REVIEW: Never mind headliner Kelly Clarkson. The big draw for teen girls was hitmaking bands.
Who needs Justin Bieber? KDWB's annual Jingle Ball drew 13,000 excited teen girls Sunday night to soldout Target Center without the Biebs or any of the blockbuster names of 2011.
So what if similar Jingle Balls in New York and Los Angeles have Lady Gaga and Tampa's boasts Pitbull. KDWB's featured a lot of cute boy singers -- that's really important to tween and teen girls -- and the enduring "American Idol" Kelly Clarkson. Even though the concert lasted 4 1/2 hours, each of the seven groups was limited to 15- to 30-minute sets.
To help with our Jingle Ball report card, the Star Tribune enlisted 16-year-old Ursula Arhart, who writes for the Hopkins High School Royal Page.
Foster the People
The critic: For a hipster indie-pop band (this L.A. group was actually headlining later Sunday night at First Avenue), these guys sure knew how to play to the Top 40 crowd. Frontman Mark Foster was comfortable working the big arena, and FTP's extended remix version of the hit "Pumped Up Kicks" (with its dark verses and dreamy chorus) really connected. Grade: A
The kid: With only three songs to wow the people, Foster the People had the right energy to warm up the crowd. Grade: A-minus
Hot Chelle Rae
The critic: This Nashville quartet -- sons of music-biz pros -- served up sticky bubblegum pop with a snotty attitude, whiney vocals and catchy if simpleton choruses. Give them points for mentioning Zack Galifianakis in the smash "Tonight Tonight." Grade: B-minus.
The kid: Serving their teenybopper fans with cliched hand-waving, HCR played its catchy love songs as expected. Grade: C-plus
Big Time Rush
The critic: This made-for-TV boy band had the best choreography, outfits and production of the night but the most hopelessly generic pop. Just because it works on Nickelodeon, doesn't mean it'll play in an arena full of screaming girls. Grade: C
The kid: BTR had a clear focus on their looks and staging but the music got lost in the busy presentation. Grade: C
The critic: Swarmy, mocking pompadoured frontman Gabe Saporta -- at 32 the oldest singer on the bill -- acted like he was too hip for the room, and his band's throbbing, dance-club synth-pop sound was too bass heavy for the room. But the current hit "You Make Me Feel" was delivered with clubby perfection. Grade: C-plus
The kid: While Saporta filled the arena with his ego, the rest of the band displayed decent rhythms, and Victoria Asher offered playful vocals. Grade: B-minus
Gym Class Heroes
The critic: The veteran hip-hop band sounded tight, Travie McCoy commanded the stage and guest Neon Hitch added color (with a flower centerpiece on her head) and the sung hook on the current "Ass Back Home." Plus, McCoy did his solo smash "Billionaire." Grade: A
The kid: McCoy kept it real, demonstrating his still-present skills, rhymes and connection with his band mates. Grade: B-plus
The critic: Backed by four dancers and taped music, the 22-year-old Miami soul man turned it out with sweet vocals and smooth dancing but his three new numbers couldn't match his trio of older hits. Grade: B
The kid: Lots of energy, dance-club feel, strong voice, solid dancing. Grade: B
The critic: Making her first Twin Cities appearance since she canceled at the State Fair in 2009 on two hours' notice, the original "American Idol," 29, has turned into a bouncy, barefoot, roof-raising rock 'n' pop screamer. Extra points for doing a relatively quiet "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Grade: B-plus
The kid: Performing her powerful classics, she stayed nostalgic with her signature raspy "Idol" voice. Grade: B
Set lists: startribune.com/artcetera.