Although the sub-zero temperatures in New York City may have had revelers wishing they were somewhere warm — like, say, “Havana” — performances by Mariah Carey, Camila Cabello, Nick Jonas and Sugarland, along with the always cheery banter of “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest” hosts Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy kept things moving until the Waterford Crystal Ball dropped at midnight.
The ABC show was packed with musical performances, weaving in pre-taped portions with live numbers that included Jonas entertaining fans gathered at the side of the ABC stage on 46th Street with his song, “Close;” Cabello delivering her sizzling hot hit “Havana” just 12 days before her debut solo album drops; Sugarland reuniting after a six-year hiatus; and last, but certainly not least, the redemption of Carey, who performed a soaring version of “Hero” backed by a choir of local singers.
Earlier in the afternoon, Jonas spoke with Variety about his 2017. In just the last four weeks, the 25-year-old has left an imprint on the movie world, with a role in the box office smash “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and writing and performing “Home” for “Ferdinand,” which is up for a Golden Globe Award on Jan. 7. Jonas is also is about to star in “Chaos Walking” alongside Star Wars: The Last Jedi heroine Daisy Ridley and “Spider-Man” lead Tom Holland. He also has completed a new record, also set for release in 2018.
“My resolution going into  was to take some time to travel and get inspired and see the world and spend time with friends,” Jonas shared. “Funny when you take those moments to live life it does inform the creative process and your ability to jump in and be as present as you can be. I am thrilled with the launching of 2018 in this way.”
Certainly it will be a busy start of the new year, with the Globes just a week away. “That was one of the best moments of my life getting nominated for that Golden Globe and waking up to that news on the day of the ‘Jumanji’ premiere in Los Angeles,” Jonas added. “I think tonight is a great way to have a little victory lap. Whatever happens on Jan. 7 is out of my control, but I am just thrilled to be in a spot where I can s ring in a brand new year with a song that I wrote about my family and my loved ones. … I am just trying to enjoy this time and introduce myself as ‘the Golden Globe-nominated Nick Jonas’ as many times as I can.”
As for Jonas’ new music. “The record is already done,” he said. “It is a body of work I am really proud of and I poured my heart into this last year. It is the most personal to me and touches on this year in my life and what I have gone through. It’s also an optimism in my outlook on love and relationships. I’m anxious for people to hear it.”
Sugarland operated on the tightest schedule of all, rehearsing right before the live East Coast broadcast. Speaking to Variety moments before in a trailer side stage, the duo — Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush — spoke of their return (“Were ba—accck,” smiled Nettles) while proudly showing off their specially designed, flip-sequined outfits courtesy of Nashville designer Any Old Iron.
Just ten days before, the duo announced plans for a 2018 tour as well as a new album coming this year. “That is part of what this big celebration is for us,” said Nettles. “This is our first time on stage together since six years ago. … When we started this hiatus, Twitter and Instagram wasn’t even the thing that they are now.”
After performing a hit-filled set for NYE, it was time for a little quiet. “I love the peacefulness of the turn of a year,” said Bush. “Although you are feeling like you need to get up to speed, there is a certain pause that always gives me a little chance to be the human being I want to be the rest of the year.”
Added Nettles: “2017 was a really hard year for people. It was hard for our country to see the division that we are experiencing. We got to see some very ugly truths where racism and bigotry is concerned, and sexual harassment in a way that we have never seen them before. … It’s been a heavy truth year.”
Elsewhere in Times Square, Andy Grammer entertained with his hit “Fresh Eyes” and was tasked with singing John Lennon’s eternally hopeful “Imagine” prior to the ball drop; “American Idol” alum Lauren Alaina energized the audience with a cover of Katy Perry’s “Firework;” Steve Harvey joked about popping open bottles of champagne from a centrally positioned stage; Andra Day took New York to church with “Rise Up;” And NYE wouldn’t be complete without Neil Diamond fulfilling his duties leading the crowd in a massive singalong of “Sweet Caroline.”
The cold also had some funny moments. McCarthy and her husband, Donnie Wahlberg, ducked into The Gap (which was closed) thanks to a sympathetic employee that plucked them out of the elements to warm up in the front vestibule. And while all the other performers walked down a side street to the ABC stage, Carey was given a brief ride to the barricades as her outfit wasn’t warm enough to withstand the cold.
Presiding over the entire evening as she does each year in Times Square is Allison Hagendorf, the Global Head of Rock at Spotify and the voice of Times Square for a sixth year. She kept the crowd “excited and warm,” leading the thousands in mock countdowns for the ball drop.
“The ball is the star of the show,” said Hagendorf. “And we have this awesome tradition in Times Square where, throughout the year, people come from all around the world and write their wishes on official pieces of Times Square confetti. At midnight, all of that confetti that is coming down is actually people’s wishes floating down upon us. So each hour, we read some of those wishes together, which is really nice.”
Hagendorf has also been the announcer for the MTV Video Music Awards and Movie Awards, but neither compare to the global excitement of New Year’s. “Think about it: there is no other night where everyone’s optimism and hope is at an all-time high, and you can physically feel the endorphins. Imagine a million people with pure positivity and hope. It’s just invigorating.”
That feeling played into what host McCarthy described as the theme of Rockin’ Eve: Unity and second chances, an idea greeted warmly by Nettles, who told Variety, “I’ll drink to that.”