The 2013 Billboard Music Awards host on Bieber, T-Swift, his childhood favorites and his best musical "SNL" impression.
"I see treeeees of greeeeen, red roses tooooo …"
Ten years after leaving "Saturday Night Live," Tracy Morgan's eyes still light up when he morphs his voice into a gravelly croon for a pitch-perfect Louis Armstrong impression. He brings "What a Wonderful World" to a quick halt, flashes a warm smile and says with utmost sincerity, "I love to sing that song."
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The unhinged energy that has been Morgan's calling card for nearly two decades-first on "SNL," then "30 Rock," and with years of stand-up experience-becomes something else entirely whenever he discusses music: a giddy enthusiasm rooted in deep reverence for classic R&B, hip-hop, jazz and pop music. The host of the 2013 Billboard Music Awards says that Michael Jackson is his favorite artist and can gab without end about Rakim's lyrical skills, but he can also appreciate the itch that Justin Bieber's music scratches for a younger generation. "When I was coming up, we had our 'Double Dutch Bus,' we had New Edition. I'm a 44-year-old man, but I can appreciate the skills. I respect what he does for that generation," Morgan says.
"When I was little, my father was a musician and vocalist, so there was always music playing in the household," he continues. "I listen to classics a lot -- it sparks nostalgia for me... But I'm also paying attention to people like Miguel, Taylor Swift, Jay-Z and Kanye West."
After hosting the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors in 2008 and 2009, Morgan says that being the MC for the Billboard Music Awards is a special opportunity for a longtime music lover. "It's the music industry! And I get to be a part of that. It's awesome," Morgan says. And although he's continued doling out button-pushing comedy on his current Excuse My French stand-up tour (running through June) after "30 Rock" aired its last episode in January, Morgan admits that he's mulled a full-fledged music project. After all, fans still ask him about "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah," the tossed-off "30 Rock" musical gag that has developed something of a cult following.
"My son [Tracy Morgan Jr.] is a producer-maybe one day we'll cut an album of covers," Morgan says. "It'd be old-school R&B classics: El DeBarge, maybe a few Michael Jackson tunes, the Isley Brothers, New Edition. Who knows? Maybe someday."