Heartthrob Shawn Mendes, honey-voiced Ariana Grande highlight dizzying Jingle Ball concert
Of all the radio-station-sponsored holiday concerts that descend on major metropolitan areas in the year’s final days, Jingle Ball is perhaps the most dizzying. Masterminded by the radio behemoth iHeart nationally — and its pop outlet Kiss 108 locally — it cherry-picks the Hot 100’s biggest artists, then distributes them in varying arrays to arenas around the country.
Boston’s nine-act lineup wasn’t the most star-studded of the Jingle Ball offerings around the country (big names like Justin Bieber and Britney Spears are usually saved for top markets like New York and Los Angeles), but it did provide a brief sketch of what pop radio would have sounded like in 2016 had you removed the likes of Drake, Bieber, and Rihanna from its mix. (Even the ads remained, in both onscreen and experiential form.)
Solo female artists backed by pumping electropop were represented by the ubiquitous yet anonymous Daya, the honey-voiced Ariana Grande, the stridently screwed-up Tove Lo, the pugilistic Alessia Cara, and the ebullient Ellie Goulding. Cara introduced her misfit anthem “Scars to Your Beautiful” with an impassioned speech about societal expectations for women, a respite from the happy-holidays boilerplate offered elsewhere. Grande, meanwhile, kept it weird with a medley of tracks from her oddball 2015 holiday EP “Christmas and Chill,” which she punctuated with yips and waving around a giant candy cane.
And then there were the heartthrobs — all-grown-up Disney star Joe Jonas (leading DNCE), winsome One Direction refugee Niall Horan, and Canadian upstart Shawn Mendes. DNCE’s set was the punchiest of the night, with Jonas whirling around the stage — and, at one point, into the crowd — while flaunting his falsetto and, at one point, offering a brief history of recent pop via covers of Spice Girls, Britney Spears, and Kanye West. Horan’s single-song appearance showcased his humble charm, and his promise that he’d be back with more material thrilled the assembled. (Philadelphia-bred DJ Diplo filled in the cracks with a methodically crafted set of crowd-pleasers that included “What Do You Mean,” the giddy track he co-produced for Bieber.)
While Mendes was the de facto headliner in both bill placement and ability to elicit crowd reactions, his night-closing set was just as brief as his fellow jinglers’: five songs. Mendes burst into the teen-dream sphere when he posted covers on the looping-video service Vine. (Shortly after his second album, “Illuminate,” came out this fall, Vine’s parent company Twitter announced that the service would be shutting down.) Mendes’s voice and material have matured in tandem, with his new album incorporating blue-eyed soul influences in a way that showcases his voice’s ever-so-slight grit. Its sweetness, meanwhile, played nicely off the lilting guitar of “Three Empty Words” as well as the grandiose pleading of “Mercy.” Mendes will be back at TD Garden next summer for a proper headlining set, but something about his appearance’s brevity — and the show’s pre-9:30 p.m. closing time — made the night feel slightly unfinished, even though it had been packed from top to bottom.
Kiss 108 Jingle Ball
With Shawn Mendes, Ellie Goulding, Diplo, Alessia Cara, Niall Horan, DNCE, Tove Lo, Ariana Grande, and Daya. At TD Garden, Sunday