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On Sunday I covered my fifth consecutive Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. I also acted as the on-stage warm-up act, hyping and prompting the crowd before the show and during commercial breaks, for my fourth year. Here are some news and notes from my perspective both on the Magenta Carpet and backstage.

– Any artist that actually stopped and did media on the carpet should get some type of award. The temperatures outside T-Mobile Arena were near triple digits. It was so hot outside that inside they actually blasted the air conditioning during rehearsals. Perhaps it was a nice way to test how cold the venue can become ahead of it receiving an NHL franchise?

– I brought a change of dress shirts to account for the weather. Almost everything I wore in both outfits came from my favorite designer, John Varvatos. The tuxedo pants were H&M and my flower and pocket square were both from TheTieBar.com.

– I’d hate to say I called it but… I called it. Celine Dion stole the show at the BBMAs. I had chills listening to 18,000 inside T-Mobile Arena sing-a-long to “My heart Will Go On.” Celine is beloved as an icon, her voice is still impeccable, the movie is adored and the song as of late has gained new life as a meme of sorts. It was one my second-favorite moment from Sunday night.

– Great running in to Dan Kanter backstage. I first met Dan in 2009 inside The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton; at the time he was playing guitar for this new artist… maybe you’ve heard of him… Justin Bieber? Kanter is Bieber’s musical director and assumed similar duties for Julia Michaels’ performance of “Issues” – which I was a big fan of.

– That Rachel Platten “La La Land” adlib was just that – it was not in the teleprompter. I got a kick out of it.

– Something I really loved about this year’s show is that the stars really seemed to be enjoying themselves. You had Young Money – Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake – front and center both literally and figuratively for the entire show. Instead of acting too cool for the room they decided to simply join in on the party. With Drake setting the new single-night record for awards, they had plenty to celebrate.

– One of my favorite backstage moments came when BK and Tyler from Florida Georgia Line walked off stage after accepting the BBMA for “Top Country Song.” The duo embraced, let out a Ric Flair-like “Woo!” and said to each other, “Man that never gets old!” Nice to see a genuine moment of gratitude between the two.

– Another cool backstage interaction involved Diddy, who was about to pay tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. and reveal the trailer for the new Bad Boy movie “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” The Chainsmokers were walking off the stage after accepting another award and Puff gave them a standing O before chatting with Alex and Drew for a few minutes. That’d be a fun collaboration right?

– Give credit to Vanessa Hudgens for holding her own on national TV and to Ludacris for once again making the whole hosting gig appear way easier than it actually is.

– Some other familiar faces that said hello backstage: Chris Daughtry, Miss America Savvy Shields, Mark Cuban and Hailee Steinfeld.

– I mentioned my second-favorite moment but not the one that tops the list. That honor belongs to my Mom. She was in the crowd cheering on her son while putting the video camera on her new-er iPhone to good use. I am thankful I was able to share the night with her.

It was a crazy six hours that saw nominees, presenters and performers all stop by our broadcast area as everyone prepared for the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. We chatted with everyone from the show’s co-host Ludacris, performers Jason Derulo, Halsey and Julia Michaels plus presenters Lindsey Stirling, Chris Daughtry and Hailee Steinfeld. Check out more below!







The original plan was to sit down here in Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport and write a piece about last night’s Billboard Music Awards, reflecting on the fact that I covered the show for my fifth consecutive year and spent my fourth year as the on-stage warm-up act.

But I can’t stop thinking about the victims of this explosion in Manchester outside of an Ariana Grande concert that has now left 22 dead and dozens more injured.

Part of my full-time job involves facilitating on-air contests for concert tickets. I think the best part of giving away seats to shows is when the winner is genuinely a huge fan of the artist performing. In some instances, we aren’t just giving away two tickets – we’re affording people the chance to witness someone or something that they may never see in person again. Tickets, along with the associated costs (fees, transportation, parking, merchandise, food) can get expensive. So it’s very possible that people who were attending Ariana’s show last night were seeing her for the first and/or only time. Maybe they received the tickets as a birthday or Christmas gift. The kids might have been saving part-time paychecks to attend. Perhaps the parents were scraping by around the holidays just to put a smile on their kid’s face. Or maybe they got lucky, called at the right time and won them on a radio station.

