Taylor Swift told the sold-out Z100 Jingle Ball crowd at Madison Square Garden that she knew the secret.
“I know why you choose music,” said Swift, who turned 25 during her set, as Friday night turned into Saturday morning. “You want to escape from haters, frenemies… You turn to music.”
In case there was any doubt that Swift, whose “1989” album sold more copies in one week than any other artist has in the entire year, is onto something, the entire four-hour Jingle Ball extravaganza was essentially one big escape from reality.
Whether it was Pharrell’s “Happy” dance or Meghan Trainor’s updated girl-group, esteem-building sweetness “All About That Bass” or 5 Seconds of Summer’s boy-band rock, it was all about putting problems aside. Even Sam Smith, whose Grammy-nominated Brit-soul leans more on the tortured side, focused on his upbeat material, building to a lovely peak with a piano version of “Latch” and a stirring “Stay With Me.”
In a taped piece that aired during the concert, Seth Rogen even joked about it. “Time to grow up, Taylor,” Rogen joked. “Come on, get political!”
Of course, Swift isn’t going to change course now, especially when things are going so well. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t going to shake things up when she does “Shake It Off.”
The horn section was a welcome addition to the upbeat chart-topper, adding even more of a dance vibe. The horns were even more effective on “I Knew You Were Trouble,” lending more of an ’80s vibe to her dubstep breakthrough, as if her hit was redone by The Waitresses or Romeo Void.
However, Swift saved her best performance for “Blank Space,” her current No. 1 single, where she brought some of the wilder moves from the song’s video, shot at Oheka Castle in Huntington, banging her head as she played a jealous star-vexed lover.
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Swift capped more than an hour of girl power at Jingle Ball, as all the night’s headliners were female, including Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea, reflecting how dominant women were in the pop scene of 2014. And after seeing the performances of Trainor and up-and-comer Rita Ora, that doesn’t look to change any time soon.
SETLIST: PHARRELL - Blurred Lines / Spark the Fire (w/Gwen Stefani) / Get Lucky / Happy // ONE REPUBLIC – Secrets / Apologize/Good Life / Counting Stars // SHAWN MENDES – Something Big/Lose Yourself / Life of the Party // RIXTON – Wait on Me / Me and My Broken Heart // CALVIN HARRIS – Summer / Feel So Close / Sweet Nothing / I Need Your Love / Blame // 5 SECONDS OF SUMMER – Good Girls / Sabotage/What I Like About You / Amnesia / She Looks So Good // MAROON 5 – One More Night / Maps / Animals // CHARLI XCX – Boom Clap / Break the Rules // RITA ORA – I Will Never Let You Down // SAM SMITH – Nirvana / I’m Not the Only One / Latch / Stay With Me // NICK JONAS – Jealous // MEGHAN TRAINOR – Lips Are Movin’ / All About That Bass // JESSIE J – Burnin’ Up // ARIANA GRANDE – Santa Tell Me / Problem / Love Me Harder / Break Free / Bang Bang (w/Jessie J) // IGGY AZALEA – Beg for It / Black Widow (w/Rita Ora) / Work / Fancy (w/Charli XCX) // TAYLOR SWIFT – Welcome to New York / We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together / Blank Space / I Knew You Were Trouble / Shake It Off