Ludacris, Kelly Clarkson, Sabrina Carpenter, Echosmith & More Celebrate Breakout Stars and Icons at Radio Disney Music Awards
Disney Channel actors, Radio Disney singers and social media superstars hailed the red carpet for an afternoon dedicated to new faces and nostalgia at the Radio Disney Music Awards on Friday (June 23) at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Online heroes united for epic selfies per the Selfie Kid, whose buddy the Backpack Kid -- propagator of the viral flossing dance -- later threw his signature item on stage declaring that school was out and summer had officially started. A guest attempted yodeling inside the venue after following the lead of Mason Ramsey, the 11-year-old “Famous” sensation whose single landed him the No. 4 spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart (dated May 12) after yodeling at a Walmart awarded him performance gigs at both Coachella and Stagecoach earlier this year.
Billboard talked to some of the performers and nominees at the RDMAs about their burgeoning, chart-topping careers, who they were most excited to see perform at the awards show and what their favorite Disney movie was growing up.
Ludacris: “My kids love Disney, everything Disney, so the fact that I’m here performing with Carrie Underwood and doing ‘The Champion,’ which has a great message that all the kids need to hear. It’s about being a champion -- the message is all throughout,” Ludacris said. The rapper-extended-actor cited Charlie Puth, the freshly blonde “Done for Me” singer, as a good friend from when the two contributed individual songs to the Fast and Furious franchise’s soundtracks. Ludacris’ favorite Disney movie is The Lion King.
Kelly Clarkson [and Brynn Cartelli]: “I think I’m so focused because I’m so excited about Brynn, it’s such a really cool paying forward moment for me,” Kelly Clarkson said about 15-year-old singer Brynn Cartelli, the season 14 winner of The Voice who was mentored by Clarkson. “It is kind of a cool thing 16 years later to help others.” Cartelli described the day as “surreal” before she presented her mentor with the RDMAs Icon Award. “I wasn’t sure what would happen to me after The Voice, I was just excited to make music,” Cartelli said. “But to be here and be with all of these people I’ve been watching on TV since I was little or looking up to as musicians and artists, it’s so cool to get on a stage in front of them to present the queen herself. I think the best advice Kelly has given me is staying true to who I am and not let this change you or get in your head.”
Cheat Codes: Cheat Codes -- one of the “The Freshest – Best New Artist” nominees -- felt like “little kids on a playground” being recognized by Disney, a franchise which they had grown up with. It was a sweet feeling for Trevor Dahl, Kevin Ford and Matthew Russell. “Usually I avoid sugar or carbs, but for [Marshmello] I’ll make an exception,” Russell said about his most anticipated performance of the day. With collaborations ranging from Demi Lovato to Little Mix, the DJ trio has no favorites. “They’re all special to us in different ways, we love them all very much,” Dahl said. But when it comes to Disney movies, each member had a favorite in mind: Russell picked A Goofy Movie, Ford loved Aladdin and The Lion King and Dahl enjoyed My Date With the President’s Daughter.
Echosmith: Siblings Sydney, Noah and Graham Sierota -- who go by Echosmith -- have been dreaming of being at the RDMAs for the last four years. “We’ve been trying to come for so long and our schedules finally aligned,” Sydney said. Although the band was excited for Kelly Clarkson, Marshmello and Carrie Underwood to perform, the “Cool Kids” trio was also taking the stage. “We’ve never had such a really cool set and we recreated one of the scenes from our music video for ‘Over My Head,’ so I’m really excited for everyone to see it,” Sydney said. Noah gave Billboard special insight on the group’s new music: “We’re finishing up right now our sophomore album, so as we’re pushing ‘Over My Head’ continually. We’re also finishing up the album in hopefully a few months.” Noah mentioned the Disney Channel original movie Smart House as his favorite, whereas Sydney loved Hannah Montana: The Movie and Graham chose The Even Stevens Movie.
Mason Ramsey: “I think it’s like saying ‘I just adore being in a penthouse suite’ or something like that. It’s just really crazy being here,” Mason Ramsey said about being invited to the show. The “Famous” singer has pretty big shoes -- or boots -- to fill after remarkably covering “Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams (his Instagram handle reads @lilhankwilliams), but Ramsey has charitable ideas in mind regarding his new fame. “I like going around everywhere and singing to people. And when I get famous, I want to donate to people who don’t have homes, jobs, anything.” His favorite moment in his blooming career was that sweet selfie with Justin Bieber at Coachella.
