When planning began for the inaugural Power 96.1 Jingle Ball, there was one goal – to make it look like a live representation of the Top 40 station that just arrived in Atlanta in August.
That equated to a lineup at Philips Arena Wednesday that spotlights Justin Bieber, Enrique Iglesias, Kesha, Flo Rida, Owl City and Austin Mahone, a parade of radio faves that rivals similar lineups at other Top 40 radio-produced shows in major markets.
While Bieber retains an Atlanta connection, Power’s program director Rick Vaughn said the station didn’t actively court area artists, but added cryptically, “We are involving some local people. We have a couple of surprises.”
He also noted that while Power 96.1 caters to an 18-34-year-old listening demographic, the super-pop lineup offers mass appeal.
“It’s very family-friendly,” he said. “For parents to (get their kids) a ticket is a great way to spend an evening together.”
One of the artists on the bill, hip-hop-pop star Flo Rida, has racked up a string of hits such as “Low,” “Right Round,” “Good Feeling” and his current “I Cry.” But a large part of the appeal of those dance-floor ditties is the inventive retro samples Flo (born Tramar Dillard in, obviously, South Florida) inserts into them.
Dead or Alive’s ‘80s fave “You Spin Me Round Like a Record” powers “Right Round” and Brenda Russell’s languid 1988 ballad, “Piano in the Dark” is the driving melody of “I Cry.”
“I felt like I needed to show another side of myself and let people know that sometimes I tear up a little bit,” Flo said recently of using the Russell song. “I have seven sisters, so growing up I was pretty familiar with that song.”
Though he continues to live in Miami, which he calls “paradise,” the affable singer-rapper is also familiar with Atlanta, where his uncle lives. Flo said he would frequently head north growing up to visit his family member, who still lives here.
“I love the vibe of Atlanta. There are a lot of memories for me there,” he said.
For his Wednesday appearance at Jingle Ball, Flo isn’t planning anything too different from his usual concerts – “We just focus on taking the energy higher with each show and making sure I leave the fans with something special,” he said – but there will be one small Christmas touch.
“I’ve got some Christmas-colored shoes. They’re red and green. I’ll have them on,” he said with a laugh.
Fans of the ubiquitous radio presence – who works out at least five days a week to maintain his muscular frame – will have a continuous loop of Flo songs, since he’s currently recording his next album, due in late spring.
A few weeks ago, he worked at Westlake Recording Studios in Hollywood, Calif., where Michael Jackson famously recorded “Thriller.”
“It was definitely an interesting vibe, being there and seeing the ‘Beat It’ lyrics and hearing those acoustics,” Flo Rida said. “But every time I do an album I want to do something new and fun. This one definitely has a lot more ability to hold a note a little bit more.”
And maybe he’ll break out one of those notes at Jingle Ball.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene