It’s the most wonderful time of year for a lot of reasons, but for New Yorkers, Friday night (Dec. 8) may have been the best reason of all: iHeartRadio’s Z100 Jingle Ball hit Madison Square Garden.
This year’s lineup may have been the most jam-packed with superstars yet, as the night began with one-man-show Ed Sheeran and ended with Taylor Swift, seeing the likes of Camila Cabello, The Chainsmokers, Demi Lovato, Sam Smith and Niall Horan (and many more) in between. With a total of 14 all-star performers taking the stage throughout the night — along with a slew of surprise guests — the show felt like Christmas came a couple weeks early.
Of course, with 14 hit-making artists packed into one night, there were a lot of memorable moments in the five-hour show. If you weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket to the big night, Billboard has all the biggest Jingle Ball 2017 happenings from star-studded collaborations to Grammy nomination celebrations.
Ed Sheeran celebrates a hometown victory (and hopes for a Billboard Hot 100 win) for “Perfect”
As he kicked off the show (“My job is to warm you up for tonight,” he told the sold-out crowd), Sheeran crooned his original hit love song “Thinking Out Loud” after opening with a roaring rendition of “Castle on the Hill.” But as fans likely hoped, Sheeran followed that up with his current romantic tune “Perfect” — and although there was sadly no Beyonce appearance for their recently released duet version of the song, Sheeran had some fun news to share.
“I released a new version of a song last week and it went No. 1 in my home country today and hopefully, fingers crossed, it’s going to hit No. 1 here over the weekend.”
(As previously reported, Sheeran’s “Perfect” is heading for the top spot of the Hot 100 thanks to the new Beyonce-featuring version. Charts will be updated Monday, Dec. 11.)
Niall Horan thanks fans for making him No. 1
“Good evening Madison Square Garden,” Horan addressed fans before adding with a laugh, “That never gets old, being able to say that.”
Another thing that the “Slow Hands” singer will surely never get tired of saying is “Thank you for the No. 1 album,” as he made sure to use his 15-minute time slot to express his gratitude to fans for sending Flicker to the top of the Billboard 200 just one month after “Slow Hands” reached the No. 1 spot on the Pop Songs chart.
“Thank you so much for making Slow Hands a no. 1 song and the album No. 1 in the United States of America,” he gushed. “I really appreciate it.”
Julia Michaels shares her songwriter side with a hit-filled medley
“I’ve gotten to write a lot of songs for a lot of really beautiful people,” Michaels said after performing “Uh Huh” and her Clean Bandit collaboration “I Miss You.” If people weren’t already surprised to hear that she’s not just a singer, the songs she revealed she wrote were Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar” and “Good For You,” Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself” and Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.”
But even with her impressive array of co-written tracks, it seemed the crowd was most excited for Michaels to sing her own smash hit “Issues,” as the song turned into a giant sing-along — and proved its worth for the song of the year nod.
Why Don’t We brings the ‘90s boy band nostalgia
The amplified screams that sparked from Why Don’t We’s introduction was enough to show that they have a similar appeal to that of Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC (at least in their early days), and what ensued during their performance did the same. Taking the stage in front of light boxes that silhouetted each member, Why Don’t We proceeded to incorporate fun dance moves as they made the girls swoon with songs like “Nobody Gotta Know” and “These Girls.”
While their sound is a little more current, the vibes in the room and on the stage certainly signified that these boys are headed for a wild ride.
Charlie Puth pays tribute to the late Chris Cornell
Puth had to first address how “surreal” it was for him to be on the Z100 lineup, as the New Jersey native grew up listening to the New York station. And after rocking the crowd with his current radio hits “Attention” and “How Long,” he shared a fun and very apropos story.
“The first time I ever heard my song on the radio was on Z100,” he said with a smile, revealing that it was his Wiz Khalifa collaboration “See You Again.” But with no Wiz to accompany, Puth took on the song himself with his piano, and made the full-circle moment even more special by dedicating the touching song to the late Chris Cornell and his family.
Camila dances to Kendrick (and admits she ripped her pants)
Cabello made good use of her quick three-song set, dancing up a storm through her hits “OMG” and “Havana.” She took things up another level during “Havana” — as if she needed to — throwing in a Kendrick Lamar snippet as she and her dancers broke it down to “DNA.”
But apparently all of that dancing didn’t come without its struggles. Before closing with the slower breakup tune “Never Be the Same” (during which she played a guitar), Cabello hilariously admitted that she had ripped her pants backstage. “I feel like SpongeBob when he goes, ‘I ripped my pants!’”
Sam Smith admits he fangirled “so hard” to Camila
Judging by the amplified screams when Smith took the stage, the audience was beyond excited for the crooner’s set. According to his first comment, though, Smith was beyond excited for Camila Cabello.
“I was just fangirling so hard watching Camila,” he said, “I love her so much.”
