Archives For AMAs

A lot of things felt different about my latest trip out to Los Angeles for The 2017 American Music Awards. I think a lot of that was rooted back in New York; I didn’t book my flight until about two weeks out and it was my first cross-country trek since I packed up and moved downtown in to my new apartment. The move, along with a change in schedule at work and my marathon training/completion have all hindered me from settling in to a new routine. That’s fine; I am flexible and can work around life events. But it doesn’t mean it comes easy; especially relative to my prior routine.

For example: my dry cleaners and wash-and-fold also handle my alterations. Most of their services could be turned around in 24 hours and they are located a block away from my old apartment on the route I’d walk to take the subway to-and-from the studio. The woman who cuts my hair is also still on the Upper West Side and was a five minute cab ride from my prior place.

I now live 30-40 minutes away from both. Grocery shopping? Still haven’t found a one-stop-shop in the hood. Cobbler or computer repair technician? Probably will still go to my old stomping grounds uptown for those.

Before I moved, I had trip preparation down to a science; it actually got to the point where my getaway day (24 hours before my flight) because rather relaxing because I was able to accomplish every errand necessary the prior weekend. On this trip, my getaway day was jam-packed and there were at least two or three tasks I didn’t complete.

When I landed in LA, I had to drop off dry cleaning (which I forgot to pickup), shop for clothes and buy a wireless keyboard from Target because my laptop’s enter button is broken (need to find a new computer guy). Then, I attempted to compensate for the craziness of the lead-in to the long weekend by not going out as much during my trip. The positive from this is that I was able to both publish all of the content I hoped for while also getting a little bit of sleep; the negative is that socializing with colleagues can be one of the more important and enjoyable parts of the experience.

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Friday and Saturday went as planned with one caveat: I feel like for whatever reason, perhaps one aforementioned, I was focused more on the content and my radio show than myself. For example, I don’t think I stressed as much about my wardrobe this time around. I also never really went out of my way to get good photos of me on each day in front of the step-and-repeat. But I encountered another curveball on Sunday: my job responsibilities changed. For the first time in my five years of covering the AMAs, I did not have a red carpet or one-on-one room assignment. Heck, I didn’t even have a credential; rather a VIP ticket in the orchestra level of the Microsoft Theater. So I used my free time during the day to get a little more work done and check out my Buffalo Bills, who happened to be in town and playing the Los Angeles Chargers in StubHub Center.

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The positive? I got to experience my first live NFL game on the west coast, support my hometown team and check out a new venue.

The negative? I’m a Buffalo sports fan, and sadly nothing has felt different about that since I was a kid.

Some news and notes after Sunday night’s American Music Awards broadcast from my vantage point as an audience member inside Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater…

– Fun fact: This was my first time actually watching the AMAs from the crowd? My previous four years were spent in the press room. I was given a VIP Orchestra seat and hung out with my fellow Cumulus Media/Westwood One colleagues.

– There were other familiar faces nearby though – Rachel Platten was at the end of the row in front of us! Always love when she and I have a chance to catch up. Rachel is heading to New York for Thanksgiving; she’ll be singing for children in local hospitals on Turkey Day. How amazing is that? Not-so-amazing: after we snapped this selfie, a waiter walking up the aisle spilled a cup of ice on her. Thankfully, no harm no foul.

– During his opening, Jamie Foxx went a bit off script. Ahead of the broadcast, the instructions given to us by Executive Producer Larry Klein were that we were to stay seated and quiet for Jamie’s speech and the P!nk/Kelly Clarkson performance, saving our energy for the opening credits. But Foxx had a different plan, asking everyone to make noise and stand. It contracted what we heard and it might have come off weird on TV because Foxx was the only person lit for the entire segment.

