Women “stepped up” at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards, just as they did at last month’s Grammys. Ariana Grande was named artist of the year. She also took female artist of the year for the first time. Grande appeared on the show with a taped performance of her ballad “Needy.”
Cardi B became the first woman to win hip-hop artist of the year. Ella Mai became the first woman to win R&B artist of the year. Alicia Keys became the first woman to win the iHeartRadio innovator award. Mai and Keys both performed on the show. (Keys was adorably joined on piano by her eight-year-old son, Egypt.)
Taylor Swift became the first repeat winner for tour of the year, surpassing Coldplay and U2, who each took the award once. Swift first received this award three years ago. T-Swizzle was on hand to pick up her award, but didn’t perform. In her acceptance speech, she reminded people that many naysayers had predicted that her tour would flop.
The Zedd/Maren Morris/Grey earworm “The Middle” took song of the year, the iHearts’ top award. But, somehow it managed to lose the award for collaboration of the year to the Bruno Mars/Cardi B remix of “Finesse.” (Award shows are known to like to share the wealth.) “The Middle” was nominated for both record and song of the year at the Grammys, but lost both awards to Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” (Childish wasn’t nominated in the top-tier categories at the iHearts, which has a single-minded focus on what ruled at radio.)
Male artists who held their own include Drake, who took male artist of the year for the first time. He’s the first hip-hop artist to win in that category.
5 Seconds of Summer won best duo or group for the first time, beating out two-time champs Maroon 5. Luke Combs won country artist of the year, topping two-time champ Thomas Rhett. Marshmello won dance artist of the year, topping two-time champs The Chainsmokers. Marshmello also performed on the show in tandem with Lauv.
Imagine Dragons took alternative rock artist of the year for the second year in a row, matching Twenty One Pilots’ earlier two-year hold on the award. Three Days Grace took rock artist of the year for the first time. Bad Bunny took Latin artist of the year for the first time.
The winning new artists, several of whom may be slugging it out for the best new artist Grammy, are Marshmello (pop), lovelytheband (rock/alternative rock), Jordan Davis (country), BlocBoy JB (hip-hop), Mai (R&B) and Manuel Turizo (Latin). (Mai won’t be eligible in the upcoming Grammy best new artist race because she was nominated in two categories this past year.)
Country titan Garth Brooks won artist of the decade, two decades after his most history-making decade, but better late than never. He also performed a medley of his hits.
Kacey Musgraves, who won four Grammys last month, including album of the year, performed “Rainbow” with Coldplay’s Chris Martin on piano. Musgraves performed the same song on the Grammys, but not with such high-powered backup. Musgraves’ critical acclaim far outstrips the radio airplay she has received to date, which made the iHearts a smart promotional stop.
T-Pain hosted the show, which was held at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Recent chart-topper Halsey opened the show in tandem with Travis Barker and Yungblud. Halsey also received the fangirls award, a transparent bid to let her win something since Grande had a lock on female artist of the year.
Other performers, not already cited, included John Legend, lovelytheband and Backstreet Boys.