The Jingle Ball, begun more than 20 years ago as a New York Christmastime pop-hop radio concert, now plays out in various cities on various nights with shifting star line-ups.
This holiday season, Bruno Mars and Britney Spears have played on the tour, and the showcase for Friday in New York will feature Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. It will be streamed live on the CW network app.
All of pop radio's hit-makers with a tween-heavy audience are represented. At Philly Q102's iHeartRadio Jingle Ball at the Wells Fargo Center, Shawn Mendes, Fifth Harmony, Diplo, Ellie Goulding, DNCE, Charlie Puth, Tove Lo, Alessia Cara, and Lukas Graham took the stage.
Tove Lo, wearing a mustard-colored top, wriggled across the stage.
Elle Goulding landed piercingly soulful moments, but her intimate sound requires subtle arrangements, not the souped-up synth of "Anything Can Happen."
Fifth Harmony did its brash and glossy horn-honking brand of hop-pop handsomely on "Boss," but the youthful audience was cranky by 11:10 p.m.
Still, Canada's Alessia Cara hit the emotional sweet spot with the sassy and smoldering "Here." Brava.
Philly expatriate DJ Diplo looked silly spinning EDM for tweens (his usual audience is Vegas VIP boozers), and Joe Jonas, late of the Jonas Brothers, seemed out of place singing through voice processors to stomping electro-disco.
But Graham was a high-voiced charmer whose piano-plinking tunes talked of missing fathers, newborn daughters, and, depressingly, what he'll be like at 60 in the song "7 Years."
Speaking of piano, Rumson, N.J., native Charlie Puth went from hammering the 88s a la Jerry Lee Lewis to finding the sweet pop spot of a modern-day Billy Joel with swoon-worthy lyrics and squooshy chord changes on songs like "One Call Away."
Top boy though was Shawn Mendes, who used his prowling lower register on soulfully slinky Princelike numbers such as "Ruin/Do I Ever Cross Your Mind."