What you didn’t see on TV at the 2019 iHeart Radio Awards
On March 14, 2019, some of the most popular and best talents in modern music gathered at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles for the sixth annual iHeartRadio Music Awards. Like other music industry kudos-fests, the iHeartRadio festivities honor artists from a variety of genres while also letting some of the year’s most important acts perform.
Airing live on Fox, the event was hosted by a jubilant T-Pain, as Ariana Grande took home Pop Album of the Year for Sweetener as well as Female Artist of the Year, while Drake captured Male Artist of the Year, and Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s “Finesse” won Best Collaboration. In non-competitive, honorary awards, Taylor Swift took home Tour of the Year for her lucrative Reputation tour, while Garth Brooks was named Artist of the Decade (although it must have been for the ’90s, because he hasn’t released much music this decade).
The show aired live on Fox, but in a tight, two-hour window. Here’s what went on backstage, on the red carpet, in the audience, and before, and after, the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards.
Katy Perry is a robot, and down to collab with Taylor Swift
Katy Perry made the red carpet rounds before the show, dressed as her robotic, Stepford Wife-like character from her video for “365,” her collaboration with Zedd. (Although the tied-back, bleach blond hair made her look more like circa-1997 Gwen Stefani than an automaton.) Perry stopped for an interview with Entertainment Tonight‘s Lauren Zima and Z100’s Elvis Duran, and she showed off her goofy sense of humor while certainly stoking some hysteria.
Commenting on her video, Perry explained that, “I am Katy Perry today, but I am an A.I. version of Katy Perry.” Okay. Then she talked about how the ceremony fell on March 14, or 3/14, or “Pi Day.” “It’s a very dangerous day, ’cause if you tell an A.I. to calculate pi, they end up never stopping and they die. So when robots take over the world, that’s how you win the war.”
Speaking of apocalyptic battles, Zima asked Perry if there was ever a chance that her bitter, longstanding feud with fellow pop superstar Taylor Swift could maybe be coming to an end. Amazingly, it might — she said she’s willing to cut a track with T-Swift. “I mean, I’m making music with Zedd,” Perry said. “I’m open. Open open open!” That last part is clearly a reference to a 1990s commercial for the Mervyn’s department store chain, so Swift better come correct.
Hats off to Bebe Rexha
No matter the nature of the entertainment industry event, red carpet interviews by various media outlets are really just a pretense to gawk at and admire attending celebrities’ bold sartorial choices. One of the standouts of the fashion-forward 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards pre-game: singer Bebe Rexha, a dual nominee for Country Song of the Year and Best Collaboration for “Meant to Be,” her song with Florida Georgia Line. She arrived in a sleek black suit with apparently very little on underneath. But the true star of Rexha’s ensemble: her huge black hat, jauntily tilted to the side just so.
Rexha told Sibley Scoles of Access that the hat resulted from multiple — and quite varied — inspirations. “I just saw a hat. I saw that Yves St. Laurent was doing it back in the day, and I was like, ‘This is hot we have to do this.'” She also wanted to rock that dreary, 19th century British novel feel, like “a bada** Victorian b****, and I’m going to tell this lady that her husband has died and she’s happy ’cause she’s gonna be rich now.” Bela Rexha; She’s got (Jane) Austen powers!
Backstreet’s back? Alright!
There’s no “Comeback of the Year” prize at the iHeartMusic Awards, but maybe getting to host serves that purpose. T-Pain, fresh off a win on Fox’s The Masked Singer, in which he brought tears to the audience’s eyes with a performance of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” while dressed in a monster costume and without the aid of his signature AutoTune, hosted this year’s ceremony. Looking resplendent in an orange blazer and rose-tinted glasses, he stopped on the red carpet to talk with Sibley Scoles of Access. He discussed the many outfit changes he had in store for his big gig. “If I can fit in it, it’s going to be on TV,” or else he’d wear it to “the club” later on. Speaking of clubs, he had a story about Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys, a performer that evening that T-Pain promised would “be fire.”
“I remember I was trying to text my accountant because my card got cut off in the strip club, and my accountant’s name is Brian, and Brian from the Backstreet Boys texted back, like, ‘I think you got the wrong Brian.'” He added, “I was screaming at him, too. I went crazy!” BSB factored heavily into Scoles’ night — the legendary boy band gave the reporter a mini-serenade of their classic “I Want it That Way” … and she joined in.
It was all love for Halsey
Halsey blew up in 2018, and as such she was nominated for three prizes at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards. While she didn’t take home any of those, she did nab the L’Oreal Fangirls Award. But she did get the distinct honor of opening the show, and open the show she did, with what Billboard called an “explosive” performance of “Without Me” and “11 Minutes” alongside Travis Barker of Blink-182 and rapper Yungblud.
Halsey also was reportedly the queen of PDA at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards, spotted kissing on her boyfriend at the time, rapper G-Eazy. Halsey did not attend the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards with him, because they split up a few months prior. This year Halsey arrived with her new squeeze, rapper Yungblud. (Yes, the same Yungblud she performed “11 Minutes” with with this very night.) According to E! News, they were just as affectionate — if not more — than the singer and her last hip-hop guy. They were spotted in the stands, sitting very close and whispering sweet nothings to each other throughout the ceremony.
Taylor Swift hates her fans (just kidding)
Perhaps the most watched star of the 2019 iHeartRadio Awards was Taylor Swift, as she’s also probably the most watched pop star in the world. Other than a previously announced special award congratulating the star on her recent concert tour, Swift competed in just two categories: Best Fan Army (for her legion of loyal Swifties and Best Music Video (for “Delicate”). Nevertheless, she turned heads on the red carpet sporting pink hair and a sparkly, blue-and-pink romper seemingly made out of old disco balls.
Producers made sure to seat the popular and telegenic Swift right in the front of the Microsoft Theater, where cameras could catch her every reaction. That first-row seat also placed the pop star adjacent to the pit where attendees could stand and dance. According to Entertainment Tonight, during commercial breaks when nothing much was going on in the show, pit people kept turning around to gawk at T-Swift. A couple were even so bold as to approach her … only to be stopped by a wall of security guards who got in the way.
Swift shook it off. During the next commercial break, Swift got up, went over to the pit, and took photos and videos with whoever wanted one. No bad blood, folks.
They cut off the big winners right in the “Middle” of their speech
After all the genre awards and lifetime achievement award and fan-chosen, corporate-sponsored awards, there was only one more to give: Song of the Year. The big prize was befittingly handed out by a big star: Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler. He struggled on stage to open the massive, tricky winner envelope, and hold the eventual winner’s trophy at the same time (give him a break, he’s 70), and took so long that the winners didn’t get much of a shot at their acceptance speech.
The honors went to Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey for their smash hit / Target jingle “The Middle,” and the artists took the stage. “Oh my gosh, this is so cool. Thank you so much iHeart,” Morris said. According to Entertainment Tonight, some Fox stations then cut her off to air their next show — primetime has a hard out after two hours before local and syndicated programming can start. (Some markets heard the rest of a truncated speech before a brief goodbye from host T-Pain.)