I don’t care how many I get to attend or send others to: it’s not lost on me that these can be once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

And the night should have reflected that, from the pandemonium of Ariana taking the stage to thousands of people singing along in unison to every lyric. Concerts can provide a sense of community. Everyone in that venue could have been anywhere else but they chose to spend their time and perhaps their hard-earned cash for a common cause: to escape the world’s troubles and have fun for a few hours.

Then a senseless act of violence changed all of that. Now 19 are dead, dozens more are injured and the world is once again shocked, saddened and rendered speechless.

I’m mourning for the families who lost loved ones and praying that those injured heal quickly and fully. I’m also thinking of Ariana and her team (who are all safe and OK) along with the countless other staff members that it takes to make something like an arena concert take place.

But most of all, I wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish that Ariana was simply continuing on with her European tour after an uneventful yet successful show in Manchester. I wish that evil didn’t rear its ugly head period, let alone at a concert attended by innocent children.

I will say though, one part of my original plan will certainly stay intact: I’m reflecting on last night with an immense amount of gratitude. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and those, nor our lifetime, should ever be taken for granted.

Miley Cyrus is back on the cover of “Billboard” and set to perform her new single “Malibu” for the first time next weekend on the 2017 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.

If it seems like déjà vu, well that makes sense. Back in 2013 Cyrus used The BBMAs as a springboard to promote her return from a three-year music hiatus. On the red carpet she talked about the comeback and “We Can’t Stop,” which would be released later that month to much fanfare.

“I don’t ever label anything,” Cyrus told me outside of the MGM Grand Garden Arena that May, while standing alongside Renaissance man will.i.am. The duo collaborated on “Feelin’ Myself” and the uber-melodic “Fall Down.” “All my party jams are real s— too. It’s all what I really need to say.”

And she said quite a bit with her fourth studio album and first on RCA, “Bangerz.” From the aforementioned lead single to the smash-hit “Wrecking Ball” followed by the tour to support the LP, Cyrus demolished any remnants of the “Hannah Montana” era.

Now seems that the songstress is in a different place. A better place? Maybe – you’d have to ask her. She’s rumored to be back on with fiancé Liam Hemsworth. She shouldn’t be judged for her appearance but from the Billboard cover this much is obvious: the edginess is either changed or gone altogether.

As for “Malibu” – well it certainly sounds more “real s—“ than “party jam” – not that Cyrus makes a distinction.

She started her career by teaming up with Semi Precious Weapons lead singer Justin Tranter and writing big hits for Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Hailee Steinfeld to name a few. But since deciding to keep the song “Issues” for herself and become an artist, Julia Michaels has gotten to experience a whole new side of the music industry.

On Monday morning, she had the chance to check another box off the list: live TV. Michaels’ first time in front of the camera without the safety net of a pre-tape came on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” She and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz revealed nominations for the 2017 Billboard Music Awards.

“A little nerve-wracking, I’m not going to lie,” Michaels told me of the experience backstage at GMA’s Times Square studios. “I have really bad performance anxiety. Apparently I can’t even talk without getting nervous!”

Michaels was thankful to have Wentz there though, a seasoned-pro at these things, to help her along. Despite Tranter penning FOB’s “Centuries,” it was the first time the two artists had met.

“He’s really calm,” she noted. “Super nice guy!”

Speaking of the nominations, The Chainsmokers and Drake took home the most, ever. Both acts tied the single-show nod record at 22 apiece. Twenty One Pilots checked in next on the list with 17, followed by Rihanna’s 14.

As for the aforementioned Bieber, he grabbed 7 – an impressive number considering the “Purpose” album cycle is finished. Michaels contributed to that LP; most notably co-writing “Sorry.”

“It was awesome,” Michaels said of her experience working on the album. “Actually, one of my favorite songs that I’ve written is a song called ‘The Feeling.’

“I wrote that after a break-up and I was talking to one of my friends, and I was just hysterically crying. And he was like, ‘OK, were you actually in love with him or were you in love with the feeling of being in love with him?’”

Immediately, the light bulb went off for Michaels. The song was co-produced by Skrillex and features singer Halsey, who coincidentally also scored 7 BBMA nods.

