“It’s so good to be home.” Taylor Swift announced this last night right after she sang “Welcome to New York” at the annual Z100 I HeartMedia (formerly ClearChannel) Jingle Ball. It was three and a half hours since the pop marathon revue had begun with Pharrell performing “Happy” and his other hits.
MSG was still completely packed, mostly with teenage girls and some actual children, who’d heard and seen performances by everyone from Sam Smith to Ariana Grande to Maroon 5, OneRepublic, Iggy Azalea, and novelty act Meghan Trainor. It was the only time I can recall that the house lights were up for an entire show at MSG.
Swift, whom I’d seen earlier in the day at the Billboard Women in Power lunch, is efficiently charming, poised, well spoken, and prepared. The girls adore her. When she appears on stage, the shrillness of the screaming is enough to guarantee a mass gathering of canines who can hear only her. Plus, the transformation from country artist to pop mega star is complete (although I think it was already that way a couple of years ago).
Taylor Swift, from Pennsylvania and Nashville, is now a self-declared New Yorker. She dresses as if every public appearance is a magazine layout/ But it’s not eccentric Gaga style. Swift is only interested in high fashion a la Anna Wintour. The result is that she’s always stunning and impeccable.
Last night was the perfect example. She celebrated her 25th birthday on stage. Oddly no one sang “Happy Birthday.” But Swift joyfully swept through several of her hits including the two big new ones– “Shake it Off” and “Blank Space.” The audience went wild, to say the least. And I don’t blame them. These are really catchy, well produced songs. They are better than anything sung by anyone else — 17 acts, three and a half hours–at the Jingle Ball. For 2014, when all hope is lost, they are superior pop records. And to paraphrase Dick Clark, you can dance to them.
I like Taylor Swift. When I met her at lunch, she was maybe the most polite 25 year old ever. She shakes hands and looks you right in the eye. She listens to each new person, no matter how bored she might be, with a passive but aggressive look of interest. Her posture is perfect.i You never see her thought balloon. She is unfailingly nice to children who ask for autographs. Frankly, she could run for office now– maybe Mayor of New York, to replace Bill DeBlasio in three years. Will she ever crack, have a rebellious period? I doubt it. She’s the Manchurian Performer.
And the Jingle Ball itself? Better than ever, all stops pulled out. Really. The curated group of performers had a nice, genuine feel to them. No one seemed to be lipsynching or otherwise faking it. There were acts for the older crowd (Maroon 5, OneRepublic, Pharrell, and a stunningly refreshed Gwen Stefani, who was trying to celebrate her own 25th birthday) and presenters that lined up with them (Sarah Jessica Parker, Jamie Foxx, et al).
They were all quite accomplished. But it was the younger crowd the audience came to see: Trainor, Jesse J, Charlie S-E-X (Whoops– XCX), Sam Smith, Nick Jonas, and so on. Internet Vine star Shawn Mendes, 16, who I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, battled the flu but came out swinging. He played a short set that elicited screams. The big presenter in this age group was up and coming teen star Ansel Elgort, the Camille of “The Fault in Our Stars.” I was happy to see his famous photographer father, Arthur Elgort, snapping away.
And of course, there was IHeartRadio’s American Idol entrepreneur of the year, Ryan Seacrest. He’s like the president who comes in to support a local incumbent. In this case that would be Elvis Duran, the beloved long time captain of the ZMorning Zoo. Elvis will be “re-elected” Governor of the Top 40, but President Seacrest’s appearance cinched it.
Jingle Ball: A +.