Ahead of a music award show, there's usually tension-filled questions that viewers hope will be answered during the ceremony.
Who will shock? Who will flop? Who will win big?
But the big question heading into the inaugural iHeartRadio Music Awards on Thursday was simple yet crucial: Why?
In an already-crowded market of second-tier telecasts vying to be the viral, fun alternative to the prestigious Grammys, what purpose does this show have that the
During the three-hour, fan-voted telecast, that answer never came.
Touted by radio conglomerate
So what did that look like?
Inside the Shrine Auditiorm, the show's setup was a jarring collision of award show glamour and arena pizazz.
Superstars and industry leaches held court at tables as waiters passed around cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.
Below the VIP area, hundreds of fans were crammed like sardines into two pits that hugged the front of the stage (the balcony was backed with seated fans). But don't fret: The hours of brutal standing were soundtracked by a pair of DJs who kept the party moving.
The stage was designed to look like a sprawling, music-centric vision of Los Angeles with a massive billboard doubling as a video screen, the iHeartRadio logo built atop a faux building and music keys serving as skyscrapers.
Performers seemed to miss the intimate memo as well, opting for splashy showings.
The grandiose live displays continued throughout the evening. Usher jumped from table to table as he danced to a posthumous
Even country stalwart
The action stretched outside the Shrine as well, with
Performances were spliced in with musicians telling their "L.A. story," opening up about what brought them to the city and how it shaped their career.
But this was an awards show, too.
Rihanna scored big, taking home four awards, including artist and song of the year and best fan army.
"It's not easy, what we do. It's very difficult at times. I never felt comfortable being anything other than myself," Rihanna said, after arriving late (she was stuck in traffic).
Pharrell took home the night’s highest honor, iHeart Radio’s Innovator award, and was feted in a video package that featured a who's-who of celebs, including
"He was the person who made it cool to just be you," Beyonce said.
"You gotta believe in something bigger than yourself," Pharrell said. "I never dreamt in a million years as a producer that I would be standing here as an artist."
"All I did was write the songs," he continued. "You guys did all the rest."
But despite some weighty star power, the telecast lacked serious heft.
Plenty of winners were no-shows. Drake, a previously announced performer, never bothered to call in sick. Performances were largely forgettable, but maybe everyone is saving their juice for the Billboard Awards in a few weeks?
Ultimately the overwrought telecast (three hours are entirely too much time for this) was nothing more than a night out in L.A. -- expect all the cool kids stayed in.