Diana Ross will be given a Lifetime Achievement honor at the 45th annual American Music Awards, and also perform during the broadcast, which airs Nov. 19 on ABC from Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater. Ross has history with the AMAs, having attended her first ceremony in 1974 and serving as host in 1986 and 1987. She has seven AMA wins under her belt and has performed many times on the show, which is produced by Dick Clark Productions.
“I have endless memories of all the years that I have appeared on the American Music Awards,” Ross said in a Wednesday release about honor. “It started with Dick Clark and The Caravan of Stars and American Bandstand. It was Dick Clark who said, ‘Music is the soundtrack of our lives.’ So true. I am so excited to be receiving this honorable award.”
The American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement, given to those who’ve had significant contributions to the music industry, has previously honored Sting, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan and Prince. Nominations for the 2017 AMAs were announced last week, with BrunoMars leading with eight and followed by Ed Sheeran, The Chainsmokers, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd, each with five.
There’s an avalanche of thoughts that tumble through one’s mind when you are left to ponder the extraordinary (yet criminally underrated) career of George Michael following his shocking death on Christmas Day at the age of 53. But for this writer, the date of January 30, 1989, remains a moment that underlines the sheer gift, curse and deeply complex appeal of the ultimate white rhythm and blues vocalist. It was at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium during the American Music Awards where Michael stepped on a debate-igniting, cultural land mine.
The former member of the monstrous pop duo Wham! was coming off the unfathomable commercial triumph of his critically-acclaimed solo debut Faith, which would go on to sell 25 million copies worldwide (10 million in the U.S. alone). Michael was now being viewed as a worthy addition to the ‘80s holy pop trinity of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. When you headline your own sold-out world tour (The 1988 Faith trek became the second-highest-grossing tour of that year, pulling in nearly $20 million), fire off six consecutive top five singles on the Billboard charts (fueled by the one-two punch of the No. 1 rockabilly-dipped-in-soul title track and the dark, controlling church-infused ballad “Father Figure”) and win Album of the Year at the Grammys, you can pretty much write your own check.
But before that coronation solidified his place as a legit music industry behemoth, Michael found himself at the center of a racial tsunami when he won two AMAs for Favorite Album (Soul/R&B) and Favorite Male Artist (Soul/R&B). This was the era of the “Crossover Negro,” especially in the recording biz, as the aforementioned King of Pop and The Purple One — alongside the likes of Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, and Lionel Richie — all took turns ruling the top of the charts. Teddy Riley was leading the multi-platinum New Jack Swing wave. And hip-hop’s golden age was just kicking off, forcing MTV to create Yo! MTV Raps just to keep up with the street-infused genre’s groundbreaking stars like N.W.A., Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa and De La Soul. Black culture was cool and was only going to get cooler in the next decade.
For many African-American followers, their first introduction to the East Finchley, London native was Wham!’s 1982 cheeky, disco-rap rave-up “Young Guns (Go For It).” Michael and his conspicuously silent partner Andrew Ridgeley were pushed as cutesy teen idols that indulged in the funk.
But while Wham!’s No. 1 commercial breakthrough, 1984’s overtly day-glow single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” made them global stars, it was a heaven-sent slow jam that forever gave Michael his ‘hood pass. At just 17 years old, the gifted singer/songwriter wrote and produced the mournful torch song “Careless Whisper,” a mammoth hit that not only reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but also became a top 10 hit on the U.S. Hot Black Singles, earning its place as a quiet storm staple on R&B radio. “I’m never going to dance again/Guilty feet have got no rhythm,” remains one of that era’s most heartbreaking lines ever recorded. This was a different cat.
The scene backstage last November at the American Music Awards, that annual gathering of pop perennials and idiosyncratic arrivistes, was carnivalesque: Niall and Liam of One Direction toddled about trying to snap a picture with a selfie stick, while Zayn, their bandmate at the time, smoked coolly out of frame; Ne-Yo was there in a leopard-print blazer two sizes too small; Lil Wayne was wandering around, alone, wearing absurd shoes. In the middle of it all, Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, remained calm, slow motion to everyone else’s warp speed.
Allergic to these sorts of scrums, he found his way to his trailer to hang with his friends, five or so fellow Canadians, all of them art-goth chic, wearing expensive sneakers and draped in luxurious, flowing black. Tesfaye, 25, was dressed down by comparison, in a black corduroy jacket and paint-splattered jeans (Versace, but still). He stands 5-foot-7, plus a few more inches with his hair, an elaborate tangle of dreadlocks that he has been growing out for years, more or less letting it go where it wants. It spills out at the sides of his head and shoots up over it, like a cresting wave. Casually, Tesfaye did some vocal warm-ups and sat indifferently as his underutilized makeup artist dabbed foundation under his eyes and balm on his lips.
