iHeartRadio 102.7 KIIS FM’s annual Jingle Ball festivities took over Los Angeles’ Kia Forum in Inglewood on Dec. 2 with appearances and performances by chart-topping artists and influential tastemakers who caught the hearts and ears of many, both onstage and backstage.
Known for its wide range of performances and music premieres, this year’s Jingle Ball was ruled by beloved pop stars and viral sensations. The main show began at around 7:30 p.m. with performances by Dua Lipa, Jack Harlow, Pitbull, Khalid, Bebe Rexha, Lewis Capaldi, Ava Max, Dove Cameron, Jax, Nicky Youre and Jvke — but the party kicked off outside the venue, with additional appearances on the Village stage from social media personality Huddy, rapper Armani White, Jvke and Jax.
Following his afternoon performance, Huddy shared a sweet moment backstage with a fan who won KIIS-FM’s “Hang With Huddy” contest. “They’re all a little bit like me,” Huddy told Variety of his fanbase, “Every time I have the opportunity to meet one of them, I can’t help but notice or see myself in them a little bit. They relate to me and I relate to them, so I keep that in mind when I’m talking to them — we meet in the middle.”
Jax, both a main stage and Village performer, was joined by Chelsea Lascher, who often appears in the singer-songwriter’s viral TikTok videos and is simply ID’d as “the kid I babysit.” The dynamic duo wore matching holiday sweaters; Jax’s sweater read “Chelsea’s Babysitter,” while Lascher’s read “The Kid She Babysits.” Before they took over the red carpet, Jax asked Lascher if she was nervous, to which the youngster responded eagerly: “No! I’m not scared.”
Lascher later joined Jax on stage for a performance of her viral “Victoria’s Secret” song, which was inspired by the pair’s conversation about body image and insecurity.
A few moments later, all eyes were on Paris Hilton and Ryan Seacrest who, quite literally, ran into each other backstage. The pair were on their way to opposite ends of the lot but were quick to stop for an embrace and conversation that started with a compliment for each other’s outfits.
Hilton gushed about the media personality (“He’s the best!”) before telling Variety about her hopes and aspirations for the following year. “I want to say no to more things,” she laughs. “Because I’m the type of person that anytime someone asks something of me, I always say yes. I need to put myself first and I’ve also just been traveling so much, it’s getting crazy.”
After all, Hilton has had quite a jam-packed year. When she’s not exercising her duties as resident DJ, Hilton has been advocating against abusive treatment of children in residential centers, which in turn has taught her the importance of “using your voice to not only tell the truth but spark change,” she said, adding that ever since the release of her 2020 YouTube doc, “This Is Paris,” “we’ve been able to do so much, and that inspires me the most.”
Elsewhere, “Sunroof” singer Nicky Youre was feeling readier than ever to take over the Kia Forum stage, fresh off the release of his latest single “Eyes on You.”
“We’ve done a lot of rehearsing — I mean, it’s the Forum we’re talking about,” he said, pointing to the fact that his Columbia Records label mate, Harry Styles, had taken over the venue for 15 nights in a row in October, “What a guy, he’s so talented. I would love to do a song with him.”
Youre performed his TikTok smash, “Sunroof,” which cracked the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 earlier this year and was a huge win for Columbia, who was already celebrating a massive 2022 thanks to Beyoncé and Styles. “Our approach is consistent — identify hits, verify hits, then amplify hits with radio support,” Brady Bedard, Columbia Records senior VP of pop promotion, told Variety in September.
“I wish I knew how to do it again,” said Youre of the hit. “That’s the real challenge. It’s been the best thing to ever happen but, just like with any artist who has a big song, it can be a stressful time. There’s a lot going on, a lot of things are changing, and luckily I have a really good team that is able to help me stay mentally sane and support me — whether it was off a viral moment or a random song that’s not going to do anything. They support me as an artist and I think it’s super important.”
Youre also spilled who his top artist was on Spotify’s annual wrapped survey: “It’s me! — but only because I have a ritual that every time I release a song, I spend that first night with it on repeat.”
“I thought it would help boost the streams at first,” he admitted through a laugh, “But it doesn’t really work that well and now it’s just something that I’m trying to do for each song as a reminder of where I started.”
After Youre’s Kia Forum debut, Ava Max followed up, performing a medley of her hits including “Weapons,” which is set to appear on the singer’s second studio album “Diamonds and Dancefloors,” to be released in 2023. Max also performed the track during an exclusive acoustic session for Capitol One cardholders who were treated with the preview prior to the show.
