The Christmas lights tend to shine a little brighter in Los Angeles, and such was certainly the case with the star-packed lineup behind iHeartRadio’s 102.7 KIIS FM Jingle Ball 2021 on Friday night (Dec. 3). Crowds of families and passionate fans decked out in light-up deer antler headbands and ugly Christmas sweaters filed into the sold-out Forum in Inglewood to see some of pop music’s biggest acts grace the stage after a pandemic-influenced hiatus canceled the Jingle Ball tour’s 2020 outing.
BTS, Ed Sheeran, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X and Black Eyed Peas were among the show’s headlining acts, all creatively incorporating the spirit and festivities of the holidays into their performances. A laryngitis diagnosis made Dua Lipa a last-minute drop, but performances from The Kid LAROI, Saweetie, Dixie, Tate McRae, Bazzi and surprise guest Anitta kept the crowd in high holiday spirits.
The diverse array of acts gave the L.A. crowd a little taste of everything, from swaying singalongs to bombastic live instrumentation that tore the Forum house down. Stars from the show also spoke with Billboard about their Jingle Ball experiences and voiced excitement about their fellow performers.
Here’s a roundup of the five best moments from Jingle Ball 2021 in Los Angeles.
BTS Blasts the Show Open With Holiday-Inspired ‘Dynamite’
It was hard to dismiss the deafening screams that led up to the seven-piece boy band stepping onto the Jingle Ball stage as the show’s opening act. After a four-night, sold out stint at the neighboring SoFi Stadium, the K-pop supergroup brought their stadium energy to the Forum arena with a two-song set.
After opening with “Butter,” the group took some time to speak to fans and voice their excitement about the holidays and being able to perform and sing with fans once again. The KIIS FM staff brought out a birthday cake and spearheaded a happy birthday singalong to Jin, who turns 29 today. They ended their brief set with a holiday version of “Dynamite,” with jingle bells complimenting the Hot 100 No. 1 hit.
Lil Nas X’s Hit-Filled Set Came With a Doja Cat Surprise
JoJo Siwa introduced Lil Nas X to the Jingle Ball crowd just before his set, and gushed over his talent to Billboard. “I would be down for a JoJo Siwa Lil Nas X collaboration,” she said. “Never say never!”
And as the show’s penultimate performer, Lil Nas X brought hit after hit and had some friends come along to help out. After running through discography staples like “Industry Baby,” the fitting “Holiday” and “Old Town Road” – which he reminded last night’s audience had come out three years ago to the day – his performance of “Scoop” was met with crowd roars as Doja Cat hopped back on the Jingle Ball stage after her set to play her verse alongside him.
“Who wants love?” Nas asked the crowd while introducing “That’s What I Want,” which was immediately met with cheers. “Well, you’re never gonna get it! I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” he joked.
Of his performance, fellow Jingle Ball act Tate McRae had glowing remarks for the Montero artist. “I feel like [Lil Nas X] has something very very special in his performance quality that no other artist has,” she said. “Watching him and his dancers on stage is incredibly inspiring to me as an artist who aspires to reach that level, just for me to be able to go on stage and hopefully do the same as him!”
Ed Sheeran Performs ‘Merry Christmas’ for the First Time
Ed Sheeran stood out as a pure performer during his Jingle Ball set, stepping onto the stage by himself with his acoustic guitar in hand. Before starting with “Shivers,” he briefly explained his loop station setup to the audience and quickly built out the song’s production elements entirely with his guitar before breaking into the full performance in a creative display of his musical ability.
He assured fans that he picked out songs for his set that the audience knew and that notion was immediately followed with an arena-wide singalong to “Perfect,” crowd slow dancing and swaying phone flashlights in tow. Sheeran ended his set with the first live performance of his “Merry Christmas” single, and a surprising amount of dedicated fans sung along to the newly released holiday track.
Dixie D’Amelio Brings out Sister Charli to Dance
While having to follow BTS might be daunting for most, Dixie held her own with an engaging and choreographed performance of her early singles. Opening with “Psycho” and running through songs like recent single “The Real Thing,” Dixie later brought her younger sister Charli to the stage with a touching introduction about how she’s one of the most important people in her life. Charli then joined in on her older sister’s backing choreography during the performance.
Billboard caught up with Dixie on the show’s red carpet, where she shared some insight into her Jingle Ball tour experience so far.
“I’ve talked to Tate and watched her set, she’s amazing! I’ve also watched Bazzi’s set which was after mine in Dallas, but I had such a crazy experience,” she said. “I had such a bad migraine [in Dallas] that I fell asleep on the green room floor and I missed everything after my set! I was so upset, but I’m excited to see [the rest of] tonight’s performances.”
The Kid LAROI Starts Heartfelt ‘Long Live Juice WRLD’ Crowd Chant
During his set, The Kid LAROI introduced his collaboration with the late Juice WRLD with a simple question for the crowd: “Does anyone here know Juice WRLD?” After that was met with deafening applause for LAROI’s mentor, the artist born Charlton Howard started a spirited “Long Live Juice” chant for the late rapper and singer, who would’ve turned 23 on Dec. 2.
The Australian singer then went on to finish his set of crowd-pleasing hits, including current Hot 100 mainstay “Stay” and “Without You.” Running back and forth between different sides of the stage to acknowledge fans in different areas of the arena, his formidable vocal talent reverberated all across the Forum as the lively crowd sung his lyrics back to him.