To paraphrase Matthew McConaughey's girl-creeping character Wooderson from "Dazed and Confused," even though Pitbull gets older, the Jingle Ball crowds stay the same age. That was one of many weird things about Monday's annual iHeartMedia corporate radio tour at Xcel Energy Center.
The forever-partying Miami rapper was one of two acts in St. Paul's Jingle Ball lineup who had their biggest hits a decade-plus ago. So it seemed like bad tidings when he and the other, the Black Eyed Peas, ate up a lot of limelight and performance time from the younger acts who actually had radio hits this year.
Granted, after last year's Jingle Ball was called off due to COVID — and this year saw very few other pop concert tours of note — this year's came with a discernible beggars-can't-be-choosers asterisk attached.
Relegated to Monday night as usual between weekend Jingle Balls in Los Angeles and New York, the KDWB-affiliated Twin Cities 2021 lineup at least boasted interesting but untested up-and-comers like Lil Nas X, Saweetie, Tai Verdes and Tate McRae. That was a B-list compared to Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Doja Cat and BTS booked for the Jingle Balls on the coasts, but hey, let's not get too choosy.
Adding injury to insult, Australian teen the Kid Laroidropped out at the last minute due to an unspecified illness: "In this current climate, [he] felt it irresponsible to travel while sick," KDWB (101.1 FM) reps said via tweet.
Monday's concert required the 9,500 attendees show proof of vaccine and asked that they wear masks, too. The latter request wasn't followed, but the vaccine checks were pulled off efficiently, with shorter wait times at the gates than Saweetie's entire set.
Without the Kid Laroi, Lil Nas X was the only act of the night with major, chart-topping 2021 hits to perform. The 22-year-old rapper delivered both "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)" and "Without You" as well as the biggest single of 2019, "Old Town Road" — and then he only performed three or four other songs in a headlining set that clocked in under 30 minutes.
Both Pitbull and Black Eyed Peas fit in more tunes; and to their credit, they did so with youthful energy and plenty of big singalong moments from the largely teenage crowd. Here are other takeaways from Jingle Ball 2021.
Closest thing to a political statement: "We're living in a world where people got a lot of different opinions. So I made a record that says, 'I don't know about you, but I feel good.' " (Pitbull 2024?)
Closest to a breakout performance: Going on second in the lineup after TikTok star Dixie D'Amelio (a good dancer, and we'll leave it at that), sunny California pop-rap singer Tai Verdes crammed in a lot of exuberance in 15 minutes, especially during his hit "A.O.K." Parents on hand maybe didn't approve of how excitedly he delivered another song, "Sometimes I Do Drugs," though.
The night's other no-show: If the ailing Kid Laroi was still there in spirit, Saweetie seemed to only be there in person. The rapper delivered her singles "Icy Chains" and "Best Friend" flatly and her dance routines robotically. Her most personal comment was complaining that she can't throw out "icy" necklaces to the crowd "because of liability."
The night's biggest beef: Lil Nas X, one of mainstream hip-hop's first openly gay rappers, performed with a troupe of eight tightly toned male dancers wearing matching blue skirts and (by show's end) no shirts. One wonders how much more would've been exposed on stage had the set lasted longer.