The Wanted, the vocal Brit-boy band, was more rocking than its glossy contemporaries, more willing to sweat than its usually dapper exterior would suggest.
Karmin, the synth-pop YouTube sensation, expanded its robo aesthetic with additional players and sounded bolder than records allow. Baritone singer Amy Heidemann rapped through "I Told You So" and crooned through "Brokenhearted" with bravado.
X Factor UK contestant Cher Lloyd trafficked in similar house-hop tunes with a live band behind her. But while her vocals were coolly piercing ("With UR Love"), her raps ("Swagger Jagger") were headache-inducing.
The turkeys? British one-man-band Ed Sheeran has played Philly before with winning results. This time, the flame-haired Sheeran was off his game. His quiet tunes were squeakily limp and the fast-strummed "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" was frantic, yet tedious. Only his gently lurid "The A Team" was buoyantly beautiful.
Anthemic rockers OneRepublic, who have been around for 10 years, were the night's veterans. They were solid yet you had to feel sorry for them when, after the looming signature hit, one kid live Tweeted: " 'Secrets' " was my nanny's favorite song."
The night's true highlights burned hot. PSY, the South Korean YouTube smash, came out with side-slicked hair, a wide-shouldered black tux jacket, a team of athletic clad-in-white dancers, and proceeded to turn Wells Fargo into a ballroom while dancing, galloping, and throwing down lasso moves during his single song, the electro hit "Gangnam Style."
That's how you do it - one great song and gone.
With his sinewy arms and pompadour, Bieber certainly looked like he's growing up. But it was songs like the quick-paced "Beauty and a Beat," and the slow acoustic "Die in Your Arms" that allowed his slick high voice to show its ages-old soul.