Archives For 2013 American Music Awards

I’ll never forget the second time I met Zendaya. It was in the press room after the 2013 American Music Awards. I had already chatted with Ariana Grande and was waiting for an influx of other big names: One Direction, Taylor Swift and Rihanna to name a few.

The fellas of 1D headed straight to Jimmy Kimmel’s cameras where they taped a skit with Kimmel’s sidekick/security guard Guillermo. I had chatted earlier in the night with both Harry Styles and Niall Horan, so I wasn’t expecting them to stop by again. Rihanna, who Bill Maher presented with the first ever “Icon Award” that evening, walked in to the photo area. Swift was the show’s big winner; she made the rounds before giving me a few minutes of her time.
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Towards the end of the night, as Rihanna was heading out of the press room flanked by her entourage and security detail, a then-17 year-old Zendaya was walking in the opposite direction.

The teenager, nee Zendaya Coleman, can recollect what happened next “vividly.”

“(Rihanna) stopped. She gave me a hug and she was like, ‘I love you girl,” an enthusiastic Zendaya recalled when I brought this up to her recently. “She was so positive, so nice.

“It’s so cool for people like her, who obviously are…incredibly successful, empowering women, and on top of that she just stopped to say hi to me. She didn’t have to do that!”

The kindness and humility shown by the “Diamonds” singer certainly left an impression on Zendaya that she now strives to pay forward.

“My thing is, no one will ever catch me not being nice to people,” Zendaya explained. “I don’t ever want somebody not to have a good taste in their mouth about when they met Zendaya or how they felt when they met me.

“I like for people to leave me feeling positive.”

Katy Perry will perform at the 56th GRAMMY Awards, set to air Sunday night January 26 on CBS. Perry last performed at an award show in November at the American Music Awards. The night before her rendition of “Unconditionally,” she expressed to “The Ralphie Show” that singing on live TV wasn’t her favorite thing.

“I love performing on tour, because (you’re) more in control, and I have more vision for it,” Perry explained. “The award shows, although I love being a part of them, you only get to rehearse for a few days and everything’s so last minute. Yunno, I’m coming in from Europe, so I’m awake while I’m supposed to be sleeping and sleeping while I’m supposed to be awake so it’s very strange times.”

Still, if the “Roar” singer were to make an exception for this, surely it would be for the “Biggest Night in Music.” Perry received two GRAMMY nods thanks to that first single from Prism, “Best Pop Solo Performance” and the highly coveted “Song of the Year.” The album itself was released after the GRAMMY deadline, and has since sold over a million copies in the U.S. Perry reached the platinum mark in 11 weeks with her third studio LP, about half the time it took Teenage Dream to sell the same amount.

Austin Mahone chatted on the red carpet at the American Music Awards with “The Ralphie Show” and revealed he shares a stylist with a couple of A-Listers. Mahone also chatted about the support he receives from his “Mahomies” and his new single, “Banga Banga.”

Ariana Grande saw how hard her fans were working to vote her Kohl’s New Artist Of The Year at the 2013 American Music Awards. Still, the 20 year-old did not prepare an acceptance speech.

“My mom wrote it down for me,” Grande revealed of the list she pulled out on stage with names of people to thank. “She was like, ‘Just so you don’t forget anything,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’”

Grande rushed through the names in seconds. The Nickelodeon star told me afterwards that if she could have added anyone to her on camera thank you list, it would have been her grandparents in Florida.

The entire evening seemed to overwhelm Grande, which also included a rousing performance of her single, “The Way” along with “Tattooed Heart.” Both appear on Grande’s debut studio album, Yours Truly. The artist earned a standing ovation from the likes of superstars like Lady Gaga after she finished singing.

“I can’t see anything. I have really bad eye sight,” Grande told me when I asked if she could make out celebrities’ faces in the crowd from on stage. “For some reason I can’t learn how to put in contacts, and I’m not going to go on stage in glasses.”

So, just as I had witnessed moments earlier, Grande simply powers through. By the time she reached our one-on-one room backstage at the AMAs, the singer was literally hobbled. She later told me that she felt like she was going to pass out. A whole pineapple, tofu, and a soy latte later – and Grande was back to her normal self, barely able to contain her excitement as she spoke about an evening she won’t soon forget.

