Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center on Aug. 25, 2013, in New York.
(Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images for MTV)
Throw her under some mistletoe, and there's no telling what Miley Cyrus might do.
That's the idea behind the pop princess' headlining slots at eight Jingle Ball shows this December, an annual holiday tradition that brings together the biggest names in top 40 radio for a star-studded night of music. What began in 1996 as a one-night concert thrown by New York's Z100 radio station (and later by Los Angeles' KIIS-FM) has now become a 12-city tour, kicking off Monday in Dallas and wrapping up Dec. 20 in Miami. A two-hour concert special airs Dec. 18 on CW (8 p.m. ET/PT).
"You can't do a pop-culture show without Miley Cyrus onstage," says Tom Poleman, president of national programming platforms for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment, who heads up the event. "If you had a big year in music, we want you on the stage, and she's one of those people that everyone wants to see."
Poleman initially reached out to Cyrus about playingJingle Ball over the summer, just as she got the nation talking and twerking to her hit single We Can't Stop. Her provocative performance at the MTV Video Music Awards in August only confirmed that nabbing her was a top priority, along with her grinding partner (and Blurred Lines chart topper) Robin Thicke, who's playing 11 Jingle Ball shows in cities such as Boston, Chicago and Atlanta.
Joining Miley and Robin on tour are nearly 20 other pop luminaries such as Flo Rida, Paramore and Demi Lovato, who are scheduled to play as few as one show on the tour and as many as 10. Avril Lavigne will be playing in three cities, where she's planning to sing a mix of old and new songs in her 15- to 20-minute set (the typical length of time Jingle Bell artists play per show).
"I really enjoy playing the radio shows," Lavigne says. "It's a great opportunity to get up there with other artists, and the crowds are always really excited." The tour ends four days before Christmas, "so I still have to figure out when I'm going to be doing my Christmas shopping!"
Also joining the lineup are up-and-comers such as Ariana Grande, Fifth Harmony andAustin Mahone, who made headlines this fall when he was forced to postpone his tour until 2014 after developing a blood clot in his throat.
"I'm definitely feeling a lot better now," Mahone says. "I'm fully recovered and just taking the time to get ready for the tour. ... I'll pretty much be back to where I was before the blood clot, but I'll just have to be more mindful of my voice because it's so easy to get sick and mess it up."
While artists such as Mahone target a primarily young audience of teenage girls, Poleman says that Jingle Ball also appeals to the typical pop-radio demographic of 18- to 34-year-olds.
"You see moms with daughters, dads with daughters, kids that come out and sort of attack with their friends," Poleman says. "You go to a lot of concerts and you see people that are jaded and too cool to have a good time, but at Jingle Ball, all the fans are going nuts and people are screaming from start to finish. It's a lot of fun to be a part of that energy."
So can we expect to see Miley and Robin perform together? While Poleman can't confirm, he hopes that Cyrus' usual string of controversy will follow her on Jingle Ball.
"I love everything that Miley is doing, she always goes for the headlines," says Poleman. "That's what makes the show magical, that people are dying to see what (artists) like Miley are going to do next.
"(Her manager Larry Rudolph) and I are just starting to talk about what will go into the performance, and I'll just say that she won't disappoint."