The MGM Grand played host to a plethora of pop stars this weekend for the Clear Channel-sponsored iHeartRadio Festival, two nights of genre-spanning, crowd-pleasing pop music. A mix of veterans and newcomers thrilled the (reportedly very drunk) crowd on both nights. The most successful performers were those who stuck to a setlist of hits, like Jay-Z, who may have performed “On To The Next One” but didn’t take its advice about his old songs, including favorites from The Blueprint and The Black Album alongside newer singles like “Empire State of Mind” (with a guest appearance by earlier performer Alicia Keys). Those whose songs were less well-known by the crowd, like Sublime with Rome, were less well-received.
Perhaps the big surprise of the weekend, according to reports, was Jennifer Lopez, who, in a set that spanned her musical career, proved supremely capable of standing among the pop titans of today (with a Pitbull feature on “On the Floor”). Saturday’s “special guest” Sting also more than pulled his weight, backing Steven Tyler on bass early in the evening, then joining Lady Gaga for performances of “Stand By Me” and his own “King of Pain.”
Buoyed by an extended onslaught of promotion, the premiere of NBC’s new series The Voice scored big ratings, outranking stiff competition in its two genres: music (Glee) and reality (Dancing with the Stars). The show’s structure is overly complicated (the four judges each recruit a team of eight singers, then train their team for competition against the other judges’ teams), and a few suspense beats that would have worked on series creator Mark Burnett‘s biggest success, Survivor, fell flat, but overall, the show works. So, a quick rundown:
By way of introduction, The Voice‘s four artist/judges performed Gnarls Barkley‘s “Crazy,” with Adam Levine on drums, Blake Shelton on guitar, and Christina Aguilera joining Cee Lo Green on lead vocals. The quartet won’t be forming a super-group anytime soon, but their rendition was polished, and successfully communicated the artists’ willingness and ability to succeed in a variety of musical genres.
The contestants range from rank amateurs to near-professionals: After belting Faith Hill‘s “Breathe,” Tarralyn Ramsey tearfully ad-libbed a few bars of “What a Girl Wants” when she was selected by Aguilera, confessing that she sang along to all of Aguilera’s songs, “even the Spanish ones.” She didn’t mention that in 2003, she won VH1′s Born to Diva competition, performed on Divas Duets, and got a one-record deal with Universal—the same grand prize offered by The Voice.
Jeff Jenkins, on the other hand, isn’t even a webcam Youtuber like some of the amateur hopefuls, yet he impressed all four judges with his rendition of “Bless the Broken Road,” made famous by Rascal Flatts.
And so on. The “surprises” weren’t particularly exciting: a duo! Disqualified American Idol contestant Frenchie Davis! (Also a pretty decent cover of “Rolling in the Deep”!)
But the clear audience favorite was Javier Colon: his emotive guitar-and-vocal rendition of Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time After Time” is currently the 43rd best-selling song on iTunes, where all of the audition songs became available for purchase immediately after the premiere.