Normally, it’d be a bad sign when patrons start walking out just two songs into a four-hour concert. But things are a little different when it’s BTS charged with opening the show, as the K-pop group was at the Jingle Ball at L.A.’s Forum Friday night. After BTS hit the stage right on the dot and performed two numbers — three, if you include an arena-sized rendition of “Happy Birthday to You,” as a cake arrived for Jin — small handfuls of satisfied ARMY members hit the exits, having already gotten what they came for.
The 99% that stayed did not have to settle for sloppy seconds, as the remaining hours of the iHeartRadio-produced bill were filled with other artists who’ve had just as strong a claim on being the pop star of the moment at various points in the past year, including Ed Sheeran, Lil Nas X, Doja Cat, the Kid Laroi and Saweetie.
Just how many pop hits consist of stars being joined for “features” by other stars was evident in just how many times at the Jingle Ball a performer would kick it over to a pre-recorded duet track. Saweetie mentioned how good it was to be in the presence of fellow performer Doja Cat, who appears on her “Best Friend” song. Sensing, however, that the crowd was taking this an indication Doja Cat was about to join her on the number, Saweetie added, “She ain’t coming out.” For his part, the Kid Laroi asked the audience, “Who here is into Machine Gun Kelly?” But it wasn’t because MGK was on-site — he just came through as a disembodied voice, the same as another star did after Laroi announced, “This next song is a song with my good friend Justin Bieber.”
However, there were a couple of instances in which the stars handled their duets or features differently. Sheeran did the live debut of his new song “Merry Christmas,” which had just come out 24 hours before, and, rather than incorporate Elton John’s accompanying lead vocal, he managed to get through the premiere all by himself, sans tracks.
Conversely, Lil Nas X was the lone performer to bring out a featured guest, when Doja Cat joined him for a short but memorable “Scoop,” from his recent “Montero” album, adding some female energy to an elaborate production that otherwise had Nas accompanied by an all-male troupe of dancers.
BTS aside, the most enthusiastically received sets may have been those by Nas and (on her own) Doja Cat — and if that was up for debate, at least they tied for the evening’s best-dressed honors. In his silver skirt and boots, Nas was celebrating the progressive hits from “Montero” even as he noted that the night marked the third anniversary of the release of his breakthrough smash “Old Town Road.”
Doja Cat looked equally spectacular in a glitter halter top and loose harem pants that lent themselves to the amount of sheer jumping around she did on stage. Her glam look didn’t keep her from keeping up a surprisingly rock ‘n’ roll level of energy that she employed when her dancers dropped out and she was left alone to rouse the crowd with some free-form mania, at one point thrashing around to the rhythm of her live drummer taking a solo.
Saweetie easily won the award for the most blatantly R-rated set of the night, with the F-bombs. N-bombs and references to “eight inches” coming off a little less comfortable than they otherwise might have due to the large number of 8-year-olds — give or take a few pre-teen years — in the family-filled Forum audience.
Anitta was the only one to specifically dress for the occasion — the ostensible Christmas-themed occasion, that is — with a memorable red-and-white ensemble that split the difference between the North Pole and the skin-baring beaches celebrated in her “Girl From Rio.”
Other artists on the bill appearing between BTS and the final round of headliners included Bazzi, Tate McRae and Dixie D’Amelio. As the family-oriented crowd dwindled at the end, the night actually had an extended, high-energy peak for those sticking around as Black Eyed Peas provided they’re still one of the premiere party bands of the age, and not an act that’d be easily followed, not even by a reigning champion of the zeitgeist like penultimate performer Lil Nas X.
One much anticipated artist, Dua Lipa, dropped off the bill, with signs on the box-office windows tagging laryngitis as the culprit.
With KIIS-FM as the local host, the show at Inglewood, California’s Forum was the second installation in a full tour of Jingle Balls in key iHeartRadio markets that runs through Dec. 19. A special filmed at some of the stops will air on the CW Network Dec. 15 and repeat on Christmas night.
Remaining stops on the tour schedule will include some substitutions. BTS, reported to be headed back to South Korea, will not appear on any of the other dates. Among the artists who did not appear in L.A. who will join later are the Jonas Brothers, Megan Thee Stallion, Kane Brpown and AJR.
The full lineup of remaining Jingle Ball dates follows, The New York show will be broadcast live over iHeart stations.
Minneapolis/St. Paul (KDWB): Monday, Dec. 6 (7:30pm) at Xcel Energy Center, featuring Lil Nas X, The Kid LAROI, Saweetie, Black Eyed Peas, Tate McRae, Bazzi, Dixie D’Amelio and Tai Verdes.
Philadelphia (WIOQ): Monday, Dec. 13 (7:30PM) at Wells Fargo Center, featuring Doja Cat, Saweetie, AJR, Kane Brown, Tate McRae, Monsta X, Bazzi, Dixie D’Amelio and Tai Verdes.
New York (WHTZ): Friday, Dec. 10 (7pm) at Madison Square Garden, featuring Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Jonas Brothers, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, Saweetie, AJR, Kane Brown, Tate McRae, Bazzi and Dixie D’Amelio.
Boston (WXKS): Sunday, Dec. 12 (6pm) at TD Garden, featuring Jonas Brothers, Doja Cat, Saweetie, Black Eyed Peas, Tate McRae, Bazzi, Dixie D’Amelio and Tai Verdes.
Washington, DC (WIHT): Tuesday, Dec. 14 (7:30pm) at Capital One Arena, featuring Jonas Brothers, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, Black Eyed Peas, Saweetie, AJR, Tate McRae, Monsta X, Bazzi, Dixie D’Amelio and Tai Verdes.
Chicago (WKSC): Tuesday, Dec. 7 (7:30pm) at Allstate Arena, featuring Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, Black Eyed Peas, Saweetie, AJR, Tate McRae, Bazzi and Dixie D’Amelio.
Atlanta (WWPW): Thursday, Dec. 16 (7:30pm) at State Farm Arena, featuring Jonas Brothers, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, Black Eyed Peas, Tate McRae, Monsta X, Bazzi, Dixie D’Amelio and Tai Verdes.
Ft. Lauderdale/Miami (WHYI): Sunday, Dec. 19 (7pm) at FLA Live Arena, featuring Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion, Black Eyed Peas, AJR, Saweetie, Tate McRae, Monsta X, Bazzi and Dixie D’Amelio.