Since Beyonce released new material in the middle of the night this week and it seems to have worked out pretty well for her, I think I’ll follow her model.
After attending Z100 (WHTZ) New York’s annual Jingle Ball concert last night at Madison Square Garden, headlined by Robin Thicke, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Miley Cyrus and others, here’s my 5:19 a.m.-posted retro diary of observations and thoughts from the star-packed show.
If you weren’t in attendance, or didn’t catch the show as it aired on Z100 and iHeartRadio, here’s what you missed.
7:13 p.m.: Arrive at Madison Square Garden, get in line, and get frisked. When I finally look at the security person’s face, I realize it’s just Miley Cyrus warming up for her act later in the night.
7:14: Silently chuckle, very satisfied with myself, and decide that the above line will make a great opening “joke” for my crazy middle-of-the-night column later.
7:22: Meet up with the boss, his 14-year-old son and his cousin in the MSG press room.
7:34: When the boss goes to schmooze with industry friends, I ask his son who he’s most excited about seeing tonight. “Miley Cyrus,” he responds without hesitation. “The old Miley or the new Miley?,” I dig deeper. “The new Miley,” he answers. And blushes.
7:46: Say hi to Z100 program director Sharon Dastur. She’s deservedly beaming about putting on the city’s biggest party of the night.
8:02: Settle into our seats and Jason Derulo kicks things off with his 2010 hit “In My Head.”
8:11-8:16: Fifth Harmony performs its five-minute set. A minute for each harmony.
8:18: The 1998 me rekindles his crush on Katie Holmes, who appears on-stage to introduce Selena Gomez.
8:20: Gomez opens with “Slow Down,” then goes into a surprisingly guitar-heavy but effective “Love You Like a Love Song.” “The first squeals of the night!,” the boss observes as the young, female-dominated crowd shows its love for one of its own.
8:34: Gomez wraps with her summer smash “Come & Get It.” (On stage with her are two backup singers, a four-piece band and eight dancers.) The audience has its first all-out sing-along of the night, adding its own catchy “na-na-na-na”s.
8:44: Fall Out Boy changes the texture of the show, launching into an amped-up run-through of its alternative hits “Dance, Dance” and “Thnks fr th Mmrs.” The crowd joins in, even though many were quite likely in preschool when the songs were originally on the radio.
8:54: With some (safe for indoor) pyrotechnics for rock flair, Fall Out Boy performs its current hit “Alone Together” and recent smash “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up).” Patrick Stump gives a shout-out to “Z100, who’s supported the band since the very, very, very, very beginning.”
9:03: The boss and I take in Austin Mahone and Ariana Grande’s sets from back in the press room. Our change in venue has absolutely nothing to do with the complimentary food available therrrrrrr …
9:06: (Sorry, key stuck. Greasy popcorn hands …)
9:28: Back in our seats, a dapper Pitbull, dressed all in black, including his trademark shades, begins with his hit from early last year “International Love.” The song’s references to New York City set the tone for what’s very quickly the best-received set of the night. When he continues with “Don’t Stop the Party,” “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and “Timber” (up 4-2 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week), the crowd is dancing in full force for the first extended period of the night.
9:44: “Feel This Moment” and what Pitbull fondly remembers as his “first No. 1 hit!” (the boss and I nod in approval of the chart reference) “Give Me Everything” makes the Garden floor bounce. “Pitbull just turn it up!” reads an observant fan’s Tweet scrolling on the electronic board high above the stage.
9:59: From a spot on the floor, Ryan Seacrest takes the mic. As someone who once attempted morning radio for five sleep-deprived months, I internally applaud Seacrest for still hosting his syndicated morning show among his numerous other media gigs. Just as he expertly milks fans’ anticipation with his signature pause-infused “This … is ‘American Idol’!” line, he similarly works the crowd in introducing …
… Robin Thicke!
10:02: Thicke starts with his recent “Give It 2 U” and takes to the piano for his current hit “Feel Good,” his falsetto sounding in fine form live.
