On Saturday, I broadcasted live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas ahead of Sunday night’s Billboard Music Awards. Our Westwood One Backstage event included Troye Sivan, Seal, Alesso, Fat Joe, Vegas-staple Carrot Top and more.
Jonas Blue is a London-based producer who currently has one of the biggest songs on Spotify with his re-imagined version of the Tracy Chapman classic, “Fast Car.” The DJ called in to my show to chat about how he discovered the track’s singer Dakota and his interesting connection to superstar Sam Smith.
There’s one big difference between Sunday night’s Billboard Music Awards and every other music award show on television: the winners are a true reflection of not just what fans like, but what they actually consume and spend money on.
“Those charts are what make our award show,” Billboard’s co-director of charts, Keith Caulfield, told me this week. “That’s the beauty of it. This award show is truly based on your performance on the Billboard charts throughout the year.”
The BBMAs serve as an annual scoreboard of sorts for the music industry’s biggest names. We’ll find out where the stars rank Sunday night at 8 p.m. on ABC.
“Billboard gets to honor the most popular artists, albums and songs of the past year on a great TV show, and we get to have amazing performances and it’s a star-studded event,” Caulfield said. “I’m really looking forward to the show.”
The list of performers alone could make this year’s program one of the more memorable in recent memory. Britney Spears, receiving the Millennium Award, will perform a medley of her hits. Justin Bieber will do the same. Rihanna is slated to sing on the show, almost exactly 10 years to the date she scored her first Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper. And Madonna will perform a tribute to the late Prince.
That doesn’t even scratch the surface: Celine Dion, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, Nick Jonas and Tove Lo, Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor, Fifth Harmony, Pink and Ariana Grande are also set to take the stage inside the brand new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
As for the awards, The Weeknd is a finalist in 16 categories, leading all artists. Bieber follows him with nods in 11 categories. Taylor Swift and Adele are each a finalist in eight categories. Perhaps taking a cue from Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video premiere at last year’s BBMAs, Adele will unveil her video for the single, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” during the broadcast Sunday.
Appropriately, Swift holds the all-time high mark for wins at the show with 20. Adele has the record for most wins in one night with 12, which she scored back in 2012 off the success of “21.”
The Billboard Music Awards are produced by dick clark productions. Westwood One, the radio network owned by Cumulus Media, is once again an official partner of this year’s show. For the fourth consecutive year, I will broadcast from Las Vegas for the BBMAs. In addition to interviewing stars backstage Saturday and on the red carpet Sunday, we’ll have a full recap from Vegas on Monday evening.
In episode number four of “2 Slices & A Story,” Parachute lead singer Will Anderson explained how he and two of his three siblings ended up in New York after growing up in Virginia, and what his first gig in the city was like.
Fresh off the release of her well-received sophomore LP ‘Better,’ Haley Reinhart stopped by to perform for listeners and chat about the new album, future plans with Casey Abrams and Postmodern Jukebox plus how she landed a gig on Bill Burr’s “F Is For Family.”
Nick Hissom, singer/songwriter/model/friend of the show, stopped by to chat about his new EP, ‘Love Energy’ and single, “Where You Are.” Hissom also talked about balancing a modeling career with an Ivy League education at UPenn and who inspired his latest single.
Justin Timberlake made his fans wait almost seven years between the release of his third and fourth albums. In 2013, he dropped part one and two of “The 20/20 Experience” before embarking on both a solo world tour and a co-headlining stadium jaunt throughout North America with Jay Z.
He also became a father, as his wife Jessica Biel gave birth to son Silas last April.
So after a two-part album, a massive tour and a child, it was reasonable to expect that we wouldn’t be hearing from Timberlake any time soon, especially given his previous hiatus.
But who says the music industry has to be reasonable?
Timberlake returned to the radio airwaves last Friday with the release of “Can’t Stop This Feeling!” – an up-tempo, feel-good jam that has “song of the summer” written all over it. The song was literally written by JT along with super-producers Max Martin and Shellback. It serves as the first single from the upcoming soundtrack to the movie, “Trolls.” Timberlake is a voice in the animated film and also takes on the roll of the movie soundtrack’s executive producer. Other stars lending their voice to the film (along with their face to the song’s music video) include Anna Kendrick, Gwen Stefani, James Corden and the duo Icona Pop.
