The 2023 iHeartRadio Awards are a wrap. The show celebrating the year on radio featured appearances by Pink and Taylor Swift — both winners on Monday night — along with presenters Phoebe Bridgers, Ice Spice and Doja Cat, and performances by Latto, Kelly Clarkson, Keith Urban and more music stars.
Host Lenny Kravitz kicked off the festivities at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre with a somber note: paying respect to the victims of Monday’s shooting at a private Christian elementary school in Tennessee. “Before we get started, I want to take a moment to send some of that healing to the Nashville community,” said Kravitz. “Our hearts are heavy and we are with you. America we must do better and we will do better.”
(Later in the show, “She Had Me at Carolina” singer Cole Swindell also sent love to Nashville during his acceptance speech for country song of the year.)
The first performance of the evening came from Pink, 2023’s Icon Award honoree, who appeared on a foggy, purple-lit platform to — quite literally — dive into “Trustfall,” the title track from her ninth studio album. A group of dancers that Pink later lovingly referred to as her “road crew” took turns defying gravity as they bounced between trampolines and the stage’s walls.
Bebe Rexha, Becky G, Doja Cat and H.E.R could be seen watching in awe on the same camera that later caught Swift clapping along to Keith Urban’s performance of “Brown Eyes Baby.” His set also included the premiere of an unreleased track that kept the crowd on their feet.
Becky G took the stage to receive the award for best Latin pop song, while Doja Cat accepted the most played artist of the year Titanium award for “Woman.”
As most of these shows are taped affairs, there’s always some shuffling and mingling in the crowd between segments. Celebs were pouring in and out of the sides of the Dolby Theatre, and at one point, a bejeweled Swift came swerving through the crowd causing the entire room — meaning anyone and everyone from a pre-teen boy to a grown woman in their 30s — to promptly scream their heads off.
Fresh off her Eras tour, Swift accepted the Innovator Award after friend and tourmate Phoebe Bridgers presented her with the honor. “I’m grateful to have grown up in a World with Taylor Swift in it,” Bridgers said, causing the room to erupt in rapturous applause that only grew louder when she joked: “or the world…’Taylor’s Version.’”
She was followed by a starry video montage that included words of praise from Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez, Miles Teller, Ed Sheeran, Simone Biles, Alex Morgan, Dolly Parton and Jonathan Van Ness.
“Some 15 years ago, most songs on the pop charts were written by other people and Taylor has been at the forefront of being a singer-songwriter,” Sheeran said in his message. “Her stories are her songs.”
Joined by Bridgers on stage, Swift quipped that she never woke up in the morning and thought, ‘You know what I’m gonna do today? I’m gonna innovate some stuff.” She continued, “What I did do was try to make the right decision for me at the time, whether or not it had ever been successfully done before.”
Referencing her genre switch from country to pop, and the massive undertaking of re-recording her old music, Swift said she thought “the coolest ideas or moves are the new ones, the ones that set a new precedent,” and thanked her fans for their continued support throughout her career.
“The hundreds or thousands of dumb ideas that I’ve had are what led me to my good ideas,” Swift continued. “You have to give yourself permission to fail.” Later in the night, Swift also won the award for song of the year for “Anti-Hero,” which topped the charts for eight weeks as her longest-running No. 1 single.
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo kicked off a tribute to Pink, the Icon award recipient. The pair served as a teaser for what’s to expect on Pink’s “Summer Carnival” tour, where they’ll be playing for select dates later this summer. The couple played “Just Like A Pill” from the singer’s 2001 album “Missundaztood,” and were followed by Kelly Clarkson, who duetted with Pink on “Just Give Me a Reason.”
“Being on stage doing what I love, with people I love, and my babies in the audience, this feels like a Christmas miracle,” Pink said in her speech. “Every room I walk into, my heart walks into first. Every lyric that I write is my heart crying… You have watched me do this, just sifting through life’s messiness, for 25 years.”
Tour of the year went to Coldplay, who gave a remote performance of the BTS-featuring “My Universe” from a tour stop in Brazil. Artist of the year went to none other than Harry Styles, who sent a short video message with many thanks to his team, supporters and iHeart. Meanwhile, the best new artist award went to four newcomers: Jax, Cody Johnson, Muni Long and Giovannie and the Hired Guns, who each gave a taste of their hit song in a shared performance that lasted less than five minutes.
Elsewhere, Latto delivered a performance of “Big Energy” on a “Big Latto’s Jackpot”-themed stage backed by a lineup of giant sparkly cherries and metallic-dressed dancers. LL Cool J also gave an impassioned speech about the 50 years of hip-hop that transitioned into a spoken-word segment about the “street poet” origins of the genre.
The night came to a close with an electric performance from host Kravitz, who rocked the house with a three-song medley of “American Woman,” “Fly Away,” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way.”
Before the big night, Kravitz spoke to Variety about his first hosting gig saying, “After all the years I have behind me — to still be so vibrant and feel so inspired — is truly a gift. And in this very special case, it’s beautiful to meet and witness the people coming up now in this generation. It’s a special moment in my career.”
Originally published at variety.com