As for Michaels’ solo project, the singer is still pretty happy she made the decision to release the super-personal song “Issues” with her own voice. Michaels recently released the music video for the single and tells me that while originally thinking it would be followed by an EP, she may now opt for a full-length album because of the amount of writing she has done.

And yes, she’ll be at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, which air Sunday night, May 21 at 8 pm live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

I spent all of last week silent on Facebook, which no one probably noticed for a number of reasons: I was active on other social networks, I was still frequently in touch with family and friends and of course I was on live on the radio every weeknight.

To me, it felt weird. Last weekend I returned to Syracuse to catch the Orange (don’t get me started on the tournament snub) beat Georgia Tech and attend the annual WJPZ reunion dinner. On Monday I joined my friends on TV at “Chasing News” to talk about my Vinny Guadagnino interview. Wednesday I made the trek down to Brooklyn to watch the Orange lose in the first round of the ACC Tournament (and probably cement that aforementioned snub). And of course, I spent the week counting down the days until my trip to Las Vegas Tuesday, which yes I know might not even happen now with this pending blizzard.

But guess what? None of it mattered this week.

Saturday I was leaving the bookstore inside the Schine Student Center on SU’s campus when I looked down to see a new text notification on my BlackBerry. It was from a coworker with a link to an article on Billboard’s website.

My former colleague, Tommy Page, was found dead in an apparent suicide. I immediately felt numb.

I first met Tommy in May of 2009. I lived in Wilkes Barre, and was as Tommy would later refer to me, “a baby DJ.” At the time, Page was working A&R at Warner Bros. Records. He was so excited about his new act, a boy-band called V-Factory, that he decided to personally bring them by the studio for an interview.

Tommy and I hit it off right away, but to be honest a lot of it was more circumstantial; I think he immediately took a liking to me or at least gave me the benefit of the doubt because he was close with my Program Director at the time, A.J. He also was a bit fan of 97 BHT, particularly the station’s position in the market as the younger, hipper pop station that wasn’t afraid to lean rhythmic or electronic (example: WBHT broke Lady Gaga in the metro when other stations across the country declared that “Just Dance” was “too dance-y” – whatever that jargon means).

And of course, Tommy loved Northeastern Pennsylvania. He raved about his vacation home in East Stroudsburg, and also had recently purchased a fixer-upper in Jim Thorpe.

Tommy and I would spend 2010 through 2014 crossing paths at various events, either in New York or out in Los Angeles. I remember my first GRAMMYs; I attended Billboard’s after-party at The London in West Hollywood. Tommy was its publisher at the time, and immediately left his conversation when he saw me just to come over and say hello. That meant a lot.

Then in 2015, he joined our company as a Senior Vice President of Brand Partnerships. I enjoyed this because not only would I see Tommy in our building occasionally, but I’d get to work with him at some of our signature backstage broadcast events, including the Billboard Music Awards and the American Music Awards in addition to the aforementioned GRAMMYs.

The weekend after our first BBMAs working together in Vegas, Tommy and I both headed down the shore to Point Pleasant for 95.5 PLJ’s Summer Kick-Off. We sat down at the client party and talked about where the company was moving before he tasked me to help write a spec promo for an upcoming event we were working on called “Malibu Mansion Live.”

I’ll never forget, while music played and people partook in the open bar, Tommy and I sat alone in a corner of the room and wrote the script; Tommy throwing out ideas followed by me feverishly typing away on my BlackBerry and reading lines out loud to see what if any changes he wanted.

After a few more revisions, that promo was eventually voiced, produced and presented to company executives and our marketing department. The following November, Tommy and I were in Malibu for the two-night promotion that featured country singer Cam (who he sang “Happy Birthday” to while I walked out with a makeshift cake/candle for her), Nick Jonas, Tori Kelly and Fall Out Boy.

As the second, successful night winded down, Tommy pulled me aside.

“Remember when we first started talking about this and we wrote that promo in Point Pleasant?” he asked. “The whole thing came to life. It was like you and I wrote a hit record together.”

Of course, it was Tommy and his team that did all of the hard work. But coming from a guy who scored a number one hit in 1990 with the single, “I’ll Be Your Everything,” that compliment really struck a chord with me.

