Comments by Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Motley Crue and Duran Duran made backstage at the 2004 Billboard Music Awards.
Although his 2004 Roc-A-Fella debut, "The College Dropout," earned him four Billboard Music Awards, including rap artist of the year, Kanye West is not resting on his laurels. The artist is already at work on his sophomore set, which will include a collaboration with singer/songwriter John Mayer on the track "Bittersweet."
West admitted he's having a hard time adjusting to all the praise. "I made an album where I outdid myself," he said. "I tried to make an album I felt would be a time capsule for this decade. [But] these are serious subjects I'm talking about. That's the reason the album had so many skits. I'm one of the few rappers people can look to and say, "Look at this guy. It's okay to listen to rap music."
Alicia Keys is primarily thought of as an R&B artist, but she has an intriguing wish list of artists with whom she'd like to work one day. "I'd love to collaborate with Gwen Stefani, the Rolling Stones, Queens Of The Stone Age, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Santana. The list goes on. There's so many," she said.
As for being on hand to see Wonder receive the Billboard Century Award, she added, "I think he's one of the most incredible human beings on this planet. Sometimes you meet people that you love and you wish you hadn't met them, because it ruins your image, but he's one of them who is exactly like you'd hoped he would be."
Gretchen Wilson, who won the female country and new country artist of the year awards, confessed she is blown away by how much her life has changed in the past year. What was she doing 12 months ago? "Running after my kid, living in a pretty small house just outside of Nashville, singing demos and writing songs and showcasing myself for record labels every chance I got," she said. "You know, so much has happened in the last eight months, and it has happened so fast for me, that I think it's probably going to be a little while before I can actually even absorb everything that's happened."
Stevie Wonder has received just about every honor imaginable in his legendary career, including Billboard's Century Award, but the artist revealed he still endeavors to become more skilled at his craft. "Nothing is easy," he said. "I still practice singing, playing the piano and playing the harmonica, because I think that you can always be better. I don't beat myself up, but I have goals that I set and I try to do my best to reach those and climb to another place. It's for the good of what I love."
Wonder added that he will tour in support of his upcoming Motown album, "A Time 2 Love," which "is going to come out in May, for sure."
Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil may not be able to read teleprompters without his glasses (as evidenced by his amiable mangling of the introduction for the digital artist of the year award during the BMA broadcast), but that doesn't mean the band won't be up to its old tricks on its 2005 reunion tour. Neil promises "all the hits, but I think we all want to play some obscure stuff that we haven't played in a long time."
As for the three new songs set for inclusion on the upcoming Island retrospective "Red, White & Crue," the vocalist described them as simply "very Motley." Bassist Nikki Sixx added, "We've always progressed, so I think it's another progression for us. It's some fresh, new sounding stuff, but it has our trademark all over it."
Having just released its first album with all its original members since 1983, Duran Duran is gearing up for a 40-city U.S. tour in February. Even after a two-decade run of hits, lead singer Simon LeBon said the seemingly undying enthusiasm for the band's music continues to surprise him. "It's the fans who have kept us going for so many years," he offered. "This is almost like payback for them. This is what they wanted all along."
What's more, the band has already agreed to make at least one more studio album on this go-around. "This was always going to be a long-term plan for us," LeBon said. "It would have had to have gone horribly wrong for us not to go and make another album."