He’d just had his first flash of true pop success: ‘‘Love Me Harder,’’ his duet with Ariana Grande, the childlike pop star with the grown-up voice, cracked the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. He was scheduled to make a surprise cameo here at the end of a Grande medley. Until that song and, in a sense, that moment, Tesfaye had been a no-hit wonder: a cult act with millions of devotees and almost no mainstream profile.
When Tesfaye came out from the shadows midway through Grande’s performance, the crowd screamed. For two minutes, the singers traded vocal riffs and unflinching eye contact, Grande playing the naïf and Tesfaye the aggressor. The performance was quick and sweaty, and seconds after it was over, Tesfaye was already speeding for the exit, stopping only for a quick embrace from Kendall and Kylie Jenner. When he reached the parking lot, a yappy talent wrangler for an entertainment-news show sensed an opportunity and asked for an interview. Tesfaye gave him an amused half-smile and kept walking. ‘‘Hey!’’ the guy shouted in desperation, fumbling for a name before landing on the wrong one: ‘‘A$AP Rocky!’’ Tesfaye turned his head and said, ‘‘C’mon, man,’’ arching an eyebrow, then picked up the pace.
Even though he had just performed for an audience of millions, Tesfaye was still, to many of them, a total stranger. When he began releasing music in 2010 — murky Dalí-esque R.&B., sung in an astrally sweet voice, vivid with details of life at the sexual and pharmacological extremes — Tesfaye chose to be a cipher. The only photos of him in circulation were deliberately obscured; he didn’t do interviews. His reticence was an asset — fans devoured the music without being distracted by a personality. Their loyalty was to the songs and, in a way, to the idea of the Weeknd. He was happy to stay out of the way.
It was a big night in music last night at the American Music Awards. Beyoncé and John Legend won the Favorite Female and Male awards in the Soul/R&B category. Mrs. Carter also won the Favorite Album award for her latest album, Beyoncé.
The night’s big winners also included soulful newcomer Sam Smith for Favorite Male Artist – Pop/Rock and Katy Perry featuring Juicy J took home Single of the Year for “Dark Horse.” See the full list of winners below:
FAVORITE BAND, DUO OR GROUP – POP/ROCK Imagine Dragons WINNER: One Direction OneRepublic
FAVORITE ALBUM – RAP/HIP-HOP WINNER: Iggy Azalea “The New Classic” Drake “Nothing Was The Same”
Eminem “The Marshall Mathers LP 2”
FAVORITE ARTIST – LATIN Marc Anthony WINNER: Enrique Iglesias Romeo Santos
FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – POP/ROCK John Legend WINNER: Sam Smith Pharrell Williams
The American Music Awards aired Sunday night and everything from questionable fashion choices to scandalous performances gave viewers much to talk about. Perhaps the biggest talker of the night was Rihanna‘s performance of her song “Diamonds” followed by an appearance from her mother, who presented her with her first-ever Icon Award. “My fans, I love you so much; you have no idea,” Rihanna said. “I can’t believe at 25, I am holding an Icon Award!”
Meanwhile, her hairdo, which was wrapped around her head and decorated with hair pins, was another topic of discussion.Other unforgettable moments made jaws drop as Lady Gaga and R. Kelly took to the stage to sing their duet “Do What You Want” in a performance that was far from tame. Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake‘s soulful rendition of his song “Drink You Away” had almost every audience member on their feet and clapping in tune with the beat.
Jennifer Lopez brought tons of Latin flavor with her performance tribute to the “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz. Lopez rocked the stage and sashayed the night away. Kendrick Lamar also showcased his talent last night when he performed his song “Swimming Pools.” He was nominated for the favorite rap/hip-hop album award but instead, it went to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for The Heist.
Upon accepting their award, Macklemore delivered a powerful speech in which he referenced the late Trayvon Martin and Dr. Martin Luther King.
Rihanna will make history at the American Music Awards later this month. The singer has been chosen to be the first-ever recipient of the “AMA Icon Award,” created to honor an artist whose body of work has made a profound influence over pop music on a global level.
“Rihanna’s iconic and innovative sound has enabled her to become one of the most influential and best-selling artists of all time,” said producer Larry Klein. This month Rihanna scored her 25th top-10 hit on the Hot 100, with “The Monster,” her collaboration withEminem, a chart feat that ties her with Elvis Presley on the all-time list. “The Monster” is also Rihanna’s 45th Hot 100 entry, tying her with the output of Mariah Carey.
A six-time AMA winner, Rihanna will compete in four categories at this year’s show, including for artist of the year and favorite soul/R&B album, for “Unapologetic.”
RiRi will also perform during the ceremony, being held Nov. 24 on ABC. Other performers include Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, TLC, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, One Direction, Florida Georgia Line, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Pitbull will host the ceremony and perform his new single “Timber” with Ke$ha.