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102.7 KIIS FM’S WANGO TANGO 2016

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102.7 KIIS FM’S WANGO TANGO 2016

Nathan Armstrong

A five-hour long concert in Los Angeles consisting of nothing but headlining artists was exactly what it sounds like it would be- awesome. 102.7 KIIS FM’s Wango Tango 2016 took place in LA on Saturday, May 14, and we were there from red carpet to final performance to do our thing covering the sets and enjoying the show. Hosted by Ryan Seacrest and the entire 102.7 KIIS FM air staff, the highly anticipated annual pop music festival included performances from Ariana Grande, Zayn, Demi Lovato, Meghan Tranior, Fifth Harmony, Iggy Azalea, DNCE, Alessia Cara, The Chainsmokers, Kygo, Mike Posner, and Gwen Stefani.

Demi Lovato started the show off strong. She walked out on stage in a gorgeous Balmain dress to a crowd full of screaming fans and performed songs from her most recent album “Confident”, as well as older hits from her previous award winning records “Demi” and “Unbroken”. Lovato stepped back from her set list for a minute to personally thank her audience and to talk about her love for what she does. 

“I’m a passionate person”, she said. “I put my heart in to everything I do.” This was the preface to the most soulful performance of her set, “Stone Cold”, her latest single from “Confident”. You can’t help but notice while watching Demi perform how well she carries her baggage. It's no secret that she went through some really difficult personal issues, as much of her “Unbroken” album was inspired by her experiences. But on stage at Wango Tango was a confident artist who made something from her struggles. Extra applause for Demi. 

Alessia Cara was up next, and if she was at all intimidated to follow Lovato’s act, she didn’t show it. Cara walked on to the stage in ripped jeans, Nike’s, and a baseball cap, and connected with the crowd like she’d been up there for weeks. The youngest performer of the group, Cara was also the newest artist on the lineup to take the stage. You would have never guessed it though, as she made the stage her own and hit every note beautifully like she had decades of experience. She opened with “I’m Yours” and later performed her debut single “Here”, along with the crowd’s favorite “Wild Things”, all songs from her EP titled “Know-It-All”.

Mike Posner took the main stage after Cara. Having just released a new album “At Night, Alone” on May 6 of this year, he played a mix of new songs and old hits. The crowd particularly enjoyed singing/screaming along to “Cooler than Me”, Posner’s hit single from 2010. He then went on to tell the audience the inspiration behind his latest success “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”, explaining that hitting rock-bottom is a natural part of life, and when he did it, he wrote about it. I was truly thankful that he made the best of his rock-bottom experience, because that was an awesome live performance of a really cool song. By far the best of his set. 

I was a little unprepared for the next act. Being fairly new as a group and only having released an EP at this point, I didn’t really know what to expect from DNCE. Of course, I knew it was going to be good because their songs are super fun and different and also because, duh, Joe Jonas. But if I know one thing after Wango Tango, it’s that DNCE is going to be HUGE. They are so weird in all the right ways, from their quirky female guitarist JinJoo Lee, to bassist Cole Whittle and drummer Jack Lawless, to one of the members of Pop music’s favorite bloodline, Joe Jonas. To keep it brief, DNCE’s show left me downright speechless. Jonas gave a personal shout out to all the 90’s babies in the crowd before the band covered “No Scrubs”, then proceeded to welcome special guest Hailee Steinfeild to the stage to perform her new single featuring DNCE, “Rock Bottom” (hey, Mike Posner) and honestly I had chills through the whole thing. They finished their set with “Cake by the Ocean”, during which they left the stage for, sprinting through the stadium and leaving girls everywhere in actual hysteria. Security wasn’t too pleased with that move, Joe, but the other 30,000 of us were very much grateful. Jonas sang the last line standing in the middle of the very back section of the stadium. 

Australian rapper and record breaking female artist Iggy Azalea owned the Wango Tango main stage next, powering through technical difficulties and the heat of the setting LA sun. Her whole performance had me wondering how anyone ever told her that she wouldn’t make it, previously reading about her journey as an artist and how she made it into the spotlight after being a serious underdog for a while there. Azalea put on a great show with hits like “Black Widow” and “Fancy”, along with previews of her new album “Digital Distortion”, to be released in June of 2016.

After Iggy, there was quite a predictable commercial break in the Wango Tango set. It was almost mid way through the show, and the anticipation building in the crowd around me was something serious. All of the official merch t-shirts gave away why several of the girls around me were in attendance, and when Ryan Seacrest announced that Zayn Malik was seconds away from the stage, I didn’t really need anymore confirmation. Malik played with our heads a little, hitting the first notes of his set from backstage, leaving eager eyes from the crowd glued to an empty stage. He walked out with such confidence and Zayn Swag that I felt immediately that no one could do Zayn like Zayn could, if that makes any sense at all. He’s an artist that mixes unprecedented talent with a really unique and unpredictable personality- and the combination is a recipe for greatness. He sang R&B influenced hits from his new album “Mind of Mine” including “Like I Would”, and I kept waiting for girls around me to start passing out. Also I’ll be honest here... my knees were also a little shaky (ok a lot shaky), but somehow they (we) all stood their ground and watched his every move until he disappeared from stage completely. (We were a little convinced that Zayn’s set was cut a bit short but we had no confirmation on that- he left stage sooner than expected and unfortunately our need to hear “Pillowtalk” was not met, sigh). 