Dove Cameron dominated the stage as the heart of the lineup at around 8:30 p.m., with a performance of “Bad Idea,” new single “Girl Like Me,” and “Boyfriend” — the lead single from her unreleased debut album which she described as “just so quintessentially me.”
The demo for “Boyfriend” was first teased on TikTok, which led the track’s bold chorus ( “I could be a better boyfriend than him / I could do the shit that he never did”) to go viral. Released on Feb. 11, the single quickly became a queer anthem, and the track took over mainstream formats as well, reaching No. 2 on Top 40 radio and No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“A lot of the stuff I listen to is heavy horns, big sort of like dubstep sound and I feel like ‘Boyfriend’ follows that blueprint. It’s done with instrumentation in mind, hence the big descending horns,” she said. “When I’m performing it, it’s as easy as breathing for me.”
Cameron also performed her latest single “Bad Idea” for the first time earlier that night, which came with its own set of nerves attached to it since the singer and her backing band had only learned to perform the sultry jam the day before. “Bad Idea” received a roaring response and a standing ovation from the Jingle Ball crowd.
“I love the live version of ‘Bad Idea’ so much, it’s so fun because we have that crazy like “Tron”-esque opening – it’s so fun. I sometimes get live version envy, because I end up feeling like the live versions should replace the studio version,” she said. Cameron also gave the audience a taste of the unreleased track “Girl Like Me,” from her upcoming debut album, inspired by “a blend of a bunch of different things I’ve been working on for ages.”
“It’s an interpolation of my favorite Edwyn Collins song ‘Girl Like Me.’ I grew up watching the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ movies and there’s a scene when you find out Demi Moore is the bad guy — spoiler — and she’s laying in front of the fireplace and she goes ‘Yahtzee!’; I was like that’s my wife, that’s my mother, that’s me I’m in love with her!”
The new single serves as a call-and-response to the original Collins track where the line “I’ve never met a girl like you before,” is replaced with: “I know you’ve never met a girl like me before.”
Of her new album, which has yet to receive a release date, Cameron says she wants to be certain that she’ll have all the time she needs to complete it as “I think music is something that you can’t fake, and you can’t engineer,” she explained. “It has to be something where you are so in your element that you are able to write something honest. You have to be in a space of honesty first and it’s really hard to write when you are doing this job all the time because there’s so much performing.”
That sentiment was shared by many of the night’s guests who almost unanimously responded their new year’s resolution was to take a break. White, who signed with Def Jam earlier this year, said his life couldn’t be more different than it was last year, as he’s been “living in hotels and on the road” for the majority of 2022.
“When they say take a break, take it,” he said. “Everyone talks about the importance of rest, but I had always brushed it off — it’s important if you want to keep at it.” The Philadelphia rapper had been bubbling in the underground music scene but struck gold with his TikTok hit “Billie Eilish,” which he performed for the Village crowd.
“For me, my goal is to bring people into my world as an artist — I look up to Travis Scott, a dream collaboration of mine and also Childish Gambino,” he said, going on to praise Metro Boomin’s latest album “Heroes and Villians.”
Rushing to make the pre-show rounds, Lewis Capaldi stopped for a brief red carpet cameo before making his way to the stage. The singer appeared in casual garb, sporting a hoodie and jeans, playfully switching through funny poses. On stage, he was met with a ferocious singalong to his Grammy-nominated emotive ballad “Someone You Loved.”
The show closed with a string of all-stars like Rexha, Jack Harlow, Pitbull and Dua Lipa, who appeared on the carpet in a red and black leather dress.
Rexha wore an electric blue ensemble backstage, a nod at hers and David Guetta’s electro-dance hit, “I’m Good (Blue),” and later returned on stage in an all-white winter-inspired look.
The pop singer-songwriter performed “In the Name of Love” and “I’m Good (Blue),” which immediately prompted the audience to throw their hands in the air and “have the best freakin time of their lives.”
Lipa, the night’s closing act, had previously been scheduled to play Jingle Ball 2021 but canceled due to illness. A year later, Lipa finally appeared on the Jingle Ball stage for a 30-minute run that opened with “Physical,” and continued with “New Rules,” “One Kiss” and “Hallucinate,“ closing with “Levitating” and “Cold Heart,” her duet with Elton John.
Lipa cruised through the track which blends four of John’s songs — most prominently his 1972 smash “Rocket Man” and 1989’s “Sacrifice.” The song peaked at No. 1 on multiple charts across the world and earned the pair Variety’s 2022 Hitmakers of the Year honor.