– Especially considering it didn’t happen right in front of us on stage, the audience inside Microsoft Theater was really captivated by the P!nk “Beautiful Trauma” performance. dick clark productions really outdid itself again – Drake performing in the Bellagio fountains for the Billboard Music Awards was epic. You could say the latest stunt reached new heights…

– The BTS phenomenon was fun to witness in real life. Every time the guys stood up, the audience screamed. Every time there was a cut-away shot to the guys, the audience screamed. It got so bad that I’m pretty sure producers had to stop showing some of the cut-aways in the venue because the suddenly loud screams were probably startling performers. And there was just as much noise outside; over 5,000 people gathered in L.A. Live to try and catch a glimpse of the K-Pop boy band.


– When the crowd figured out during the commercial break that BTS was next to perform, well… here’s what it looked and sounded like…

– Some of my personal favorite performances: Demi Lovato, Niall Horan, Shawn Mendes and Portugal. The Man. Demi sang to a track for the chorus of “Sorry Not Sorry” but had no backing vocals on the verses, which she slayed.


– Final fun fact: In order to get everyone in their seats so the place looks full when the broadcast begins, the venue shut down concessions 15 minutes prior to the show’s start. As soon as the AMAs went live on ABC, the alcohol began flowing again… or at least, that’s what a well-placed source told me.

It was the day before The 2017 American Music Awards and we were very, very busy at our backstage perch by Microsoft Theater. The day started with a visit from K-Pop boy band BTS. Demi Lovato, Bebe Rexha and many more swung through as well to talk about the AMAs, holiday plans and more. Watch and listen below!



A number of familiar faces stopped by day one of our backstage broadcast from the American Music Awards in downtown Los Angeles. We caught up with Kelly Clarkson, Julia Michaels, Walk The Moon and many more artists – watch and listen below.




Sure some women grow up with the dream of one day becoming Miss America – but how many of them also envision the crown’s travel schedule, which involves a different state every 48 hours?

“I live in airports and in hotels out of my suitcase,” the current titleholder, Savvy Shields, told me on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The two of us chatted for a few minutes on the third floor of the Good Morning America building after her TV appearance. “It’s been good. I don’t really remember much of it so that’s why I’m trying to journal and if I look at my social media then I remember everything I did.”

The journal idea was something Shields, who represented the state of Arkansas in last year’s competition, mentioned to me when we chatted the day after she won. Since that interview, the 21 year-old hasn’t sat still, but has experienced some cool moments including a trip to the American Music Awards where she joined Florida-Georgia Line on stage.

“(B.K. and Tyler) were fantastic,” she noted. “I mean, we’re southern people so we get along right away.”

With Shields’ personality, it’s hard to envision her not getting along with anyone, nor is it a stretch to think that she’s now getting recognized throughout these travels.

“I’ve gotten a lot of ‘Are you on TV?’” she said. “So it’s like, they know who I am, but it’s not until I have the crown on that they put two-and-two together.”

And contrary to popular belief, Shields isn’t always wearing the crown. Matter of fact, it wasn’t on her head at the AMAs; that and her new hair style that night which featured bangs lead yours truly to not recognize the titleholder, an occurance Shields did not let me forget during our interview. However she also joked that there is another time when people don’t realize she’s Miss America.

“If it’s an ‘airport day,’ they don’t really believe me,” Shields said. “So I mean it really depends!”

There are certainly more “airport days” on her docket, but also some once-in-a-lifetime destinations such as the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards, both of which take place this spring. “Miss America” is produced by Dick Clark Productions, which also handles all of the aforementioned award shows along with “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” another show that Shields participated in. The Arkansas-native didn’t seem to mind the December climate in New York too much.

“Maybe it’s everyone dancing that’s making it not as cold?” she wondering out loud. “I was expecting to be layered in like 7 parkas but I’m actually just down to one so we’re good to go.”

Hopefully for Shields that meant not having to pack or travel with as much; right after witnessing the ball drop she skipped the champagne toast and received an escort out of Times Square to grab a head start on the next part of her never-ending itinerary. Although I’m sure at this point, she couldn’t envision her night any other way.