Last month at the American Music Awards, Rihanna received the inaugural Icon Award for her impressive resume. The Barbados-born star has sold over 10 million albums in the US alone, and she is a mere 25 years old. Rihanna is both the youngest and quickest singer to achieve 13 number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100.

During the award show, you saw Bill Mahar present RiRi with the honor and Jay Z speak highly of the artist he signed when she was a teenager. Justin Timberlake also decided send props Rihanna’s way during his acceptance speech for one of the three AMAs he took home.

What you didn’t see on the broadcast was Rihanna paying the support forward to the next generation, just as the aforementioned celebrities had. The “Umbrella” singer entered the press room after the AMAs for her victory lap. As Rihanna exited she spotted 17 year-old Zendaya Coleman. Zendaya is simply known by her first name; another product of Disney (“Shake It Up”) who competed on “Dancing With The Stars” and released a self-titled album. Her lead single, “Replay,” is currently played on radio stations across the country.

Amidst the madness of entourages and media members and security guards, Rihanna halted the procession to say hello to Zendaya and let the “Replay” singer know that she has a very famous fan.

“(Rihanna) was just so sweet and so kind,” a clearly star-struck Zendaya told “The Ralphie Show” after the encounter. “That was so cool to see, you know what I mean? You see a superstar like that and you’re just like… you just want to meet them yunno? To see that she was such a kind, sweet person – that was really cool.”

Rihanna remarked about how tall Zendaya is (5’10”) and called her, “awesome.”

“She met my parents! My parents met Rihanna!” Zendaya continued. It was clearly all hitting her at once. “(My parents) love her.”

At least for one night, Rihanna was kid tested and mother approved.

Ian Axel is from Fair Lawn, New Jersey. He met Chad Vaccarino eight years ago at New York University. The rest cannot be categorized as simply, “history,” although now it is. The duo struggled like most pop acts, figuring out different incarnations and ways in which they could make it big, or at least make a living.

Settling on the name, A Great Big World, the duo wrote “Say Something” – a ballad with a cold piano and lyrics that have moments where they can almost be spoken and almost be shouted. The track received a placement on “So You Think You Can Dance” and began selling well on iTunes.

But perhaps the breakout moment for the group came on NBC’s “The Voice.” With a weekly audience of 14 million, the guys enlisted the help of TV coach and Epic Records label-mate Christina Aguilera to perform the song live.

From there, the rest really is history.

“It feels like every day, we’re having the experience of a lifetime,” gushed Axel recently to “The Ralphie Show.” “It’s a bit shocking to our systems.”

When you look at the TV performances, from the aforementioned “Voice” to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to the American Music Awards, you really can’t blame them.

It won’t be slowing down for Axel and Vaccarino any time soon. The band will wrap a month’s worth of radio tours by supporting Maroon 5 on New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. Just a few weeks later, January 14, the band will drop Is Anybody Out There, a full length album.

Not too shabby for a couple of once-struggling musicians at NYU.

Aloe Blacc recorded the acoustic version of “Wake Me Up!” inside Mike Einziger’s home studio with Avicii. The Incubus guitarist and superstar DJ, nee Tim Bergling, mixed it in to one of 2013’s biggest hits.

“I think Avicii is an incredible producer, and he knew at least a little bit of what he wanted to do,” Blacc told “The Ralphie Show” recently. “I went in to record a song written by Mac Davis for Avicii, and that’s when we first met. Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park suggested to Avicii, ‘You should get Aloe to sing this song.’”

Blacc admitted that he and Shinoda were far from great friends; the two know each other through a mutual friend.

The “I Need A Dollar” singer characterized the song he recorded as country-esque. Given the context that Davis was involved, it makes even more sense. But Avicii is mixing both genres and beats with his releases. The second single from the DJ’s album True could be considered even more country: “Hey Brother.”

“To see what Avicii is doing makes perfect sense to me,” Blacc, who cited his indie, multi-genre days as the reason why he understands the producer’s approach. “He’s melding worlds of really good songwriting, and really popular production. He’s going to hit a home run every time.”

Blacc released a Wake Me Up EP this past year. He is preparing his full-length album, Lift Your Spirit. The LP will include production contributions from Pharrell Williams and Rock Mafia.

