The 2019 iHeartRadio Awards

So last year I started writing about the iHeartRadio music awards, for a couple of reasons: 1) it was brought to my attention what a goofy nonsense-fest it is, and 2) I thought that maybe it might not be long for the world. And indeed it may not be! But here it remains, shambling along to prop up the idea that the world’s largest radio owning-conglomerate is doing something culturally viable, and not dying a slow, public death!

So let’s have a look at whom they’re honoring, and mostly roll our eyes at how terrible this all is. Oh, and they didn’t print the nominees, but there are also categories for the “most thumbed-up” song and artist, as well as “Best Tour” and “Best Label”. For the first couple I get it – these are decided algorithmically and numerically, but the latter two should definitely be here. Also how is “Best Label” even a thing when there’s only three majors and they’re all in conflicting interest with iHeart Media? It’s almost like this entire awards show is a ridiculous sham!

Also I’d like to see the most thumbsed-down artist, to be frank. On to the nominees!

Favorite Tour Photographer

This is a new category, and the nominees are printed, even though the nominees for “Best Tour” are not, because this awards show does not, in fact, make any goddamned sense. Most of this is pretty dumb and uninteresting, but Ravie B is pretty cool. Beyonce has good taste in photographers, generally, but Ravie B is famous outside of her Beyonce work and is very good. So there you have it. This is a popular voted-category, so it’s liable to go to someone who takes pictures of Shawn Mendes, but that’s still not the right answer.


Song That Left Us Shook

This is another new category, and another one that’s voted on by the fans (which means it’s probably going to go the Ariana Grande song). None of these songs left me “Shook” as such. “This is America” had a great video. But actually the end of the video for the Sam Mendes/Khalid song “Youth” where you see all the kids from the video and their jobs and hear them talk and stuff is actually pretty moving, and while that isn’t part of the song, it’s still pretty much all I’ve got here, so in it goes.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shawn Mendes and Khalid, “Youth”

Best Solo Breakout

This category consists of every non-Camila-Cabello member of Fifth Harmony and a woman who was in Girls Generation, and given that Camila Cabello is basically the only member of Fifth Harmony with any real reason to have listened to in the first place, I’m going to have to go with the woman who was in Girls Generation.


Cutest Musician’s Pet

First of all all of these are good boys. Every single one of them. Mooshu only loses points by belonging to a Chainsmoker 1. Hatchie, Asia and Gracie are about as good as little dogs can be. Edgar is a very distinguished gentleman and I’m happy to know about him. Goodwin is also among the top tier of adorable dogs. But this category (and my heart) belongs only to Piggy Smallz


Social Star Award

Guys there are too many people in this category and I don’t care about any of this, so I’m giving it to Trixie Mattel, who was once a guest on a podcast that I like and is therefore better than the rest of these people.


Best Music Video

Once again I find myself very happy that “This is America” is in the world, because I don’t even know why most of these things are nominated, let alone how to evaluate them against one another.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Childish Gambino, “This is America”

Best Cover Song

You know, I didn’t know that I was going to speed through these categories. I thought to myself “I bet I will have things to say about these people and about pop music, because this is a good opportunity to do so”. But nope. Halsey covered Juice WRLD. Charlie Puth covered Shawn Mendes. Et and also cetera. But actually there is a bright spot here: Khalid covered “Fast Car” and it is incredible. It solves the “Khalid’s songs aren’t as good as his voice” problem 2, which is nice, and is kind of why you’d want somebody to cover something in the first place.


Best Lyrics

I have made it a matter of record before, but will state again for the present situation: I am not a lyrics person. I have, however, a bunch of literature-examining training. Now, in a way this isn’t fair – lyrics are not the same as poetry 3, and while it’s possible to evaluate them outside of the songs in which they appear, it is also somewhat diminishing to the thign they represent. This category, then, is about as useful as “best bassline” or “best synth part” or whatever, in that it is examining a portion of a song, which is definitionally the combination of all the different bits. That’s fine. Everyone in the world cares more about lyrics than me, so I’m willing to go along with it for the sake of our purposes here, but it leaves me in the position of having to say that almost all of this is terrible. “Without Me” is a bad song with bad lyrics. “Consequences” and “Girls Like You” don’t have bad lyrics, but they’re not anything special. “God’s Plan” at least has some clever wordplay. It’s not good, but some of it is clever. “In My Blood” is probably the best lyric of the bunch, when taken as an example of one word following another with no additional context which, again, is a butt-stupid way to look at song lyrics. “Thank U Next” is also clever, and makes its point in an interesting way, I suppose, and since it also provides most of the thing you’d actually want to hear about a song that wouldn’t be at all interesting with different lyrics, it wins here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next”

Best Fan Army presented by Taco Bell

I love when one category is sponsored in awards shows. It’s almost always the “Best New Artist” category and it makes me laugh all the time. As thought it wouldn’t be here without the gracious philanthropic vision of the fine folks at….Taco Bell. Ha! Anyway, this, like all “Best fans” categories, will go to BTS for the entire foreseeable future, for all the usual reasons.


