Despite having a court date in Queens Friday morning (Dec. 7), Cardi B was on hand for holiday cheer and a victory lap celebrating her five Grammy nominations on stage at the Z100 Jingle Ball at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The hip-hop star faced a judge answering that morning to answer to charges that she had members of her team allegedly attack a pair of sisters at a New York club.
“I was having a rough day,” Cardi said to the crowd, but the energy at the Garden certainly raised her spirits.
Drama aside, Cardi took the stage like a professional, perhaps even more amped from the day’s events as she tackled hits and tracks from her album, Invasion of Privacy, and a set that included “Money,” Bruno Mars collab “Finesse,” and “I Like It,” spitting out rhymes, and giving the crowd a dose of personality plus, lots of “Okrrrs,” and a pulverizing “Bodak Yellow,” which she said, “My special song, and I’m going to perform this song ‘til the day I diiiiiiiiiiiie!”
Decked out in an emerald fringed crop top and miniskirt, Cardi was pure energy, closing out the show for her hometown crowd while taking in the holiday magic, telling the crowd how excited she is that this will be her baby, Kulture’s, first Christmas.
“I can’t wait to spend my first Christmas with my baby,” she said.
The Grammy celebrations continued onstage, as Shawn Mendes gave his first performance as an official Grammy nominee. Armed with a guitar, Mendes treated the crowd to hits, “Holding Me Back,” “Lost in Japan,” a cool mashup of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” into “Treat You Better,” and “In My Blood,” which is up for Song of the Year.
“I feel like I’ve been walking on clouds all day,” he told the screaming fans. “This is a perfect way to end the day.”
The onstage treats were bountiful: Bazzi and Camlila Cabello teamed up for their first onstage performance of their hit song, “Beautiful.” Speaking to Variety on the red carpet, Bazzi praised his touring partner on her Grammy nominations.
“I saw her and told her she’s a Queen,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Bazzi had the crowd in the palm of his hand during his set, leading the Garden in a massive singalong to his hit, “Mine.” When asked about the fact that his song was the only one of the Top 30 songs of the year with only one sole songwriter — himself — the Detroit, Michigan native was humble.
“When I found that out, I felt really good, because I take pride in how much of my album I did, I produced and wrote every song, so I am really proud of that and that recognition,” he said.
The backstage area and carpet was high energy, with too good to be true moments on the carpet (BeBe Rexha was adorably starstruck by the cast of “Jersey Shore,” scooping in for a photo with DJ Pauly D and Vinny Guadagnino on the carpet).
Every star in the backstage had the opportunity to dance with the Waffle Crew and create some social media mayhem in an area designed to look like a subway. Everyone from Cabello (who shared a warm moment as Khalid waved to her before he made his way to take photos), Normani Kordei, LovelyTheBand and Monsta X took advantage of showing their moves. Monsta X was especially impressive, getting down with the acrobatics the group displayed on their hyped up, historic appearances as the first K Pop act to grace the Jingle Ball stage. First appearing at the Los Angeles Jingle Ball, the charismatic and handsome group also graced the stages at the Boston shows and were added as a surprise act on the main stage after blowing up the crowd at the All Access Pepsi pre-show.
“We are going to make more history,” rapper I.M. told Variety. “We didn’t expect it, but we are going to make 2019 for us.”
“I am really proud that BTS is a K-Pop representer,” he said of BTS and their Grammy nomination. “I hope we can make more awards like that” for K Pop artists.
The Grammy Awards were top of mind for many of the artists, and this year’s Best New Artist winner Alessia Cara— who performed new selections from her new album, The Pains of Growing” hits “Scars to Your Beautiful” and “Here” and a Christmas selection, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”– said the nomination committee got many things right with the categories this year, although she would have like to have seen Ariana Grande get a nomination in the Album of the Year Category, “because she has gone through so much this year.”
“I think it’s been a long year for a lot of us,” she said. “It’s been a very difficult year, if I’m being honest but it was also something that taught me a lot, and I feel like 2019 is going to be really great.’
Walking the carpet, Kordei was a vision in white, looking like a snow angel and ready to take on 2019 by storm. Moments before taking the stage to perform “Love Lies” with the buttery voiced Khalid, Kordei said it is “mind-blowing” that the song is the longest charting record of 2018.
“That song has broken so many records, and it is so special to me because it was just me and a friend getting in the studio because we were so excited to work with each other,” she said. “And people loved it, and that is all you can hope for as an artist, because we make music for the sake of what we love and we just wanted to create our favorite song and it became everybody else’s favorite song.”
Kordei teased that there is video for “Waves” shot, and is pumped to tour with Grande on the “Sweetener” tour because “this is the first time my fans can come out and see me live.”
She also revealed that she is planning to write with Bebe Rexha, who was celebrating her Grammy nominations at the New York event. Kordei said she is happy the Grammy Awards stepped up—no pun intended—with the female nominations.
“I am happy to see females standing and representing all of us well, I am really proud to see so many beautiful faces,” she said. “Dua Lipa is standing right next to me and she is really killing it and kicking ass. So if one is up there, you represent all of us. It is such a male dominated field, so I am really proud.”
LovelyTheBand, who had a big year in 2018 with the strength of their hit, “Broken,” made a statement as one of the featured artists at the Pepsi Pre Show. “Broken” was a therapeutic song for lead vocalist Mitch Collins to write, he tells Variety.
“It was written at a time when I felt really lost, and to help other people is all you can ask for,” he said.
Asked about the state of rock music — which Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine recently said was an endangered species — Collins disagreed. “I don’t know about that. I think rock music is doing just fine,” he said.
One group he is happy for is Greta Van Fleet, who earned four Grammy nominations in the rock category.
“I’m excited for them. “The Fever,” best new rock record. There is a lot of good new rock music,” he said.
Other celebs on the red carpet — including Ryan the Selfie Kid, made famous from his infamous photo with Justin Timberlake at The Super Bowl — celebrated the season. Sabrina Carpenter was festive in a silvery number before taking the stage for her first time ever on the main stage at Jingle Ball. Previous years, she appeared in the pre-show, but the success of her new single, “Sue Me,” and mature new album, “Singular: Act 1,” plus starring role in “The Hate You Give,” was a perfect example of how artists grow from the first time appearing at the event.
“It’s my first time performing at Madison Square Garden with so many incredible new artists, and I’m just breathing it all in right now,” she said.
For 2019, she has another movie and “Singular, Two.” “Real Housewives” star Teresa Guidice won mother of the year, taking her daughters Gia and aspiring recording artist 13-year old Milania, to the Jingle Ball. Ashley Tisdale talked her return to music and new album produced by Jon Feldmann (5 Seconds of Summer).
The single, “Symptoms,” address her journey through anxiety and depression, and her hope to help others feel less alone. “I wanted to break down that stigma,” she said. “It can happen to anybody.”
Finally, Meghan Trainor — who was warmly welcomed by the crowd for her set of hits — tells Variety what she really wants for Christmas is “The Four” to come back. “I hope I get a third season,” she says. “Tell them to give me a third season.”
The Jingle Ball is set to air on the CW on Dec. 16