Kygo was up next, and I was wide eyed for his whole performance. I always love to watch DJ shows live because it’s so entrancing to see them become lost in their world of light and sound. Kygo stood on his platform and put on an amazing show- letting the mystery of what in the world he was doing up there live on. The stadium was filled with bobbing heads, waving arms, and glowing faces. He performed his hits “Firestone”, “Stole the Show”, and “Stay”, bringing out featured artists Parson James and Maty Noyes to sing their parts in the singles.

After Meghan Trainor’s performance, I was really hoping to run in to her back stage so I could offer my suggestion of titling her next album “Salute to Womanhood” or “Ode to Me”, but not in a self righteous or conceited way. The girl just has so much self-confidence and passion for female empowerment that I feel like she could probably start a huge and greatly successful social movement, and what better way to do that than through one of her ridiculously catchy collection of girl power anthems? Her Wango Tango show was awesome, filled with the Meghan Trainor classics like “All About that Bass” and “Lips Are Movin”, along with her new hit “No” and a really awesome song off of her new album called “Champagne Problems”.

Kicking off the final few performances was once of music’s most prized possessions- Gwen Stefani. I was completely intrigued here as I had never had the change to see Stefani perform live during her 20 years as a performer, but she made sure I wasn't cheated as she proved that she performs today with as much energy and excitement as she did at the start of her career the 90’s. Not only did she perform with the energy of a 18-year-old version of herself, I’m also pretty sure she hasn’t aged a day since her 23rd birthday, just saying. Gwen was an absolute crowd pleaser as she played songs that will be forever favorites- “Hollaback Girl” and “Sweet Escape” were two unforgettable performances. She also played her oldies but goodies “Rich Girl”, “Wind It Up”, and “Baby Don’t Lie”, along with brand new songs from her latest album, “So This Is What the Truth Feels Like”. It was quite a show, to say the least. 

As the sun disappeared and the night snuck over the StubHub Center, there was a bit of a chill that crept in. But that lasted for a whole 10 seconds, because Fifth Harmony took the stage and things got hot really fast. Those five girls are something else. They had their own platform where they sang, danced, and flaunted, and basically took over the stage, the audience, and the rest of Wango Tango. They sang their huge hit “Worth It” and matched their, excuse the cheesiness, enchanting voices with equally as captivating dance moves, and quite frankly I don’t think I looked away once. They also performed their new song “Work from Home”, which was perfect. Camila, Ally, Dinah, Normani, and Lauren are all excellent performers, and they put their talent on full display on stage.

Recently I have become a huge fan of EDM, and this new love of mine was magnified x100 because of The Chainsmoker’s set. Andrew and Alex of the DJ duo looked like they were truly having the time of their lives up there, and as my mind is already blown by the magic they somehow create with their hands, this was definitely one of my top three favorite shows of the night. They incorporated some awesome mashups into their set, using old classics to lead in to their new singles. The best surprise was probably the mix of “Yellow” by Coldplay and their newest hit “Don’t Let Me Go” featuring Daya, who also showed up on stage to make the performance that much better. I swear they felt every beat of their music in their bones because they moved, bounced, and jumped until the last second of the show, and had the crowd doing the same.

The finale of Wango Tango 2016 belonged to Ariana Grande, who was nothing short of absolutely amazing. I truly believe that she could win the award for the best voice of all time, because she is consistent with her ability to effortlessly hit impossible notes that plenty of musicians couldn’t dream of. She previewed her new album with recently released single “Dangerous Woman”, and also performed her hits “Bang Bang”, and “Problem”, all while wearing a fur coat and stiletto heels. Ok Ari. You’re fabulous. 

Along with 12 of the biggest artists in the industry, a number of special celebrity guests made appearances at Wango Tango. “Fuller House” stars Jodie Sweetin and Candace Cameron-Bure helped announce artists, and players from the LA KINGS provided a little mid show comedy between sets. Taylor Lautner was also spotted with his girlfriend front row for Ariana Grande’s set. Olivia Holt, Jordan Fisher, and Sofia Carson also came to the show.

I mean, I really tried to keep this brief. But a show like that with artists like this doesn’t exactly make it easy. This show reminded me why I love live music and why I could do this for the rest of my life; as a member of the audience, you are witnessing incredibly creative people with talent beyond comprehension do the thing they love the most, share their passion with others. That’s what Wango Tango was to me, a collection of amazing artists doing what they love. And it very much encouraged me to pack up and relocate to Los Angeles where this kind of magic circulates on a daily basis. I’m so excited for where Pop music is headed lately and Wango Tango 2016 was a perfect demonstration of why. Wango Tango 2017 can’t come fast enough!

- Emilee Robinson