Every December 31st, my Russian family starts drinking at 4PM to celebrate New Year’s in Moscow. My mom stays in the kitchen all day, with the rest of us taking turns helping her make salads and dumplings and baking a chicken. We push together a few tables in the living room in front of the TV, gather around with food being served and drinks being poured and turn on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” to watch the countdown.
This whole pandemic thing put a damper on the mood this year, so our immediate-family-only celebration was more of an exhausted crossing of a finish line. Between fires, protests, an election and a centennial pandemic, we were ready to relax in front of the TV and enjoy some yearend performances. And then Cyndi Lauper came on stage.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Cyndi Lauper is fantastic. “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “True Colors” are three reasons out of many as to why the 80’s was the pinnacle of music. Lauper, in all white, sang “True Colors” to a practically non-existent audience, and it was nice to see her outside the context of a plaque psoriasis medication commercial. However, she fell flat at best, and her performance of her 2019 song “Hope” made my parents look my way as if I would have an explanation for the spiky-haired geriatric on their screen sounding like a cat in heat.
Miley Cyrus then came out looking like a late addition to Twisted Sister and sounding like Cher. Cyrus performed “Edge of Midnight,” which combined Stevie Nicks’s 1981 “Edge of Seventeen” and Cyrus’s 2020 song “Midnight Sky.” I’ve since listened to the song several times over and quite enjoy it, but seeing it performed live on TV for the first time, with Cyrus’s new voice and leaning deep into an imaginary crowd was jarring. She posed in the warrior stance, white knuckles around the microphone stand, singing deep into the abyss with my family—once again—looking at me for an explanation.
The piece de resistance was 30-foot-tall Jennifer Lopez coming out for the final minutes of the year, dressed like either a wedding cake or a white Christmas tree. She sang her new song “In The Morning” along with her hits “Waiting for Tonight” and “Dance Again,” singing them as best as you can expect from her. However, she had a very energized—but flat and embarrassing—rendition of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” in the middle of the set. I’m glad that JLo is staying relevant and I’m happy for her success, but if she wanted to play the classics she only needed to go back to the beginning of her career at this point and not taint the legacy of Steven Tyler.
The three ladies were in the prime-time spot of the night, right before the ball drop. With the country watching, ABC provided the performance that only 2020 could deserve: one where you really can’t wait for 2021. I’m surprised, because with the pandemic I would assume that more relevant talent would be available for the night since there aren’t touring schedules to conflict with. If anything, it felt like JLo was only invited because she and husband Alex Rodriguez just happened to be in their New York City home for the holidays.
I was left disappointed this year by the festivities that were presented to us. It didn’t feel like the party of the year, but rather the birthday party that the nerd in middle school would have (I would know). Maybe ABC’s New Year’s resolution should be to have a better performance next year, but they really dropped the ball on this one.