As for Timberlake’s fifth studio album, the pop star has confirmed that it is in the works. An industry source said to possibly look for something in the release-heavy fourth quarter of this year. It seems that this time around, the LP is far from a covert-operation: JT has posted photos on his Instagram depicting him in the studio with both Timbaland and Pharrell, two producers he has history with. Timberlake has also been seen on Instagram with members of Little Big Town and on stage at the CMA Awards with breakout star Chris Stapleton.
“Uh, well… take your hard drive with you,” was Justin’s response on my radio show in September of 2013 when I asked him how he prevented “The 20/20 Experience” from leaking. “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” found its way on to music blogs less than an hour before the originally scheduled iTunes release.
“That’s a good question,” he continued before joking, “I don’t know how. I mean, we just threaten people!”
Timberlake’s name and reputation alone command respect, and that was none-the-more evident in the reverence that radio stations exhibited when promoting and then playing the song. “Can’t Stop” debuted on mainstream pop radio at an astounding 24. At adult pop radio, the song starts off at 19, a personal-high for Timberlake.
If early numbers are any indication, the song will serve as both a solid lead-in for the film, due in theatres November 4, and Timberlake’s TBA LP.
She had never released an album with no country music singles. She had never sent seven singles, all which charted in the top 20 or higher, to pop radio from one album. And now, according to Big Machine Label Founder Scott Borchetta, Taylor Swift is about to do something else for the first time in her career: wait more than two years before releasing her next album.
“I think that if Taylor was standing right beside us… I think everyone knows, her fans especially know that she never stops writing,” Borchetta replied when I asked him if Swift’s most recent LP cycle was finished. “Now is no different than ever. But as far as the album cycle, this will be the first time that we break that “every-two-year” album cycle, and there’s not a time when I call her and say, ‘Hey, pal it’s time to get a record.’”
To say Swift accomplished a lot with “1989” would be an understatement: the seven aforementioned singles including a handful of number one hits, her third straight LP to debut platinum, a GRAMMY for Album Of The Year and a world tour that sold out the biggest venues on the planet.
“Yunno, she’ll call me. She’ll know when she’s ready,” Borchetta continued. “And then she’ll be the one to announce to the world when the next music is coming.”
The singer broke the norm and called her own shots from start to finish. She revealed details about the album and debuted the single “Shake It Off” with a live-stream from New York on Yahoo. Swift took on one of the biggest companies in the world when Apple didn’t want to pay royalties to artists for the trial period of its new streaming service. Not only did the “Blank Space” artist compel Apple to change its stance, but she then partnered with the company for one of the more hilarious commercials in recent memory.
And don’t forget, before Apple, Swift defined the conversation around streaming services when she pulled her catalog from non-premium sites such as Spotify’s free, ad-supported version.
“#Taylurking” became a thing when the LP dropped and with it, Swift redefined how artists in this day and age interact with their fans. She commented on their Tumblr posts, replied to them on Instagram, mailed them gifts and invited them to her house for secret listening sessions.
But perhaps most profoundly, in the era of the “selfie,” she showed her fans that having a group of friends (“squad goals”) is cool. This notion was even on display with the album cycle as well: the cameo-filled music video for “Bad Blood” featured many of her “squad-mates” and won the top categories at both The GRAMMYs and The MTV Video Music Awards.
Right to the end, Swift attempted to delineate how albums (which she stressed to me in 2014 are still something of both importance and value) are marketed. “New Romantics” was the seventh single from the LP. It wasn’t even on the main album listing as it served as a bonus track, yet still cracked the top 20 on pop radio.
So yes, Swift has dropped an album every two years since her 2006 debut and we’re probably not getting one in 2016. But even if her “Swifties” have to wait a little longer than normal for Swift’s next project, it’s not like this last one will be going out of style anytime soon.
Melanie Martinez stopped by to chat about her album “Cry Baby” and the single “Pity Party,” which samples the classic “It’s My Party.” Martinez also shed some light on why she recently lost her voice, her butterflies during concerts and the music videos she is planning for every song on her LP.