NEW YORK >> Ariana Grande’s NBA All-Star performance wasn’t a slam dunk, but more like a layup: It was good, but you won’t remember it tomorrow.
Grande’s 11-minute halftime set on Sunday highlighted the pop-star year the singer’s had on the charts: She sang the four Top 10 hits from her latest album, her current single and the song that transitioned her from TV actress to pop singer, 2013’s “The Way.”
She shined vocally, per usual, with her mix of whispery coos and strong high notes. The 21-year-old entered the stage at Madison Square Garden dressed like a cheerleader, sporting a black-and-white mini skirt, crop top, heels and her signature pony tail.
She led with the upbeat, saxophone-laced “Problem,” which featured some of her dancing, coming off a bit awkward and uncomfortable. During “Bang Bang,” Grande’s dancing was also uneven: When she attempted sexy, simple movement (including a slap to Nicki Minaj’s bottom), she looked as if she was doing something wrong — or bad. She kind of was.
On the latter song, Grande did receive a nice assist from the rapper, who also wore a crop top and skirt.
Grande was better when she slowed it down with the mid-tempo number, “Love Me Harder,” or when she walked across the stage while singing “The Way,” hitting all the right notes.
Grande wasn’t the only big-voiced singer at the All-Star Game: Christina Aguilera kicked off the show with a New York-themed performance, singing classics including Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ In the City” and Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind.”
The Rockettes backed Aguilera, who rocked all-black and danced with a cane as a prop. Rapper Nas, who is from Queens, came out to perform his own New York anthem, “N.Y. State of Mind.”
Queen Latifah, backed by two guitars, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Grammy-nominated R&B vocalist Tamia, who is married to Grant Hill, sang the Canadian National Anthem.