Kiss 108’s Jingle Ball has become pop’s official end-of-the-year celebration here, with parent company iHeart turning the scattered shows around the country into a full-on tour complete with merriment, cheer, and a rotating cast of big names.
“Ever since 2009, my sister and I have had a tradition of going to the show in Minnesota,” says Jonah Marais of the up-and-coming boy band Why Don’t We, who are making the Jingle Ball rounds for the first time this year. “I remember seeing young Justin Bieber there in 2009, and seeing a 15-year-old kid perform for an arena was like, ‘Dang.’ That was a moment where I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ And here we are.”
Why Don’t We, a charming quintet that came together in late 2016 and (thanks to the already-high profiles of its individual members) almost immediately accrued a sizable fan base online, is one of the younger acts playing the Boston stop of this year’s Jingle Ball tour Sunday at TD Garden. Headed up by pop-rock alchemists Fall Out Boy and soul-singing sparkplug Kelly Clarkson — both of whom have played Boston-area Jingle Balls in the past, with Fall Out Boy performing in 2007 and Clarkson in 2011 — Boston’s lineup this year spans a good chunk of the pop map, although hip-hop artists are largely absent. (Most of the bill has, however, collaborated with an MC or two in the past.)
And what would pop be without seasonally appropriate tunes? Most of Boston’s Jingle Ball roster — even its younger members — have dabbled in festive music. In 2003, Fall Out Boy released the cheeky original “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out,” and in 2006 they covered “What’s This” from Danny Elfman’s holiday fantasia “The Nightmare Before Christmas”; last year Berklee-trained troubadour Charlie Puth, teen pop thrush Sabrina Carpenter, and girl-power-fueled vocal group Fifth Harmony were among the acts chiming in on a version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” that iHeart released to benefit the New York-based charity the Robin Hood Foundation.
Clarkson released her first holiday album, “Wrapped in Red,” in 2013; she showed off her stylistic range on classics like the rave-up “Run Run Rudolph” and the silvery “White Christmas” (seeing the movie of the same name when she was young, she says, “completely changed my life”), and offered up festive originals like the vocal showcase “Underneath the Tree.”
This year, she put out the sparkling holiday tune “Christmas Eve,” which brings to mind Christmas songs of the Motown era as well as the R&B-inspired anthems that make up much of her triumphant recent album “Meaning of Life.” The jubilant tune is available on streaming services, and it’s also packaged with “River Rose and the Magical Christmas,” Clarkson’s second children’s book. (The title character is named after her own daughter, River Rose.) It also salutes her own experiences as a parent.
“HarperCollins, my publishing company, asked if I’d be interested in doing a song [to go along with the book],” says Clarkson, who’d previously recorded a bedtime-appropriate track to accompany her 2016 book, “River Rose and the Magical Lullaby.” “I love Christmas, so I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ The song was really a celebration of the elves in the book and basically everybody on Christmas Eve. Even parents feel like, ‘OK, we’ve made it. All the presents are under there; they’re wrapped. Our job is done.’ It’s a celebration — it’s towards the end of gearing up for Christmas, and everybody starts to relax, because everything’s in play.”
Why Don’t We’s latest EP, “A Why Don’t We Christmas,” gathers original tracks and standards that show off its members’ smooth harmonies and jokey spirit. “That was probably my favorite one [of the group’s EPs] to record — and probably all of ours — because of how jolly the whole thing was,” says the band’s Daniel Seavey. “It was so fun to record, and we got to try a lot of stuff that we normally wouldn’t get to try — doo-wops, fully a cappella music, and stuff like that.”
The jaunty acoustic number “You and Me at Christmas,” Seavey notes, was one of the first songs the group, which coalesced in the fall of 2016, wrote together. “We were just sitting around,” chimes in Corbyn Besson, “and felt very inspired. We had a little campfire set up, and we just, you know, wrote away. That one is forever going to be one of my favorite Christmas songs that we’ve done. It just has such a good story to it.” (Boston Globe)
- Fall Out Boy
- Kelly Clarkson
- Fifth Harmony
- Charlie Puth
- Camila Cabello
- Sabrina Carpenter
- Why Don’t WeAll photo credits belong to SIPA USA & Majid Aliyev
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