Music’s shining stars came together at Sunday’s iHeartRadio Music Awards and shed light on art’s power to unite.
Justin Timberlake claimed the first award of the night, winning song of the year for “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Upon taking the stage, he sent a powerful message directed at minority youth, saying that this song — from the animated film “Trolls” — is about “inclusion” and “being together.”
“If you are black or you are brown or you are gay or you are lesbian or you are trans, or maybe you’re just a sissy singing boy from Tennessee,” Timberlake said to the crowd at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. “Anyone that is treating you unkindly, it’s only because they are afraid, or they have been taught to be afraid of how important you are because being different means you make the difference. So f— ’em.”
Timberlake’s speech preceded a range of star-studded performances, including those from Ed Sheeran, The Chainsmokers and Coldplay‘s Chris Martin, Big Sean, and Shawn Mendes, who belted out some of their chart-topping hits. Sheeran performed two songs from his new album “Divide,” which was released last Friday, while The Chainsmokers sang their new singles “Paris” and “Something Just Like This,” alongside Martin. This marked the first time the Chainsmokers performed two back-to-back songs on an award show.
Timberlake’s speech was also one of several that touched on the impact that music has on unifying.
“It’s been a really, really tough year, but I hope that somehow this song made the summer a little bit better for you guys, despite everything that’s been going on,” singer Halsey said during her acceptance speech for best dance song of the year, with collaborators The Chainsmokers.
Before the show, other attendees commented on the ways in which they believe the medium will be affected by the current political climate.
“Shakespeare said that art is like holding a mirror to life, art’s always influenced by everything going on, especially the political stuff going on right now,” actor and DJ Ansel Elgort said before the show. “Music is certainly going to be influenced by that.”
iHeartRadio teamed up with Snapchat for this year’s ceremony, announcing winners that were not a part of the live telecast. The winners, which included Twenty One Pilots for alternative rock artist of the year and Rihanna for R&B album of the year, recorded 10-second acceptance speeches via Snapchat.
Meanwhile, the multi-talented Bruno Mars was honored with this year’s innovator award, which was presented to him by fellow nominee Big Sean. Mars brought the entire crowd to their feet with electrifying performances of his songs “Treasure” and “That’s What I Like.”
“Innovator is a very heavy word. This award — I’m so honored,” Bruno shared. “It’s a little ironic for me because I genuinely feel like I’m just getting started. I don’t know where we’re going yet, but we are going.”