Taylor Swift ushered in her 25th birthday with 18,000 fans moments after midnight Saturday, as she headlined the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball concert held at Madison Square Garden and streamed on Yahoo Live. "I think I've officially celebrated my birthday with you tonight. I'm 25 years old, New York City!" she told the crowd after performing her No. 1 hit, "Blank Space."
As might be expected, she was pretty excited to reach such a milestone onstage. She even added a new lyric to "Shake It Off," her final song of the night, interjecting, "It's my birthday!" during one of her chorus runs.
Earlier in the set — which also included her songs "Welcome to New York," "I Knew You Were Trouble," and "We Are Never Getting Back Together" — she asked the concertgoers to grant a humble birthday wish: to scream loudly.
"As my birthday present," she asked, "every time I turn the mic to you, scream louder than any concert you've ever experienced." Fans were happy to oblige.
[Photos: Jingle Ball Hits New York]
Pharrell also shared a special moment with the New York crowd. After opening his set with "Blurred Lines," the song he produced for Robin Thicke, Pharrell quickly gave props to another one of his collaborators — Gwen Stefani. He then brought out his surprise guest to sing her new song, "Spark the Fire."
Though Gwen is a popular judge on The Voice singing competition, it's been nearly eight years since she released her last solo album, so Pharrell made sure to give her a proper introduction. "I want to bring my friend out here, her name is Gwen Stefani," he noted, then walked the crowd through the song's chorus. Gwen hit the stage on fire, bursting with energy and attitude.
Multiple Grammy nominee Sam Smith beamed with humility during his set, blushing as he recalled his father bringing him to Madison Square Garden to watch basketball games. Before playing "Latch," he explained how he had written the song two years ago with Disclosure. Then he sang the acoustic rendition as the crowd sang along. It was a nice setup for his smash ballad, "Stay With Me."
While Sam would have been a tough act to follow for some, Nick Jonas didn't have that problem: He was easily able to engage the audience. The former Jonas Brothers member successfully worked gospel overtones into his "Jealous" solo pop track, taking the stage with heavy handclaps, an organ, and a choir. The only problem? He only performed one song!
Ariana Grande's rapper boyfriend Big Sean should be proud of her show on Friday. In addition to holding down her normal singing chops, Ariana casually put her rapping skills on display. During her solo set, she softly recited Iggy Azalea's verse on their collaboration "Problem." But when returning to the stage to sing "Bang Bang" with Jessie J, Ariana was visibly more animated. She filled in for Nicki Minaj, spewing the rapper's fast-paced/tongue-twisting rhymes, lyric for lyric.
Another surprise moment was when Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX joined for their No. 1 song, "Fancy." Though Charli sang two songs – "Boom Clap" and "Break the Rules" – earlier during the show, she was happy to return to offer her Australian counterpart an assist. Their camaraderie showed during a giddy face-off for the New Yorkers.
The four-hour Jingle Ball was packed with stars. Other performers included OneRepublic, Maroon 5, Shawn Mendes, Rixton, Calvin Harris, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Meghan Trainor. Additionally, there were a number of A-list presenters including Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lil Jon, Ryan Seacrest, and a host of other iHeartRadio on-air personalities.