When Q102's annual Jingle Ball blizzards its way into Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night, so will some of the biggest names in teen rock, electro-pop, and hip-hop: Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande, Sam Smith, One Republic, Meghan Trainor, Jessie J, and Rita Ora.
Of particular interest is Azalea, whose steamy singles "Beg for It" and "Black Widow" are part of Re-Classified, a new repackaging of her Def Jam debut The New Classic. And Smith made headlines on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show just last week, saying he first came out as gay when he was 4.
The Jingle Ball - remixes, promotion, gossip - is familiar ground for Nick Jonas, Wednesday night's host and one of its performers. At 22, the singer, songwriter, former member of tween-pop hit-makers the Jonas Brothers, and current star of DirecTV's Kingdom, has seen his share of Jingle Balls.
As unofficial leader of the Jonas Brothers, he owned the tween audience with siblings Joe and Kevin until One Direction came around. He had a solo career before the brother-band hit it big, with the 2004 album Nicholas Jonas and 2006's It's About Time.
Signing with Disney's Hollywood Records in 2007, the Jonas Brothers' self-titled album sold big numbers and won kiddie fans. The multiplatinum A Little Bit Longer and 2009's Lines, Vines and Trying Times continued the J-Bros' rise, with Nick doing much of the writing and playing.
"The music we created as brothers was great for where we were at that point of our lives," says Jonas. "As I matured, so has my music, you know? For me, going solo was moving in the right direction."
The desire for an edgier, adult career hit him in 2009. So he snagged members from Prince's New Power Generation for Nick Jonas & the Administration and its 2010 album Who I Am. His recently released nu-soul album is titled Nick Jonas, with sultry singles such as "Chains" and "Jealous."
"As I matured, my music has as well. It's only natural," says Jonas. "Look, I'm in a very different place than where I was years ago, but, if you listen, you'll hear I've always been inspired by soul. This time, though, I worked with people more deeply involved in R&B and hip-hop production." That includes rapper Angel Haze, who contributes to "Numb," and it also includes Lady Gaga/R Kelly collaborator Nick Monson.
The Jonases tried to unite in 2013, but their tour was scrapped and the band split. According to Nick, brothers Joe and Kevin are " proud of my new direction. What we created was great for that period, and our legacy lives on because, well, before anything, we're brothers."
Stepping out without the brothers was nerve-racking. "I knew that I wanted to pursue this and have people get to know the real Nick Jonas," he says. "Writing about relationships, family, digging deeper opened me up emotionally." He knows that the transition from glossy pop to grittier nu-soul has its risks. "It's a pretty natural transition, this album, but it's not without challenges, the biggest being building on a preexisting fan base and finding new fans as well."
Hence the continuing importance of the Jingle Ball - one of pop's grandest touring celebrations of sales and radio airplay that hits several U.S. cities, along with the Philadelphia market. Concerning his first two Jingle Balls (2007 and 2008), Jonas says that at the time, the chance to join with many of those years' most influential artists helped jump-start the brothers' career.
"I think the best way to describe our first experiences would be surreal," he says. Jonas realizes that being part of the Jingle Ball can be crucial for new stars such as Meghan Trainor and Ariana Grande. "I think Jingle Ball helps pave the way to stardom, for sure. It's one of the notable events that you can be part of, something that attracts attention from people all over the country."
So whether hosting or singing his new singles, Nick Jonas wants to stay part of it all. "Any opportunity to perform in front of fans like this and share your music is incredible. I hope to continue to be a part of Jingle Ball for many years to come."
Q102 Jingle Ball
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad Street.