After iHeartRadio’s 2014 debut into a crowded marketplace of award shows, our takeaway was less than enthusiastic. Maybe they'll matter next year, we hoped.
Walking out of the Shrine on Sunday night -- where the three-hour, fan-voted telecast was taped -- the results were clear: Nope.
It wasn't that the second edition of the awards, presented by the radio conglomerate formerly known as Clear Channel, lacked highlights. Rihanna channeled vintage Lil Kim in her new single “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Snoop Dogg continued his promising comeback and Justin Timberlake was honored. And Katy Perry's "left shark" made a triumphant return to the spotlight after his Super Bowl performance went viral (including this as a highlight shows what we’re dealing with here).
Only two years in, iHeartRadio's attempt to compete with the Grammys has a long way to go. Here are 10 moments that left us red with embarrassment:
1. Where was everybody? Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, Calvin Harris and Hozier were among the big winners. Of those, only Swift bothered to pick up the award in person, a save for producers considering she was the night’s lone multi-winner.
2. Madonna asking Taylor Swift to play backup. Listen, we get it. No award show is complete without showing as much of Swift as possible. If she's not performing, show her dancing or OMG-ing as one of her friends win an award. But Madonna recruiting Swift to play guitar felt less like a passing of the torch and more of a desperate attempt to be part of the conversation. Congrats, it worked.
3. Jamie Foxx as host. Foxx is a Grammy and Oscar winner, and he’s got enough charisma to sell ice to Eskimos. But many of his jokes landed with a thud. He said Bruce Jenner (who is reportedly transitioning from male to female) would perform a solo his-and-hers duet, and he approached an audience member and shouted “Hug me, white lady, it ain’t February.” Just when we thought he'd run out of ways to make us cringe, he performed (see No. 8).
4. Meghan Trainor. We are still hating on "Dear Future Husband," and that performance didn't help. Why was she dressed like a sailor? It felt like Christina Aguilera circa 2006, which itself is watered down '89 Cher.
5. Iggy Azalea being upstaged by her guests. It’s been a rough few months for the Australian rapper, and instead of trying to change the conversation by performing one of the harder, more inspired tracks on “Reclassified” she performed another duet. The safe, Jennifer Hudson-assisted “Trouble” didn't make much of an impression, apart from Hudson’s sexy cop outfit (and powerhouse voice) and surprise guest Nick Jonas in tight leather pants.
6. Audience retention. The number of people in the crowd who filed out of their VIP seats after Rihanna's performance was awkward, and a similar exodus followed after Madonna. Show producers should have known better, although Snoop picked things back up toward the end.
7. YG thinking this is better than a Grammy. "Since I didn’t get my Grammy nomination, this will do right here," said YG after winning hip-hop/R&B song ("Don't Tell 'Em"). No.
8. Jamie Foxx performed a new song. While it's great that Foxx managed to leverage a performance slot with his hosting duties, we still have no idea what that song was supposed to be. There was an energetic Chris Brown, who danced with glee (probably because he's finally off probation), and one of the best backing bands of the night for a song that sounded like a holdover from a 2001 Usher album. Maybe we'd care if this was a decade ago.
9. Jason Derulo. The pop-R&B heartthrob got us back in his corner last year with the catchy jam "Wiggle," but he lost us with the auto-tune heavy number he trotted out Sunday night. Great dancer, great vocalist, but these pop numbers are getting predictable. At least the screaming teenage girls in the balcony were happy.
10. Why not showcase any emerging talents? YG and Jeremih managed to beat out two Beyonce songs for awards (see No. 7), but why not give them stage time? Or Fifth Harmony? Or Vance Joy? Or Tove Lo? Or any rising act that’s getting serious radio airplay. Did we really need to see another Florida Georgia Line performance? We have other awards shows for that.
For more music news follow me on Twitter: @gerrickkennedy