Women in Music 2016
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MMVAs Red Carpet: Ed Sheeran, Adam Lambert & Carly Rae Jepsen Comment on the Madness
Plus, OMI delivers his first-ever televised live peformance in North America.
The MuchMusic Video Awards are like no other. The streets outside the station’s corner headquarters in downtown Toronto are shut down to accommodate thousands of fans. Plus, the whole awards presentation and its performances take place outdoors on a massive stage. Before start time, just like many award shows, are the red carpet arrivals, where several hundred fans try to get selfies and signatures with the artists and assorted presenters.
Jamaica’s OMI, whose “Cheerleader” single has hit No. 1 in more than 45 countries, including Canada, sang on the red carpet for his first-ever televised live performance in North America, complete with 37 cheerleaders borrowed from the Toronto Argonauts football club.
“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow,” OMI told Billboard the day before at the Much building between rehearsals. “For me, it’s more than just a big event that’s annual. For me, it’s a privilege because I have fans here. It’s just an amazing experience for me, already. It’s outside and there’s the interaction with the fans is so close.”
He’s right about close. Ed Sheeran, who has been at three previous MMVAs, was co-host for the night and told Billboard on the carpet, “This is always quite intense. I always forget how intense it is and as soon as I step out of the car, I’m like ‘Ooooh, ooooh, I don’t know if I like this,’” he laughs.
The screams got louder, of course, for certain peeps. Teen Wolf actor Tyler Posey was the subject of shrills for many girls on the verge of hysteria if he didn’t go over for a pic and hello. As The Sheepdogs lead singer Ewan Currie spoke to Billboard about others awards shows he’s attended, he called this one “way more nuts,” and was distracted himself. “Everyone is chanting ‘Tyler’ -- I don’t know who Tyler is but I love him. I don’t know youth culture so I don’t know what’s going on.”
It had been a minute since Adam Lambert had been at the MMVAs. “I was performing in that intersection,” he said, pointing to a section crammed with kids now. “I’ll get out there and do a little song and dance,” he joked.
Fun.’s Nate Ruess, whose newly released solo debut is called Grand Romantic, has been to tons of awards shows worldwide but told Billboard “This actually doesn’t compare to any of them. The MTV one in the States is the most comparable because it’s a madhouse, but it wasn’t on a main street so there’s a total difference. I love the T-dot. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world.”
For P. Reign, Drake’s good friend who just got a U.S. deal with Sony, he revels in this stuff. “I love this environment. This is hometown for me. This is like my second home, MuchMusic. They’ve always supported me from the very start of my career. And they’re continuing to do so , so I couldn’t be happier to be here and share this with them.”
Canadian Carly Rae Jepsen is also happy to be in the T-dot -- the name given to Toronto two decades ago by MC K-4ce. While she is from the West Coast, she spent time here during her run on Canadian Idol, pre-“Call Me Maybe” fame. “The fans are fantastic,” she said of the MMVAs. “It’s always amazing to come back home.”
She had retreated from the insanity for a bit in the winter of 2013/14 when she took a 12-week run on Broadway in Cinderella, but returned to the pop life this year with her third album, Emotion. “I love being part of [theatre] because you feel you are one thread in a bigger production. You’re part of a story,” Jepsen told Billboard, “but it’s not your story and that was a humbling nice experience after the chaos of pop. But I really like spontaneity and that's why this career is really fun for me too to plan and change and go with the flow and feed off of my mood.”
A few actors walked the red carpet, several of whom have music careers in the works. The Maze Runner actress Katherine McNamara is in the studio working on her songs independently, while Pitch Perfect 2’s Hailee Steinfeld has a deal with Republic and is cutting edgy pop with Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, among others. Keith Standfield (Straight Outta Compton, Miles Ahead), who co-wrote the rap song “So Know What It’s Like” for Short Term 12, calls the MMVAs “wild, man. I really like the fact that people are gutsy to do all the crazy and upbeat stuff.”
The crazy stuff? Marianas Trench showed up in beachwear, two of them “driving” a cardboard speed boat and the other two on waterskies; and the members of Walk Off The Earth each had three clones shadowing them, including pregnant Sarah Blackwood. “I’m actually really impressed by the amount of people that are here and the support. It’s amazing,” she told Billboard. “I’ve been to a couple of others because I'd just had a baby at the time, I can’t remember. Everything’s been very foggy.”
Newcomer Francesco Yates, who is managed by Chris Smith who helped take Nelly Furtado to the top, has been quietly working away the past four or five years and now has a hit record, “Better To Be Loved.” He’s since worked with Pharrell Williams and has an EP coming out on Atlantic Records Aug. 21. “This is something, I’ll tell you right now, this is crazy. I never thought of it,” he said on the red carpet. “This is a powerful thing. Those screams go through your body but it’s for a positive reason.”