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.

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Pop Chat: Our Critics Discuss Demi Lovato's Unbroken And The Uneasy Transition Away From Radio Disney

Demi Lovato, not pleased with her advance copy of our thoughts on her new record.

In the span of months, Disney star Demi Lovato, only 19, has gone from ugly tabloid stories—many probably false, but still—about cocaine, eating disorders and regrettable parties to releasing her third solo album, Unbroken, after receiving towering (ahem) acclaim for redemptive lead single "Skyscraper." This is 2011, of course, so her tours include fewer covers of goth metal and more of Lil Wayne, and her album features fewer guitars and more appearances by the likes of Dev, Jason Derulo and Iyaz. Popdust's Katherine St. Asaph and Sound of the City's Nick Murray discuss, via the miracle of GChat, Demi's new record, growing up in public, and the difficult transition from Radio Disney to Z100.

Katherine St. Asaph: The whole Demi Lovato album campaign's come seemingly out of nowhere, going from 0 to "Skyscraper" and then to Unbroken, the new album.

Nick Murray: Yeah, out of nowhere Demi Lovato starts getting critical buzz, while Joe Jonas plays a VIP-only show when Santos Party House takes over Saks Fifth Avenue for Fashion Week. How did we get to this point?

Katherine: Everybody likes redemption. Especially considering how (really, really, really) uncomfortable all the tabloid stories about Demi had gotten.

Nick: I imagine that much of the good press this record has gotten relates to how easy it is to find those stories (or the fallout from them) in the songs. But beyond the lyrical content, those tabloid stories have really determined the direction of the album and at this point, her career. Whereas most artists seem to attempt the transition out of teenpop by showing how edgy they've become (e.g. Miley Cyrus becoming a bird who can't be tamed in the video for "Can't Be Tamed," or Joe Jonas using drunk driving as a metaphor for a night in the club—or is it the other way around?—in "Fast Life"), for Lovato, that wasn't really an option.

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Live: Demi Lovato Keeps It Real At The Hammerstein Ballroom

Categories: Demi Lovato, Live

Demi Lovato
Hammerstein Ballroom
Saturday, September 17

Better than: The majority of the Disney lineup.

Demi Lovato might have packed the Hammerstein Ballroom with cameraphone-waving teen and tween girls on Saturday night, but her stage seemed ready for Madison Square Garden. During her hour-long, costume-change-filled set, a six-piece band, four dancers who act out scripted interludes and a series of catwalks and stairways filled the stage, and one would think that the sheer amount of stuff flanking her would at least have a little more breathing room across the street.

Lovato already has arena experience; she opened for the Jonas Brothers after playing opposite them in the Disney-produced Camp Rock films. At its core the music she performs might not be much different than that of her contemporary Selena Gomez, but the vibe Lovato, who does play guitar and piano from time to time, gives off is that of a pop star-slash-self-help guru, wrapping her messages of girl power in a relatable persona. Her lyrics can be almost Taylor Swiftlike in their plain-spokenness—"I'm not a supermodel/ I still eat McDonald's"—but that candor gives her audience something to hang on to; on Saturday the ripped-from-the-diary veracity of her lyrics stood in stark contrast to the dialogue put forth by her dancers, who awkwardly used terms like "411" while acting out marketing-exec-scripted minidramas between songs.

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