Live: Lady Gaga Is Z100's Homecoming Queen At The Jingle Ball

Z100 Jingle Ball: Lady Gaga, Pitbull, David Guetta, Kelly Clarkson, LMFAO, Gym Class Heroes, Demi Lovato, Foster The People, and Hot Chelle Rae w/Karmin, The Script
Madison Square Garden
Friday, December 9

Better than: A lump of coal and a "Firework" CD single.

To begin, let's run down a few key numbers related to the 2011 installment of Z100's Jingle Ball. Friday night's pop extravaganza had 11 sets; 32 full songs; five medleys; two point five holiday-themed songs; two encores; one Coldplay video; one Kardashian; and one member of LMFAO on the disabled list. Things that were present in abundance, so I didn't keep tallies: Screaming; festive attire; between-song ads; shout-outs to New York City.

I begin with statistics, because what is Z100—the East Coast top-40 flagship of the Clear Channel monolith—but a celebration of numbers? At the night's outset, Elvis Duran, host of the morning show, declared, "When you hear a song played on Z100, you know it's a hit." The artists atop the Jingle Ball's bill, with their ability to be reduced to one name—Gaga, Pitbull, Guetta, Kelly, all of whom have spent the month performing atop other Jingle Balls in other cities—bore this theory out in a sense; their sets, brief but longer than those earlier in the evening, contained only "hits," songs that might not have been familiar by title but that were sing-alongable within the first verse.

And the blink-and-you'll-miss-'em sets that blitzed the show's first 20 minutes showed what could happen when an artist's arsenal only possessed a single hot track. Hot Chelle Rae, a goofy pop-rock act that brings to mind a training-wheels version of the mid-naughts buzzband Hot Hot Heat, was given exactly enough time to play the jaunty "Tonight Tonight" and thank the crowd. Following them, Foster The People got the arena singing and smiling along with the declarations of a firearm's power that comprise the chorus to their slow-climb hit "Pumped Up Kicks"—which the band then blew out with a remix-like arrangement that nodded to the club-pop clutter surrounding its fluffy, murderous track on Z100's playlist. (Not bad for a night designed to benefit an anti-bullying charity.)

Headlining the evening was Lady Gaga, the hometown-girl-gone-good (in a sense). The assemblage of Z100 DJs who took the stage before her night-closing run through the singles off her most recent album Born This Way called her the "most important artist of our time" and "our favorite woman on the planet Earth." Three years ago she'd been in the Hot Chelle Rae slot, performing the tribute to getting wasted "Just Dance"; Friday she headlined, and when she first appeared, singing the thrilling "The Edge Of Glory" while nestled in a streetside Christmas-tree display, she sported the platinum bangs and shadeblockers that visually defined her earliest days. It was hard to tell if that was a nod to how far she'd come, although between songs her banter was giddy and nervous and almost chirpy at times, with her remembering how a "Jingle Bell Ball" was her first concert, at age 11, and ruminating on how much she really, really loved New York City.

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