpenter, and Manhattan rockers Acting Natural, whose music is reminiscent of classic rock bands with a splash of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the mix. “We had an amazing lineup.” His plans for 2018 include his first headlining tour and new music added to his YouTube channel, which has swelled to over 12 million viewers.