Of the nominees for MTV's first Rising Star category at this weekend's European Music Awards, a category voted on by fans via hashtags on social media, Austin Mahone has something of an unfair advantage.
Not only does he have 6.2 million fans on Facebook and another 4.5 million followers on Twitter, he recently leveraged that popularity to win the similarly themed Artist To Watch award at this August's MTV VMAs. And even before voting opened on Monday, he's been actively promoting the EMA votes on his social pages, even including the link in the header of his Twitter profile.
Mahone for Your Money
He won't, however, be able to attend this weekend's awards in Amsterdam as he recovers from a recent hospitalization from a blood clot, fever and "extreme" throat inflammation in mid-October, which also caused him to postpone his MTV Artist to Watch tour.
"I'm not gonna be able to be there for this one, but I'll be watching and listening," Mahone tells Billboard from his home in Miami, where he's recuperating for a tour with Clear Channel's Jingle Ball franchise in December. "Just being nominated is amazing. There's so many incredibly talented artists. My fans, they voted for me at the VMAs, and I wouldn't be able to say that I have accomplished that without them. At the end of the day, they're just amazing."
The 17-year-old singer is also readying the release of his new single "Banga Banga," due Sunday Nov. 10, produced by Sean Garrett (Usher's "Yeah," Ciara's "Goodies") and "not as poppy" as his previous singles like "What About Love" and "Say Somethin." Says Mahone, "I like different styles of music, so I wanted to put something a little feisty out there. It's a little different, a little more mature."
He's also putting the final touches on his full-length debut for Republic Records, due in 2014, which will see an additional collaboration with Flo Rida and maybe one or two other to-be-determined guests. "It's coming along amazing – I'm just trying to have every little detail and just make it absolutely perfect for my fans," Mahone says.
The EMAs are set to air in the U.S. this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on MTV, and Rising Star is socially-driven fan-voted award sponsored by Wrigley's 5 Gum (voting closes Friday, Nov. 8, at 11:59 p.m. CET.) Nominees for the inaugural category are voted for via custom hashtags on Twitter, Instagram and Vine – the artists are Lorde (#votelorde), Ariana Grande (#votearianagrande), Austin Mahone (#voteaustinmahone), Cher Lloyd (#votecherlloyd), Cody Simpson (#votecodysimpson) and Bridgit Mendler (#votebridgitmendler).
With a global roster of nominated artists (Lorde is from New Zealand, Simpson is from Australia, Lloyd is from the UK and Grande, Mahone and Mendler are all States-based), Wrigley saw an ideal opportunity to localize the conversation around its new 5 Focus Gum — nevermind that there ended up being six nominees, and not five for each of the senses the gum seeks to activate.
"It's not about being so literal as it is about identifying artists on the rise who are global in scale with a social following that makes it intense," says Rachel Baumgarten, MTV Music Group's senior VP of integrated marketing. "And intensity is a lot about what the brand is about – this intense hint of mint. So we're marrying that with the intense voting from big social fan bases, and are really excited about tapping into this intensely heated competition."
"We applaud the nominated up-and-coming artists who embody the spirit of 5 gum – the chewing gum to Stimulate your Senses," adds Anne Marie Splitstone, senior director of the gum category at Wrigley. "We are thrilled to give fans worldwide a unique opportunity to cast their votes, while building excitement around the new 5 Focus gum and celebrating these impressive emerging artists."