That was a unique trait of Tommy’s; working with others and making them feel like they belonged. It’s one of the reasons he was adored by so many, and certainly it’s one of the reasons why I and many others will miss him.

I don’t like holding on to a lot of physical mementos, especially ones that would require a UPS label or a potential over-packed suitcase.

This is primarily in reference to the award shows that I cover but extends to any other trip I make or event I attend. First, I have the priceless memories of those experiences. Second, if I do save something, it’s usually a hotel room key, a press credential or a ticket stub. I’ve saved the latter since first attending baseball games and wrestling matches as a kid. I read in Rolling Stone once that Springsteen also saves his room keys and I thought to myself, “If he isn’t too cool for that then neither am I.” Press credentials are also nice because like tickets and room keys, they are small, but they are also unique.

But this past GRAMMYs, something changed. It started on my first day in Los Angeles. I attended an event that Wednesday night (something I have never done before) so I could speak with Recording Academy President Neil Portnow and Conan O’Brien. Afterwards I had drinks with a colleague and we talked about all of the various award shows and “radio rows” that I’ve had the privilege of covering. I always tell people that despite the fact I’m at a lot of these, I never assume that I’ll be at the next show and I never take any of them for granted.

The conversation I had with that co-worker drove those points home on to a different level. I hope it reflected in my work, but I and my producer can tell you it was definitely reflected in my work ethic. Don’t get me wrong, I always bust my butt on the road. But this time there was a different pace and diligence to the process. I covered events, conducted interviews, hosted shows, Skype’d in a few TV hits and edited, edited, edited which was only followed by more editing… and a lot of distribution throughout the social networks, our dot-coms and most importantly, the airwaves.

We wrapped radio row that Friday – its official title is “Westwood One Backstage” – and my producer Jay asked me if I wanted an official GRAMMYs poster that he had all of the interviewees sign. We’ve done this in the past and I almost never take it home. First, I can’t be bothered with anything that doesn’t involve completing my work for the week and second, it’s not like I can shove it in a suitcase.

But again, this time was different. And I thought to myself that a year from now, I might not be at The GRAMMYs. So maybe I should take a second to reflect, be thankful and perhaps take another memento home – one that would look pretty cool on the wall framed, I might add.

On Sunday Jay and I attended The GRAMMYs, and as we walked out he handed me a program. The GRAMMY program is more encyclopedia than playbill in size. The old me would have discarded it; but this time was different. It found its way in to my luggage, which I had to check anyways because that’s what happens when you travel across the country for a week to work.

The poster made it home too thanks to the J.W. Marriott’s business center and the aforementioned UPS. It’s hanging in my bedroom.

When I had that chat with my colleague the night before radio row began, I retired back to my hotel room and told myself that no matter what happens, I better push myself to new limits and leave it all out there.

And by the end of the trip, I felt I had at the very least accomplished that… so I wanted to make sure I took a piece of it back with me too. I’m glad I did.

For day three of our broadcast with Westwood One Backstage at The 59th GRAMMYs we chatted with a bunch of current and former nominees while also speaking with a few friends-of-the-show. It was great to see Train’s Pat Monahan and Gavin DeGraw. I also interviewed Lukas Graham for the second time; the first time was at The GRAMMYs last year and now they’re up for three awards including Record and Song Of The Year, plus they’ll perform with Kelsea Ballerini. Noah Cyrus stopped by and compared me to her dad, LeAnn Rimes remembered her big GRAMMY wins from 20 years ago and Charli XCX explained how she chooses to collaborate with people before I brought up Selena Gomez to her.








So great to see a couple of current and possibly future GRAMMY nominees on my second day here in Los Angeles and our first day inside Staples Center for Westwood One’s Backstage at The GRAMMYs. I asked Mike Posner and Daya about the big day plus met Dua Lipa. Also, we chatted about a couple neighborhoods in Manhattan when “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Paige Mobley and singer/songwriter Max stopped by.




On my first day of coverage in Los Angeles for The 59th GRAMMYs, I attended The Recording Academy Producers And Engineers Wing 10th Annual event which honored 12-time GRAMMY winner Jack White. The artist’s friend Conan O’Brien was on hand and stopped to chat about his Patriots winning Super Bowl 51. I also spoke with Regina Spektor and Academy President Neil Portnow.