Kylie skipped around the stage wearing white. Cee Lo slouched in jeans and a big sweater that his Grandma might well have knitted for him. Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls shimmied vacantly in a gothic latex cat suit. The Black Eyed Peas favored the intergalactic pirate look.
The dress code was “anything goes” for the 95.8 Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball at London’s O2 Arena. The two-day festival provided a bite-size preview of live shows for next year by some of the biggest pop acts from both sides of the Atlantic.
Kylie -- who has shorn her second name Minogue for her latest CD -- raced through the dance-pop perfection of “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and the disco dream of “All the Lovers.”
Cee Lo, who is becoming well enough known to dispense with his surname Green, delivered star power without props or backing singers. He crooned sweet defiance and “Crazy,” his first hit with Gnarls Barkley. He let the crowd sing the chorus of his song “Forget You” in its original four-letter-word form.
Londoner Tinie Tempah provided a rowdy mix of pop know-how and club culture mayhem. He may be too brash for U.S. tastes, unlike Jay Sean, who is a rare commodity -- a U.K. urban artist who has made it big in the U.S. His set was impressive, as were performances by Example, who bounced around; the Saturdays, who had a giggle; and Flo Rida, who was raucous.
From there on, it was bad news.
Scherzinger flatly chanted “don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me.” This was the Cee Lo penned chorus to her former band’s biggest hit. The only explanation was that it was somewhat tropical inside her black and red, glittered and tassled outfit.
The Black Eyed Peas’ set was horrible, with “Time (Dirty Bit)” displaying the dumbest, bluntest Euro-techno imaginable.
Taio Cruz served up 2009’s sleek electro-pop offerings. Duffy’s sub-Winehouse retro squawk met general disinterest. Akon whinnied through his admittedly impressive hits. Alexandra Burke spoiled her set with “Start Without You,” an abomination of castrated reggae and Boney M off-cuts.
Dublin band the Script was insipid and Jason Derulo strutted the stage charmlessly. The boy band the Wanted prompted teenage screams despite having no discernable melodies, moves or talents beyond being young, male and hunky.
Rating: ***½ for the top artists; * for the “bad news” acts.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)