It is impossible to look back on pop music in 2016 and not talk about The Chainsmokers. Alex Pall and Drew Taggart created two of the year’s biggest hits: the infectious “Don’t Let Me Down” that features 18 year-old Daya and “Closer,” an inescapable duet that Halsey assists on. “Don’t Let Me Down” was the most spun track on pop radio this year and using that particular metric, also the song of the summer. “Closer” spent 12 weeks atop both the Billboard Hot 100 and pop radio airplay charts. Combined with “Roses,” a song that they enlisted an artist named Rozes to sing, the duo sold 10 million singles in the U.S. alone.

Those songs helped The Chainsmokers score an American Music Award in 2016 and three GRAMMY nominations for the award show this February, including Best New Artist.

But as improbable as the DJs success may be (even Pall and Taggart admit they wouldn’t have settled on “The Chainsmokers” had they realized their staying power), what is crazier is that the group’s first two singles are all-but-forgotten about: the novelty track’s “#SELFIE” and “Kanye.”

“’Closer’ wasn’t their first hit,” is the response I received from Jake Miller, a friend of Pall and Taggart’s, recently when I brought up how impressed I was that they were able to shift from tongue-in-cheek records to the highly-coveted lane of radio-friendly pop music. I reminded him that “#SELFIE” was guys’ first single.

“It’s funny you say that because I don’t even think of them for that song,” Miller continued – a sentiment that many probably share and that certainly speaks to how massive the subsequent singles have been. “I honestly completely forgot they did that song.”

For The Chainsmokers, that might be a good thing. Nonetheless, the guys still don’t seem to be taking themselves too seriously.

“We go in with like, low expectations… very low expectations,” Taggart told me before the artists performed “Closer” and won “Favorite Electronic/Dance Music Artist” at the AMAs. “But regardless to be a part of the pop community now and have our work recognized is awesome.”

And the DJs aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Pall and Taggart just dropped a music video for “Setting Fires” off of their EP “Collage.” The duo is also back in the studio creating new music.

“I think the stuff we’re working on now we’re most excited about,” Pall said. “I don’t know if that’s because it’s newest, but it just feels different and exciting. We’re pumped about it.”

The Chainsmokers recently posted on Snapchat a clip of them in the studio with Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, an experience that Taggart characterized as “crazy” because the guys grew up listening to his band.

“I think a lot of the music that’s already been out from us is heavily-inspired by Coldplay, especially the emotion that Coldplay has; that melancholy, bitter-sweet emotion that they get in all their songs,” he explained.

Taggart explained that his first goal was to “be cool” and attempt to catch a vibe with the lead singer. Neither man would reveal if they were working on a Chainsmokers project or something for Coldplay’s future (the band recently revealed that an EP was on the way after 2017), but Pall promised that whatever they’re working on, it’s “dope.”

Given the duo’s track record, I’ll take their word for it.

It is no secret that “Hamilton” is still Broadway’s hottest, most-impossible ticket even without its original cast. And Travis Clark, lead singer of We The Kings, makes no secret of his successful ploy that ended up landing him far beyond the original intent of simply watching the show live.

“I was like, ‘Hey if we cover this song, maybe like somebody would hear it and then we could get tickets,’” Clark explained to me recently. The song he took aim at was “The Story Of Tonight,” a reoccurring theme in the production. “So I cover the song. I literally play it for about two days in my studio. Our version is much different than Manuel-Miranda’s.”

After all, “Hamilton” fuses Broadway musicals with hip-hop and a history lesson. We The Kings is a pop-rock band. But Clark’s version found an audience online.

“Somebody sent it to (Manuel-Miranda’s) publicist team,” the front man continued. “And he responded to us and said, ‘Hey, that track is dope. If you’re ever in the city, let me know.’”

