IHEARTRADIO JINGLE BALL featuring THE CHAINSMOKERS, KHALID, DUA LIPA, ALESSIA CARA and others at Scotiabank Arena, Sunday, December 2. Rating: NNN
What does mainstream pop music look like in 2018? It’s a complicated question, but at the third annual Jingle Ball at Scotiabank Arena, broadcasting juggernaut iHeartRadio offered up its interpretation with a lineup of Canadian and international talent.
With the marathon concert moved to Sunday from Saturday, many of last year’s set-change issues seemed to be smoothed out, though no corporate holiday extravaganza would be complete without FitBit dance-offs, elves throwing out T-shirts to the sounds of God’s Plan, and presenters reminding the audience to use the proper hashtag in order to be featured on the stage’s video screen.
Most artists were given 15- to 20-minute sets, which kept the program moving along and ensured they stuck to their biggest numbers.
Shortly before 9 pm, about two hours into the show, the night had its first enthusiastically received performance courtesy of Brampton native Alessia Cara, who played songs from her brand-new album, The Pains of Growing, and fan favourites like Stay.
No stranger to writing empowerment anthems herself, albeit ones more primed for dance floors than bedroom singalongs, British singer/songwriter Dua Lipa’s infectious shimmying raised energy levels from the floor to the rafters. Her hits-packed sets included New Rules, IDGAF and her Diplo and Mark Ronson (as Silk City) collaboration, Electricity.
After a holiday-skewering introduction by YouTube personality and comedian Jus Reign and rapper Fateh Doe, 20-year-old R&B wunderkind Khalid charmed the crowd with his feel-good songs, accompanied by a handful of dancers.
Billed inexplicably high on the lineup was British Columbia singer Tyler Shaw, whose silver suit wasn’t enough to distract from his Michael Bublé-lite crooner shtick.
Closing with a bang of confetti and pyrotechnics was EDM-pop duo the Chainsmokers, who recently released their EP Sick Boy…Beach House, and wasted not a single moment of their headlining slot promoting it. Singer/guitarist Andrew Taggart did his best pop-punk frontman impression, making full use of the runway, while his partner-in-crime, Alex Pall, manned a console in back. A drummer gave hits like Sick Boy and Something Like This additional heft, and they brought out German-Canadian singer bülow to fill in for Halsey’s part on Closer.
Courtesy of iHeartRadio
They later reprised the anthem, segueing into it with a turbocharged remix of the Cranberries’ 1994 anti-war song Zombie, while Taggart perched on the drum kit like a conductor. Although it was a bit surreal to hear the late Dolores O’Riordan’s voice ringing out across a sports arena packed with a young crowd (plus parents) while towering flames shot from the stage, like the Chainsmokers’ music, it’s best not to overthink it.