After last weekend’s American Music Awards, some took to the Internet to criticize Katy Perry; particularly her portrayal of Asian culture during the performance of “Unconditionally.” While a writer for the Associated Press compared Perry to “a princess out of a Japanese painting,” other commentators for The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal condemned the pop star for cultural appropriation.

In an interview with “The Ralphie Show” prior to opening the AMAs, it was evident that Perry did not realize she would be traveling in to controversial territory.

“It will be a beautiful sight for the eyes, and hopefully a blessing for the ears,” Perry responded when asked to preview the performance, which opened the telecast. “It’ll be really beautiful. It’ll be based on one of my favorite places in the world.”

The controversy might have the “Roar” singer thinking twice before the next time she agrees to perform on television.

“I love performing on tour, because (you’re) more in control, and I have more vision for it,” Perry explained. “The award shows, although I love being a part of them, you only get to rehearse for a few days and everything’s so last minute. Yunno, I’m coming in from Europe, so I’m awake while I’m supposed to be sleeping and sleeping while I’m supposed to be awake so it’s very strange times.”

AMAs aside, Perry has orchestrated a triumphant return to the charts in 2013. Her single “Roar” set the pace by hitting number one, and her album PRISM followed in October with a debut atop the Billboard 200. Despite the reasons and invitations to celebrate growing, the singer seems to find moderation.

“It’s really important to remember that the party will always be there, and that’s not the most important part of this,” Perry said, in a rather straight-forward manner. When I clarified that I didn’t mean she gets “blackout drunk,” the songstress quipped, “I stopped the brown liquor so I don’t blackout. I stick to champagne and clear beverages!”

If success has affected Perry at all, you certainly wouldn’t be able to notice by her sense of humor.

One Direction’s Niall Horan talked with me on the red carpet of the American Music Awards to talk about the band’s new album Midnight Memories and their night ahead at the AMAs. The quintet performed “Story Of My Life” and took home an AMA. Horan also spoke about the group’s nomination for Best Album Pop or Rock with Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift.

You would think by now, Taylor Swift would have grown accustomed to these types of nights. The 23 year-old walked out of the American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday with four AMAs. For the third time, Swift also collected the show’s biggest piece of hardware: Artist Of The Year.

After the telecast finished, the “22” singer had a hard time putting her 2013 in to words.

“I have no idea how this happens,” Swift told me inside Cumulus Media’s one-on-one room in the press area. The artist says that all the time on stage when she wins, but when she’s a few feet away, it is much more convincing. “I know that this is probably never going to happen to me again like this.”

Swift’s fourth studio album Red came out in October of 2012. The past year yielded a stadium tour, eight Billboard Music Awards (including Artist Of The Year), a Grammy for her Civil Wars-assisted song on the Hunger Games soundtrack, and a MTV Video Music Award thanks to the video for “I Knew You Were Trouble.”

Sure, there have been countless rumors and reports about Swift’s personal life. But it seems the only thing that affects her happiness, is her own happiness.

“Sometimes I’m so happy, I’m scared, if that makes any sense,” the songstress said. Given that she doesn’t believe an album cycle will unfold like this again, you can understand why she would think that – although you would almost want her to just be happy, for her own sake.

“I do that every time I win an award,” Swift said of why she questions the sustainability of her success, and maybe her happiness as well. “I just feel like, ‘This has got to be it.’ People are going to get sick of me, clearly. I’m always sick of me.”

There are layers to this. It isn’t as simple as Swift on an award show stage saying, “I can’t believe I won again.” Not only is the singer not able to wrap her head around the amount of success that she has achieved, but she is forecasting its sooner-than-later demise in her thoughts. But perhaps the motivation to maintain or surpass these heights on Swift’s next LP will prove to be a silver lining for her fans.

“For the fans that have invested their time and energy in to you, you want to make them proud,” Swift noted. “Also, you want to give them something different and new. You want to challenge yourself so that they don’t know what’s coming next.”

Does this mean that Swift will not be writing about her love life on the next album? Not necessarily.

“I’m a very confessional songwriter, and so my music is always different because my life is always different,” she explained. “So my responsibility is to make sure that sonically it’s still different too.”