That interaction motivated Clark to release the cover as a single. He and his bandmates then traveled to Manhattan, caught the show and linked up afterwards with the cast. But the singer’s relationship to the Tony Award-winning musical didn’t end there. Manuel-Miranda went as far as to tweet a link to the iTunes release of We The Kings’ re-work.
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“That was unexpected a little bit,” Clark revealed. “We just wanted his good graces for us to put the song out.”

The singer, noting that We The Kings doesn’t make any money from the sales because it’s not the band’s song, didn’t want to proceed if the Broadway star wasn’t cool with it. Manuel-Miranda went a step further, not only offering the green light but then voluntarily promoting the work as well.

Like many others, Clark gushed about the performance, calling “the absolute best one, by so far” that he’s witnessed. The artist could also relate to the cast members on a professional level.

“I love touring, I love being on the road,” he said. “They play multiple shows a day. That’s tough, man. It’s tough on your voice. There’s so much that I looked up to them and admired them for.”

We The Kings certainly know a thing or two about touring; the band has become a stalwart and the de-facto elder-statesmen on the Vans Warped Tour. Clark and company played the annual festival for their 6th year this past summer.

“We know, like (when younger bands) are like, ‘Hey should we go to catering now?’ We’re like, ‘No, you want to wait an hour.’

“We’re giving people advice, because it’s like their first Warped Tours.”

It’s almost as if Clark is paying back a debt of gratitude he owes to the festival. You might even say it’s quite Hamiltonian of him.

A few weeks ago John Legend held an album listening party for his forthcoming LP “Darkness and Light” at the Samsung 837 event space in New York City’s Meatpacking District. After playing a handful of unreleased cuts, the singer talked about the influence his gospel music background had on this new album.

And of course, if you’re familiar with Legend’s story, you know that Northeastern Pennsylvania played a role in that background. The “All Of Me” artist was the choir director at Bethel AME Church in Scranton while attending the University of Pennsylvania. When I brought this up to Legend recently in Los Angeles, he smiled and reminisced about his time in NEPA.

“A lot of it was just driving back-and-forth (between Philadelphia and Scranton) and then being tired and having to study and I was in an a capella group at school too so I was doing a lot of stuff at school,” he recalled. “And then every weekend I would come up to Scranton and I have a lot of fond memories. I have a lot of great friends that I made during that time that I stay in touch with.
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“It was a great time in my life; and even when I moved to New York, I would still drive over to Scranton every once in a while and play at the church. I love the folks in Scranton and Bethel AME Church.”

Legend didn’t say if anyone in Scranton has already heard his fifth studio album, but he did reveal that he’s played it for a few people.

“Well the reception has been amazing so far,” he replied when I inquired about how the new music has been received. “A lot of my friends that have listened to it think it’s my best album yet. I think it is too, but I always think that after every album so I won’t even let myself be the judge. I’ll just let the fans be the judge, but I’m really proud of it and I can’t wait for everybody to hear it.”

“Love Me Now” is the album’s first single; Legend performed it for the first time on a major award show at the American Music Awards. The song is inspired by his relationship with wife Chrissy Teigen. The couple’s very public marriage, along with his newborn daughter Luna, both serve as subject matters on the LP.

“Darkness and Light” features cameos from Chance The Rapper, Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard and R&B crooner Miguel. Legend enlisted Blake Mills, who worked on Alabama Shakes’ last LP, to produce “Darkness.” The album is in stores now.

Some news and notes from the American Music Awards red carpet…
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– Yes the rain was a major, major factor on the carpet and its impact on arrivals almost cannot be overstated. More on that here.

– It’s so nice to attend these and see familiar faces, whether it be publicists, fellow members of the media or artists. On the press front, great seeing The Insider’s Keltie Knight, Sweetyhigh’s Cassie DiLaura, the whole Sirius XM Hits 1 squad and Hollywire’s Chelsea Briggs.