10:12: “I wonder who Miley Cyrus is gonna twerk on tonight,” he ponders aloud with a wink.
10:14: Thicke performs a raucous “Blurred Lines” (Billboard’s top song of the summer and 2013’s No. 2 hit on the year-end Hot 100). The joyful crowd’s “hey-hey-hey!” chants nearly drown out an equally ecstatic Thicke, perhaps the year’s best musical comeback success story.
10:25: Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy makes a rare promotional appearance, in costume on the main video screen. “Miley Cyrus … is that the girl with the tongue?” he asks.
10:27: Enrique Iglesias emerges singing “Tonight, I’m Lovin’ You.” As if the crowd’s average age wasn’t already making me feel old, I realize that I first followed the careers of Julio Iglesias, Alan Thicke and Billy Ray Cyrus.
10:38: Like Pitbull, Iglesias’ melodic dance/pop keeps the room’s energy pounding. He closes his four-song set with “I Like It,” as the audience forgets the frigid weather outside and plays with “EI”-adorned beach balls falling from the ceiling.
10:49: “You’re at a rock show now!” Hayley Williams announces as Paramore takes the stage. Its punky “Misery Business” leads into new single “Ain’t It Fun.” “You’re gonna hear this a lot on the radio next year. Get used to it,” Williams warns of the new track.
10:57: Ballad “The Only Exception” gets fans’ lighters in the air. (Oops, lighter apps on phones.)
11:01: Paramore closes with “Still Into You,” its infectious chorus inciting the crowd as easily as Pitbull and Iglesias’ more dance-leaning fare.
11:10: Macklemore & Lewis waste no time winning fans over, opening with “Thrift Shop.” Earlier in the day, it was revealed as the Hot 100’s top song of 2013. The crowd’s overwhelming excitement at hearing it makes the boss and me confident in our work.
11:15: “Human beings should be treated equally,” Macklemore states before beginning the duo’s marriage-equality anthem “Same Love.” Tegan and Sara join Mary Lambert on the chorus. “This song changed my life,” reads a Tweet high above the stage.
11:22: Macklemore & Lewis return the tempo with “White Walls” and “Can’t Hold Us,” and seemingly rival Pitbull for the crowd’s greatest reception of the night. “We put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us” is no longer just a line in the latter song, but a description of all partying in attendance.
11:30: Lindsay Lohan walks onto the stage to loud applause. She appears composed, makes a self-deprecating quip that she and Cyrus both have a knack for drawing just a bit of attention and quickly turns things over to the night’s main headliner.
11:33: In one of the only quirks of her set, a clip of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” precedes Cyrus’ arrival on stage. Dancers dressed as reindeer appear, flanked by a Christmas tree. Then, Cyrus, wearing a midriff-baring glittery, red holiday-themed ensemble, opens with an exuberant “Party in the U.S.A.”
11:36: Notice the Christmas tree is moving.
11:37: Notice the Christmas tree is a person dressed as a Christmas tree.
11:38: The Christmas tree is now twerking.
11:42: Unlike many of her prior TV appearances this year, no controversy accompanies Cyrus’ set, who puts her music front and center. She sings her recent hit “We Can’t Stop” and “Get It Right,” before covering Lana Del Rey’s smash “Summertime Sadness” with two acoustic guitarists. The version works well, especially since she and Del Rey’s voices are so similar.
11:58: Cyrus keeps the tempo moderate with new single “Adore You.” Going to pop radio on Jan. 6, it could be one of next year’s early big hits.
12:03 a.m.: Validating my obsession with writing about the many ballads now at top 40, Cyrus closes the night with one. Not any ballad, of course, but a faithful live version of her former three-week Hot 100 No. 1 “Wrecking Ball.” MSG loudly helps Cyrus out on the song’s soaring chorus.
12:10: Leave the Garden with the same feeling I always get at the end of a romping Jingle Ball: how cool that radio, one of the original social media, continues to have the power to bring 20,000 fans together in New York City for a celebration of the best in pop music year after year.