This year couldn’t have been more epic for new music artists, album releases and performances across the world. Fans have been gifted experiences that will last a lifetime, and this is only the beginning.
Now that the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, artists have brought back full-capacity concerts; however, can they mimic pre-COVID energy or create a new dynamic experience for fans? While some believe that live performances will never be the same again, many stars have already challenged this recently by bringing the heat to New York City to ring in the new year.
Every Dec. 31, people celebrate one of the most joyous times with rhythmic tunes, heartfelt nostalgia and monumental performances. As 2023 begins to wind down and we reflect on all that’s occurred, here are some of our all-time favorite New Year’s Eve performances that left us in awe.
1. Ashanti and Ja Rule
Name a better duo from the 2000s that can deliver electric lyricism and onstage energy — we’ll wait. Ashanti and Ja Rule made a return to sharing the stage in 2021 to perform live at Times Square. The crowd couldn’t get enough of the nostalgia in the air as the duo performed classics like “Mesmerize” and “Always On Time.” In true New York fashion, the pair celebrated the end of 2021 in oversized fur coats with boots. Ashanti also modified the lyrics of “Mesmerize” to “Love it when I’m with you New York” in order to pull off the smoothest transition between the two songs, and the sentiment of celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Big Apple immediately resonated with the crowd. From this performance, it was evident that even after so many years, the pair’s stage presence and chemistry were still intact.
2. Janet Jackson
“Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty” brought everyone to their knees with her 1993 performance at Madison Square Garden. Back then, the “Any Time, Any Place” songstress was on tour for her self-titled album, Janet, and made sure to bring the same momentum from her trek to the Big Apple. The late ’90s have always been reminiscent of high-energy music, and Jackson’s performance highlighted her dancing skills and unique discography. Pulling off seamless transitions from song to song, she performed tracks like “Rhythm Nation,” “That’s The Way Love Goes” and “If,” which are some of her most notable offerings to date.
3. Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys’ voice filled the air as fans crowded around the stage and sang along. Performing the early 2000s hit “No One,” Keys returned to her hometown of New York to hit the stage during NBC’s “New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly” in 2008. This performance was especially iconic since it was after the release of her 2007 album, As I Am, which won two American Music Awards for Favorite Soul/R&B and Favorite Pop/Rock album. She also performed again for the Carson Daly special in 2016 to close out the year.
Girls love Rihanna, and so do we! While fans may miss hearing her sing some of the world’s favorite songs, we can still reminisce about it with her 2007 performance at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. A young Rihanna took to the stage to perform her signature hit “SOS.” It was nice to see the energetic crowd singing, dancing and interacting with each other during Rih’s set instead of the typical phone recording and picture taking that we get nowadays. From the sequined silver outfits to the intricate musical break on stage, there were so many enjoyable moments throughout.
5. Mariah Carey
It isn’t holiday music without Mariah Carey’s angelic voice on the track. The “Honey” singer has blared on TV screens and radios for many years, but is especially known for her signature song “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” While Carey has performed on New Year’s Eve countless times, 2017 took the cake after she headlined for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Donning a pure white fur coat and chandelier earrings, she performed “Hero” and “Vision of Love.” The icon was seemingly able to push through her entire set in freezing wind chill with ease before she bid adieu. We can only hope the Queen of Christmas will continue to ring in the new year with performances for years to come.
It was no surprise that Usher kept his Las Vegas residency going for so long after his dynamic 2022 TV performance on New Year’s Eve. The Confessions artist left fans feeling exhilarated after hitting the stage during CNN’s “New Year’s Eve Live.” He streamed from his residency in Las Vegas and still managed to keep his momentum alongside artists who were there in person. Usher performed “Yeah!” which was originally recorded with rap artists Ludacris and Lil’ Jon.
7. New Edition
What better way to kick off a new year than with your favorite R&B group? Music sensation New Edition reunited to perform at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest to bring in 2023. The group could be seen doing signature dance moves and rocking coordinated cobalt blue outfits. While it wasn’t New Edition’s first time reuniting, this was their debut performance at Times Square. What made the event even more memorable was that it came just after they celebrated 40 years of singing together. The group performed fan favorites like “If It Isn’t Love” and “Rub You The Right Way.” Fans would soon learn the performance was just the prelude for their “The Legacy Tour,” which took them to cities like Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles early this year.