Songwriter of the Year

Mostly this category is indicative of this entire awards show – by which I mean it’s full of lowest-common-denominator nonsense and stuff that the record-selling industry is trying to make happen – but I like Frank Dukes for two reasons. 1) He co-wrote some pretty good Frank Ocean songs 4 and 2) he almost has the same as Frank Dux, who was a highly entertaining nutbar. That’s about all I’ve got for this crop of people. I’m happy to be moving on.


Producer of the Year

Or I would have been happier to move on, if this category wasn’t somehow even worse. I guess it goes to Marshmallo because his music is fine, such as it is.


Regional Mexican Artist of the Year

In researching this last year, I found that I quite liked Calibre 50. Since I still only have two years very casual research to go on, it may come as no surprise to find that I still quite like Calibre 50.


Region Mexican Song of the Year

I’m not the only one, clearly, as I find myself with two Calibre 50 songs to choose from here. IT is not exaggerating to say that this makes this one of the most difficult categories, quite frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calibre 50, “Mitad y Mitad”

Best New Latin Artist

This one is hard, but I ended up going with Lele Pons, because I still miss her Vine. And Vine generally.


Latin Artist of the Year

I feel equally about J. Balvin, Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee, who represent the sort of triumvirate of American-penetrating Latin pop music. I guess I’ve never proclaimed Bad Bunny the rightful winner before, so I’ll give it to him this year.


Latin Song of the Year

These get harder as they get farther away from Calibre 50, I don’t mind telling you. I guess I like “Dura” the best of all of these.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Daddy Yankee, “Dura”

Best New R&B Artist

The “new artist” categories at the iHeart awards are simultaneously the hardest to evaluate and also the most sort of existentially hilarious – the radio wants to be able to break these people, but can’t, so they have to convince you that they’re right about them being the next big thing and….hoping that they’re right? It’s an amazing thing to consider, quite frankly. Anyway, I like H.E.R. fine.


R&B Artist of the Year

Ella Mai is up for best New R&B Artist and for R&B Artist of the year. That’s a tall order for a lady with one hit. I suppose this says everything important about the state of the Media Conglomerate Formerly Known as Clear Channel in 2019, though, doesn’t it?


R&B Song of the Year

I will say that I often remark about the dire quality of the work in these awards shows (or all awards shows, really), but it does make the prospect of figuring out which one of these is the most deserving pretty easy. In this case, though, it’s the pleasant-but-slight “Boo’d Up” butting up against a third-rate Miguel song in the form of “Skywalker,” so I went with the one that doesn’t have Travis Scott on it.


Best New Hip Hop Artist

It is strange that XXXTentacion’s entire thing happened so fast that he’d be up for best new artist anywhere, but there you have it. It’s a weird time to be alive. All of these people make truly terrible music, tho. Even without being a pretty deeply unsavory person, XXXTentacion made awful music. Lil Baby makes awful music. Lil Pump makes awful music. Juice WRLD makes ever-so-slightly-less awful music, and BlocBoy JB, well, he comes out of this looking very good. His music is still awful, just the least awful.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: BlocBoy JB (begrudgingly)

Hip Hop Artist of the Year

Kendrick didn’t do much more than produce the Black Panther soundtrack, but it’s still more of a contribution to hip hop than any of the rest of these dildos. I mean, Cardi B’s record is fine and all that, but I don’t think it’s enough to put her over the top. In this category I mean. More on her music (which, you may remember, I do like) later.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar (somehow)

Dance Artist of the Year

It’s a banner year when this category has two artists I almost kind of like. I still think Calvin Harris is about as good as radio dance music gets, but I don’t hate Marshmello, and I’m calling this a kind of progress.


Dance Song of the Year

Calvin Harris is fine, and I’m on the record as sort of liking Dua Lipa, so “One Kiss” is the obvious winner here. Plus the video is fun.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Calvin Harris, “One Kiss” (f Dua Lipa)

Best New Country Artist

Back at the American Music Awards, this category went to LANCO because they didn’t have a Wikipedia page, and looking them up on Wikipedia just sent you to the page for an airline. That made me laugh. They probably also win here because their song isn’t that bad, but it might just be residual goodwill from the time when they lost their Wikipedia page to an airline. Heh.


Country Artist of the Year

Oh my god I can’t say the thing I say ever year about how these categories are all the same people every year because it’s the beginning of the year and if I start complaining about it now I’ll lose my mind before it’s time to stop but I CANNOT ANY LONGER CONSIDER WHETHER JASON ALDEAN IS BETTER THAN LUKE BRYAN OR WHATEVER OH GOD. At least I like Luke Bryan on American Idol. That’s something.


Country Song of the Year

I genuinely do not like any of these songs. Not even in my usual grumbly way, just in the way that all of these songs are terrible and I hate them. I appreciate Luke Bryan’s earnestness, even if his song sounds like it was written after he got hit in the back of the head with a shovel.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luke Bryan, “Most People Are Good,” but it’s really a dreadful song. It’s just better than the rest of the songs here. Kind of. If you squint.