Smith’s appearance marked his first time in New York since his new album, The Thrill of It All, went No. 1 on the Billboard 200, for which he graciously thanked fans before singing (and absolutely nailing) album tracks “Pray” and “Too Good At Goodbyes.” “I poured my heart into every single word, so thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.”
Liam Payne pays homage to his One Direction Jingle Ball memories
Starting off with a bang by singing his Hot 100 top 10 hit “Strip That Down,” Payne perfectly played off a bit of a technical glitch during “Get Low” by exclaiming “Oh my!” when his mic briefly cut out. Fortunately that was the only issue he experienced, and he charmingly carried on.
Although his dance-filled appearance brought a very different vibe and set-up than that of his fellow One Direction mate’s Niall Horan, Payne gave his buddy’s performance a shout-out before also highlighting his 1D past.
“I performed here when I was 17 or 18 with my band One Direction,” he said, which ignited a burst of screams. “It feels great to be here.”
Halsey surprises the crowd with two special guests
Similarly to Puth, Halsey’s New Jersey roots made her MSG appearance “really special.” Her excitement to be on stage showed, and the “Bad at Love” singer’s energy could’ve carried her through her set on her own — but of course, she couldn’t resist getting a little help from her friends.
First, Halsey brought out Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui for their hopeless fountain kingdom collaboration “Strangers,” followed by her beau G-Eazy to share the stage for their recently released team-up “Him & I.” In line with her LBGTQ tribute song and bringing her boyfriend on stage, Halsey left the crowd with a strong statement: “This holiday season I want you to make some noise for love!”
Logic stops the show to celebrate a fan’s birthday
The rapper who spreads peace, love and positivity did exactly that with his 10-minute set, telling fans that everyone was family for the night. He held true to his sentiment, stopping mid-song to give a shout-out to a birthday girl in the front row.
The positive vibes carried through to his Grammy-nominated track “1-800-273-8255,” as the crowd lit up with a sea of phone lights. Logic closed out his time on stage by starting a “I wanna be alive” chant, which he ended with a cheerful “I’m gonna be alive!” cheer before putting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on the big screen.
Fall Out Boy lights up the arena with all of the pyro
As the veterans of the night, Fall Out Boy managed to have even the younger fans in the crowd rocking out as they played their dynamic hits “Centuries” and “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)” — especially thanks to the pyrotechnics (both fire and fireworks) they incorporated into their rock numbers.
After sharing one of their new M A N I A tracks “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” to a positive crowd response, everyone was on their feet for their danciest number, “Uma Thurman,” proving their staying power that bassist Pete Wentz acknowledged as they kicked things off. “We played Jingle Ball in ’05 or ’06, so it really means a lot to us that we get to play for all you guys.”
Demi Lovato proves her voice is fully restored in dynamic fashion
The last iHeartRadio show Lovato played in New York was her album release party in September, where the powerhouse was fighting a sickness that made it tough for her to hit her typically flawless high notes. But fortunately for Jingle Ball-goers, that wasn’t the case this time.
Lovato completely nailed every belt-out in “Confident,” “Sorry Not Sorry” and the gospel-like “Tell Me You Love Me,” which had fans both singing along and out of their seats. While her voice certainly stole the show during her time on stage, she added to the excitement by bringing out Cheat Codes for their collaboration “No Promises.”
The Chainsmokers bring “Closer” to life
Despite having a smaller stage space than normal and only about 20 minutes to perform, The Chainsmokers made the most of their time with streamers, fireworks and their hits — and of course, a couple surprise appearances.
After the duo started “Closer” with just Drew Taggart singing, Halsey came swooping in to lay down her verses and bring the energy to another level. Even when she left the stage, The Chainsmokers carried that power through the very last second of their set, having frequent collaborator Emily Warren join them for “Don’t Let Me Down” before closing with a rainbow-filled “Something Just Like This.”
Taylor Swift turns “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” acoustic (and brings out Ed Sheeran once more)
It had been evident the entire night that this was the moment everyone was waiting for, and Swift certainly didn’t disappoint. Donning a sequined black shirt embellished with a Santa hat-wearing snake, Swift brought the house down with Reputation banger “…Ready For It?” before throwing in a couple 1989 jams, “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off.”
Though Zayn wasn’t there to help her sing a beautifully stripped-down version of the Grammy-nominated “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” — which saw another sea of lights for the final time of the night — Swift did enlist another superstar buddy to help her out during her set: Ed Sheeran returned for his raps in “End Game,” much to the delight of fans as he had done the same in LA one week prior.
As she highlighted before closing the night, her performance previewed what’s to come with her 2018 Reputation Tour (“see you . With more choreography and sass than Swifties have ever witnessed at a Taylor Swift show before, it’s clear that the old Taylor isn’t dead, she’s just new and improved with a fierce attitude – and ready to reclaim her now serpent-wrapped throne.