With social distancing concerns pre-empting any possibility of an actual awards show, iHeartRadio made the best out of a terrible situation, instead coordinating a number of music’s best and brightest regaling America from the comfort and safety of their respective living rooms — while host Elton John told viewers where they could donate to help those in need.
It wasn’t your typical award show experience or even your typical telethon, certainly, but it still made for some highly memorable moments. Here were six that struck us the most.
Backstreet Boys, harmonizing remotely
The still-massive boy-turned-man band came together to perform their signature 1999 smash “I Want It That Way.” Well, sorta: The quintet all sang their parts from their respective homes, with Nick lounging by his home pool, Brian rocking out by his pinball machine, and Kevin performing along with two of his kids, as video from all five members was spliced together in a Zoom-like grid. The apart-but-together sentiment made the pop classic even more rousing than usual.
“My Hero” unplugged
“I’d like to dedicate this one to all the people out there on the front lines, who are doing all they can to get us through this,” Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl offered, before launching into a solo acoustic rendition of one of the Foos’ best-enduring radio staples, “My Hero.” Though the 1997 full-band original is one of the Foos’ hardest-rocking hits, Grohl’s stripped down rendition was still powerful, simplifying the song — which may or may not have originally been written for late Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain — to its core message: “There goes my hero/ He’s ordinary.”
Happy anniversary, “Bad Guy”
Introduced by Elton John with the announcement that today was the one-year anniversary of Billie Eilish’s blockbuster debut LP When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and its breakout single “Bad Guy,” which Eilish and brother/collaborator Finneas performed sans synths or beat drops. It’s always a joy to watch the Eilish siblings harmonize over acoustic guitar, and seeing Billie whisper-croon it while chilling on her home couch made for a revealing rediscovery of a song it should be impossible to hear anew by now.
Camila “CaBaby” Cabello
Perhaps feeling the world didn’t need one more award show-related performance of their smash duet “Señorita,” nested-up lovebirds Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello instead performed the latter’s more recent Hot 100 top 20 hit “My Oh My.” No, Mendes didn’t rap the DaBaby part — Cabello actually did that herself, sing-rapping the MC’s guest verse with surprising fluidity — instead sticking to acoustic accompaniment duties. Best part: no almost-but-not-quite-kissing.
Sam Smith a cappella
“I don’t play an instrument, so this is just my voice… I hope that’s OK,” Sam Smith introduced their performance of 2019 single “How Do You Sleep” Indeed, with nothing but snapping fingers for accompaniment, Smith showed why their soaring, versatile tenor is still more than enough to fill an entire performance, turning the dance-pop hit into a wrenching, resonant ballad.
Mariah Carey thanks her quarantine buddies
“Wanted to dedicate this one to Dem Babiez for staying patient with me at home and not complaining too much,” Billboard icon Mariah Carey said of her recent roommates, before beginning a rendition of her 1996 Hot 100-topper “Always Be My Baby.” Looping in a remote piano player and backing singers, Carey nailed the mid-’90s pop classic, even indulging in a little whistle-register coda at the end — before saying she was putting her gloves back on (yes, even indoors) to get back to real life.