Alesso: Swedish DJ Alesso was nominated for “When the Beat Drops! – Best Dance Track” for his “Let Me Go” song with Hailee Steinfeld, Florida Georgia Line and Andrew Watt. “[Steinfield] just crushed that song, that’s her best vocal performance ever,” he said. “When you sing this kind of song, it’s important to mean what you’re saying.” He had never heard Kelly Clarkson perform, which he was most excited about, but the ingenuity of producing beats like Marshmello demonstrated on stage is an art form Alesso is more familiar with. “[DJing] is a very uplifting roller coaster ride, especially the music I play. I try to keep it very interesting every record I play, and it’s like a climax all the time,” he said. “Also, when you’re DJing, it’s very much about being with your friends and just enjoying that together than just watching what’s going on.” He cited Peter Pan as his favorite childhood Disney movie.
Sabrina Carpenter: From playing Maya Hart in Disney Channel’s spinoff series Girl Meets Word to dropping an EP and two studio albums in just a matter of four years, Sabrina Carpenter is showing the world her full range of talent. She recently released the single “Almost Love” from her third upcoming album, Singular, and its fusion of dance and pop emphasizes the evolution Carpenter’s music has endured from her 2014 pop ballad “Eyes Wide Open.” “I’m sorry, I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” she teased about her early performances. “I’m supposed to love every part of me because it got me to where I am today. It’s all a part of your history and your story. I wouldn’t change anything.” She rooted for her friend Marshmello and Charlie Puth (“He’s always amazing”) and their performances that day. Her favorite Disney movie growing up was Alice in Wonderland because she resonates with how “she’s always lost and she’s crazy, but I love her.”
Lauv: Lauv was nominated for “XOXO – Best Crush Song” and “The Freshest – Best New Artist” after his song “I Like Me Better” set a longevity record with a 35-week ascent to No. 10 on the Billboard Pop Songs chart (dated June 23). With a Firefly Music Festival performance in the books and an Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival gig on the horizon, Lauv (real name: Ari Staprans Leff) is excited to take the world -- specifically Europe -- by storm. “My mom’s side of the family is from Latvia, so I get to play a festival in Latvia and see my family out there. That’s going to be incredible,” he said. He was prepared for the contemporary chutzpah of Charlie Puth and Marshmello to take the RDMAs stage, but he appreciated the classic Beauty and the Beast movie as his childhood emblem.
Lele Pons: Former Vine personality Lele Pons discussed how the now defunct social media platform helped kickstart her career, which is set to further blossom on IGTV, as announced by Instagram this week. “Vine opened some doors for me, and if you can do something in six seconds and tell a story, you can also expand it in other things,” she said. Pons highlighted Charlie Puth as her most anticipated performance, who later took the stage with his swanky pop hit “The Way I Am.” Her favorite Disney movie is The Little Mermaid. “I was obsessed with it,” she said.
Carly Pearce: Carly Pearce was crowned the first woman to top the Billboard Country Airplay chart with her debut single “Every Little Thing” back in November 2017 and was recognized again at the RDMAs when she won “The Freshest! - Radio Disney Country Best New Artist.” She attended her first non-country awards show Friday, but Carrie Underwood was her obvious first choice in who she was most excited to see perform. The country genre breaking through mainstream music, supported by the likes of Underwood, describes Pearce’s path to success. “I feel like Billboard is so special to me because I was a chart-breaker artist when I first started out, obviously celebrated my first No. 1, and it’s just a really exciting time to be a new female in country music," she said. Her favorite Disney movie is either The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast.
Tegan Marie: Tegan Marie, one of Billboard’s country artists to watch in 2018, came to the awards show following her Hard Rock Stage set from day two of the 2018 Country Music Awards (June 7). This is the 14-year-old rising star’s third time attending the RDMAs, but she’s always stunned by the energy it brings and the recognition she has been receiving. “I thought it was a dream, like I had to pinch myself a few times and I am so blessed," she said. She was most looking forward to Carrie Underwood and Ludacris’ joint performance, as well as Meghan Trainor’s medley of hits. When asked about her favorite Disney movie, she said it was The Little Mermaid.