“It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen,” says Larry Klein, the executive producer for the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. Klein is referring to the Michael Jackson event slated for this year’s show timed with the release of Jackson’s new posthumous album “Xscape” (out last Tuesday, May 13 on Epic). Though details of the exerience have yet to be fully revealed, Klein’s endorsement means more than most.
Over the course of his 40-year-plus career at Dick Clark Productions, Klein has seen performances by everyone from Prince to Madonna to Paul McCartney to, well, Michael Jackson AND Paul McCartney . . . together. “I was working late one night and got a call to go over to Michael Jackson’s house,” Klein recalls. “I was very busy and had a lot of work to do but the person kept saying, ‘This is important, just get over here.’” So I drive over there and knock on the door and it’s Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney and they’re recording together!”
Similarly, Klein’s highlight picks for this year’s BBMA are also exclusive: Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood’s debut performance of “Somethin’ Bad,” a duet featured on Lambert’s upcoming album, “Platinum” (set to drop June 3), as well as Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull premiering the official anthem of this year’s FIFA World Cup, “We Are One (Ole Ola).” “It’s those exclusive things you won’t get anywhere else that make the Billboard Music Awards so great,” he says.
Adding to the star power, beyond top BBMA finalists Imagine Dragons, Lorde, and Justin Timberlake was this week’s announcement that triple-threat rapper, producer and actor Ludacris is hosting Sunday’s show. “I know him personally,” Klein says. “He’s a talented musician, actor, entertainer — he’s going to be just great.”
For someone who is only 96 hours out from one of the year’s biggest awards show, Klein is remarkably well-composed. He’s currently going over the run of show, editing script, making sure the production runs smooth. He credits his team at dcp executive producers Allen Shapiro and Mike Mahan and producers Barry Adelman and Mark Bracco with getting this far. And the team has a lot to measure up to with 2013’s banner year which saw the viewing audience hit 9.5 million, a 28 percent spike over 2012’s audience, according to Nielsen.
Rehearsals are on and the Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena is bustling — rigs, electricians, carpenters, set designers and more are working around the clock for the big show that will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. Klein discloses that several stages are being built, including a special stage for the Jackson event, as well as a smaller stage for Tiesto, who will be DJing throughout the night.
Asked if he’s feeling pressure, Klien is ice cold. “Are you kidding?” he says. “I live for this.” Having done this for what is now his fifth decade, the veteran producer knows how to roll with the mishaps and even embrace them. “You never know what’s going to happen,” he adds. “Who’s going to miss their cue or not show up to pick up their award — that’s what makes these shows fun.”