Rock Artist of the Year

I mean, the Country Song category was brain-meltingly bad, but at least it wasn’t this bad. For the first time in my life, I have to consider the fact that I would rather hear a Five-Finger Death Punch song than set myself on fire, which I can’t say for any of the other bands here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Five-Finger Death Punch, but I am seriously going to start gibbering with madness if things don’t turn up for this category soon.

Rock Song of the Year

Can we talk about this Bad Wolves cover of “Zombie”? It’s kind of the only thing in this category I find compelling. It’s obviously terrible. Like, all-time world-class terrible 5. It’s also in this category, and not in “best cover song”, and I’m not sure if that’s a vote of confidence or an insult. It’s also not actually even the best cover of “Zombie” released in the wake of Dolores O’Riordan’s death – that would be Vic Mensa’s cover, which rules – so it’s essentially nothing. Truly, this is the bottom of the barrel for inconsequential awards-show nominating.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Actually, I’m giving to Vic Mensa for his cover of “Zombie”, which also did not make “best cover version” and should have. It also was not nominated here.

Best New Rock/Alternative Artist

I guess what I’m wondering is this: what is the point at which the iHeart folks stop even pretending that there’s any such thing as rock music on the radio? They’re kind of doing it here – by merging it with “Alternative” here as they have, they have acknowledged that they can’t fill out a category without adding a bunch of synth bands anyway. I have no problem with this. I’m happy to cede that rock is not a major commercial force. It seems to be doing pretty well under those circumstances. Anyway, all of these bands are awful, but Billie Ellish has convinced a bunch of people that whatever she’s doing is worth hearing, and I appreciate that kind of marketing savvy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bille Ellish (who is very bad, but cannily-marketed)

Alternative Rock Artist of the Year

This is not quite as bad as the country song category, or the regular Rock artist category 6, but it’s still pretty dreadful. I think the dude from Imagine Dragons seems cool, but his band sucks real bad. I liked Portugal, the Man’s first record, but they suck pretty bad. Sucking pretty bad is better than sucking real bad, and the rest of the bands in this category are beneath consideration, so there you have it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portugal, the Man

Alternative Rock Song of the Year

The cancer that is Weezer’s cover of “Africa” is, of course, mentioned here, because the world is terrible and I hate living in it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Marshmello, “Happier” (f Bastille)

Best New Pop Artist

Seriously, this is another of those awards shows where I seem to come strongly out in favor of someone (in this case Marshmello) despite the fact that I don’t actually even like them, they’re just better than the rest of the field.


Best Collaboration

I will say this for “The Middle” – it is a deeply unlikable song, but it also seems like it’s been around forever. I don’t know what sort of song-based alchemical magic that is, but I have transplanted that song to having been released, like, ten years ago, despite the fact that Maren Morris herself is, like, twelve. It doesn’t make me hate it less, but I acknowledge that there is a thing there. Anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, “I Like It” (f Bad Bunny and J Balvin)

Best Duo/Group of the Year

I have said here and elsewhere that if I had been much younger when twenty one pilots had started out, I would definitely not have been immune to their thing, and that sets them ahead of the rest of these people.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: twenty-one pilots

Male Artist of the Year

At least the presence of Kendrick Lamar here makes this one easy, and means I don’t have to say anything about any of these people.


Female Artist of the Year

Ariana Grande was more entertaining than most of these women, but her scream-singing gives me panic attacks. Dua Lipa makes some of the most interesting music of these women, but it’s not that interesting. That would be a real toss-up if it weren’t for the fact that Cardi B has them beat on both fronts.


Song of the Year

I think maybe it’s time to burn the entire radio industry to the ground.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The blazing inferno of justice.

  1. and, admittedly, gains most of his points because he’s still smol 
  2. a problem he shares with, charitably, 67% of the people in this category. 
  3. This is a weird thing to say and it probably makes some of the assembled all hackles-y, so I will footnote it thusly: I think that there are lyrics that do work as poetry, but the two things aren’t actually related. A good poem that is set to music may be a good poem, but most lyrics are meant as artifacts of the songs that they are a part of, and therefore have a different and separate job from the job of a song lyric. You can read some more of this when I wrote about Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize here, but the upshot is that good lyrics are functionalist (i.e. they exist most of the time to facilitate the singing of the song – which is the musical contribution of the vocalist), and poetry is the ends in and of itself, and that most musical acts that exist to prop up their own lyrics are pretty fucking terrible. 
  4. which actually happened outside of the period of interest for this awards show, and probably shouldn’t come up, but, y’know, it’s true anyway. 
  5. I thought this plenty at first, and then I saw the video, which if you haven’t seen it, is mind-blowing. It starts with an assertion that Dolores O’Riordan was going to come sing on it (I have not reason to believe that isn’t true, I guess), and ends with a quote about Dolores O’Riordan from….the singer of Bad Wolves. In between they, like, look real sad and have some models cosplay the original “Zombie” video. It’s amazing. 
  6. if you merged these two together, like they did in the song category, you might even have something like a reasonable list. Maybe. I mean, probably not this year. But maybe in theory. 

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