Miley Cyrus danced with a liquor-swilling Santa Claus, slapped her reindeer-suited dancers on the booty, and gave fans a holiday thrill, while Robin Thicke proved the “song of the summer” works just as well in the winter.
Cyrus, Thicke and a star-studded lineup of other pop stars took the stage at the Forum Wednesday night for the 93.3 FLZ Jingle Ball, delivering hit after hit to thousands of fans, many, oh so many of them screaming teen girls.
Dressed skimpily in what looked to be about one-fourth of a Santa suit, Miley performed hits “Party in the U.S.A,” and “We Can't Stop” and Thicke closed his set with a spirited performance of his soulful pop smash “Blurred Lines.”
“The problem with making out with everyone backstage is I keep getting sick, so help me out,” Cyrus said with more than a hint of sarcasm before singing a cover of Lana Del Rey's “Summertime Sadness.” If she was making excuses for her voice, she didn't need to. Cyrus' vocals were strong during a six-song set that also included a dwarf in a shimmering silver bodysuit and a very large woman dressed as a busty Christmas tree.
Thicke walked into the crowd of screaming, Santa-hat-wearing fans during his performance and got close enough for a few of them to pull out their phones and snap a selfie with the singer.
“God bless you, and merry Christmas,” Thicke said to the roaring audience after dropping to his knees for the conclusion of his best-known song.
Some of the brightest stars in pop music aligned in Tampa for the annual holiday-themed concert festival. The lineup of Top 40 powerhouses from the preceding year included Ariana Grande, Austin Mahone, Jason Derulo, Travie McCoy and more.
Santa Claus boogied on stage with a fan while rapper FloRida performed “Whistle,” and giant balloons reading “E.I.” dropped from the ceiling as Enrique Iglesias sang the clean version (thankfully) of “Tonight (I'm Loving You)” to a very young, very girl-heavy audience.
Even scotch-loving, fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy got involved, encouraging the crowd to “enjoy, and feel free to make out with each other” in a pre-recorded message.
"Best concert ever" was a common phrase in the live tweets tagged #FLZJingleBall that scrolled by on a screen above the stage.
Hours before the main concert was set to begin, large schools of teens and tweens clutching signs for their favorite artists were swarming through the plaza outside, along with moms with earplugs, befuddled-looking dads and more than a few dead ringers for Cyrus. Many had gathered in the plaza for a free pre-concert featuring a shriek-inducing performance of “Say Something” by 17-year-old heartthrob Mahone.
Florida State University student Brenda Hillebrand, 19, was there in her homemade replica of Cyrus's teddy bear leotard from the MTV Video Music Awards.
“I'm in love with Miley Cyrus. I want to be her. I want to marry her and become her,” Hillebrand said between posing for photos with admirers. “I feel like I grew up with her. She's going through changes, I'm going through changes. I can relate.”
Backstage some of the performers walked a red carpet and talked about the holidays and the highlights of the past year.
“I feel like everything happened so fast for me this year,” Mahone said. “It's crazy that I'm here performing with a lot of artists I grew up listening to.”
FloRida said he was looking forward to putting out a new album in 2014, but also to a matchup on the gridiron.
“I'm taking my youth football team to California to play against Snoop Dogg's team, and I'm really looking forward to that,” he said.
Enrique Iglesias just wants a little vacation for Christmas, “All I want is three days. Please, that's all I need. Then I'll be ready to go again.”