– As far as artists and other invited guests: loved saying hello to Mark Cuban, Rachel Platten, Daya and Bebe Rexha, the latter who performed for Westwood One the night prior at our “Rooftop Live” event inside downtown Los Angeles’ Perch. Rexha’s catalog of hits she either penned and/or is featured on is impressive, and I’m rooting for her latest release “I Got You.”

– What I loved the most about the weather: the temperature. I’m used to melting every year on the AMAs red carpet; far from the case this year. I usually end up drinking 3 or 4 bottles of water in the process. I maybe drank one for the two-and-a-half hours I was out there.

– Another interesting note about my role: it changes from year-to-year on the carpet. This year, I served two purposes: grab content for my radio stations’ platforms as well as nationally and assist our red carpet reporter, Kerri Kasem, when necessary.

– After the red carpet, it was off to the one-on-one room. When the show wrapped, I dropped equipment at my room, called my mom, poured a drink and waited for my producer, Jay Buff, to arrive. After a quick download of the night’s events we put it all in the past and walked over to the after party. That was followed by an after-after party in where else, but the hotel lobby. We then ordered food from my favorite spot downtown, L.A. Café and devoured the grub before joining two different morning radio shows for American Music Awards recaps.

Eventually, I slept.

The genesis of my American Music Awards recap has become tradition: I usually begin typing it immediately after I check out of my hotel in downtown Los Angeles. My morning after the American Music Awards technically starts at the after-party. Then there’s an after-after party with my colleagues. That is followed by food, caffeine and a few live morning radio spots to handle. If I’m lucky, I catch about five hours of sleep before I wake up and begin taping my now (also) traditional AMA recap show, including interviews with some of the winners and performers from Sunday night’s show.

Then I finish editing video from the weekend, sneak in a two mile run, shower, pack and head to the lobby. I’m here now. Green Day’s drummer Tré Cool just walked by me with a security guard in tow. He tried to play it incognito with a forward-facing beige beret tucked down over a big pair of black sunglasses, but the aqua hair splaying out from the side was a dead giveaway. Coincidentally, I also saw him last night at the official American Music Awards after-party, before I ran into and met the band’s bassist, Mike Dirnt.

“I owned the ‘Dookie’ album on cassette!” I exclaimed. I may have had an alcoholic beverage or two at this point.

“I still own it on cassette!” Dirnt shot back. We snapped a quick selfie and went our separate ways.

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It’s nice to have tradition and routine; “typical” experiences like the aforementioned regarding two-thirds of Green Day.

But the unexpected can be just as, if not more entertaining. I wasn’t expecting to wake up Sunday to an overcast, mid-60’s day in downtown LA. Tents were pitched above the red carpet in L.A. Live, the area outside of Microsoft Theatre where the award show took place. And then, something took place that I don’t think has ever occurred in the history of the AMAs.

It rained. Steady, unforgiving rain. It even brought some wind. And people here lost it. The tents leaked. Puddles formed in front of the platforms where reporters and producers were frantically trying to adjust.

And as for the celebrities in attendance… to be honest, I think most of them don’t always need an excuse not to walk an entire red carpet. Even with our prime position for arrivals, we didn’t witness many first-hand. Gigi Hadid walked, or rather scurried by, clearly trying to get back inside to go over lines. Her co-host, the very relaxed and jovial Jay Pharoah stopped over to chat. Niall Horan was another one that sticks out; the Irishman talked with us ahead of his performance which was the first time he performed at the AMAs without his fellow One Direction mates.

As for our one-on-one room backstage, it is actually on the roof of a parking garage adjacent to the venue. If an artist wanted to stop by, they had to walk out of the venue.

In the rain.

We didn’t see too many familiar faces there, either. The very gracious Tim McGraw stopped by (greeting me with a “Hey, Ralphie boy!”). Maroon 5 hit the photo area before the band closed out the show with a performance of “Don’t Wanna Know” – I presume so that they could head home immediately after getting off stage.

After all, the rain along with two events at the Staples Center next door and the AMAs made for quite the traffic predicament in Los Angeles. But that’s expected around here.

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