KDWB Jingle Ball at Xcel Energy Center, 12/10/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson

KDWB Jingle Ball
With Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Fall Out Boy, Ariana Grande, Enrique Iglesias, Flo Rida, Fifth Harmony, and Austin Mahone
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul December 10, 2013

Miley Cyrus somehow failed to transform your daughters into MDMA-addled porn stars or hasten the downfall of the Republic at the KDWB Jingle Ball last night. True, she only played six songs, so feel free to nurse your fretful, outraged concern until her full tour comes to town next year.

See Also: Slideshow: KDWB Jingle Ball 2013

And yet, I waited three hours at the Xcel to see Miley, so before you read about her you can wade through a few hundred words about her tour-mates. Yes, even Fifth Harmony, a girl group grown in the X Factor labs from the dead skin and hair cells of forgotten pop stars. It seemed they were there with the express purpose of performing at events like this while the kids are still finding their seats and cautiously practicing their screams. As I-will-survive anthems of girlie pluck go, "Miss Movin' On" was a sporty little coupe darting past the lumbering Hummer of self-regard that is Katy Perry's "Roar."

Photos by Tony Nelson

Robin Thicke wore no foam finger and never shared the stage with Miley, though he did make the evening's first "twerk" joke, just like the dad he is. A year ago, before Thicke crossed over from R&B, where he'd been making hits for a decade, his average fan was maybe close to twice the age of your typical Jingle Ball attendee and more likely to be black. That changed with "Blurred Lines," which some people hate because it's "degrading" and some people hate because it's "douchey" and everyone else likes because it's fun to scream "You the hottest bitch in this place" when the music stops. (Think of it as a "Tin roof! Rusted" for the new millennium.) At 36, Thicke is two years younger than his dad Alan was when Growing Pains went on the air.

Every Jingle Ball trots out a Token Rock Band -- sort of a history lesson, a tribute to old-timey, pre-Britney musical traditions -- but few are met with the enthusiasm Fall Out Boy received. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, "Some sixteen-year-old girls know all the lyrics to 'Sugar, We're Goin Down,' and all sixteen-year-old girls know some of the lyrics to 'Sugar We're Goin Down,' but not all sixteen-year-old girls know all the lyrics to 'Sugar, We're Goin Down.'" We can only be glad Abe died before he learned just how wrong a president could be about the persistence of wordy emo-pop hits. (Still, where are these kids even hearing this song? Not on KDWB.) Pete Wentz, who has the worn but content look of your first cool friend to have a kid, gave props to Minnesota by reminiscing about childhood summers at Camp Chippewa and making a Purple Rain reference that only the chaperones in the room could have picked up on.

Photos by Tony Nelson

In her crisp, retro party dress and white headband, Ariana Grande is an American Girl doll come to life, and image-wise she's sort of an anti-Miley, though not explicitly or stridently or virginally so. Sometimes it's more fun to hear a singer who wants to grow up to be Mariah Carey than to hear the real thing (a fact that Mariah has often herself demonstrated) and the charm of Grande's oversinging is that she's trying to win us over rather than put us in our place. "Honeymoon Avenue" is as prettily romantic a ballad as 2013 had for us; some of the kids talked over it because this wasn't really a night for prettily romantic ballads. Still, even her cough was adorable.

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