Whether you like the decisions made at these music award shows or not, they will continue to make us talk about it whether it is for the good or worse. Some are determined by a panel of judges; some are determined by the chart performances and some are voted by the fans. We root for our favourites, but sometimes it doesn’t go the way we predicted it to be and that is the beauty of any award shows.
You know the name of the music award shows, but do you know when it was started and how different it is from the next one? This post is a little guide to all the music award shows that you should know about the next time you may be watching and voting for.
1. American Music Awards (AMAs)
First event: 19th February 1974
About: This 44-year old annual American music award show was created by Dick Clark for ABC when the Grammy Awards contract ended with the network. It became one of the three biggest award shows besides the Grammys and Billboard Music Awards until today. American Music Awards winners are based on the public votes through their official website.
►1985 saw the great artists like Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and many others come together on stage to perform “We are the World” written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
►Country artist Garth Brooks said no to Artist of the Year award on stage in 1996 because he feels he didn’t deserve the title that year as many have credited Hootie & The Blowfish for keeping retailers alive in 1995.
►Pop superstars Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake hit the red carpet with matching denim ensembles to the AMAs 2001 that became a much-talked-about iconic moment in pop culture
2. BET Awards
First event: 19th June 2001
About: BET stands for Black Entertainment Television and the network created this award show in 2001 to celebrate the African Americans in music, movies, sports and many others. The annual BET Awards nominees are determined by approximately 500 people in the music industry, media and bloggers before narrowing it down to the top five, then return back to the academy to choose the winner.
►At the 2008 BET Awards, Alicia Keys performed her single “Teenage Love Affair” before surprising us with iconic girl groups SWV, En Vogue and TLC to perform their ‘90s hits together.
►Cissy Houston’s brave tribute performance at the 2012 BET Awards for her daughter Whitney Houston brought everyone to tears with her rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
►It was a ‘90s extravaganza when mogul Diddy gathered Lil’ Kim, The Lox, Faith Evans and 112 on one stage in 2015 to perform a medley of their biggest hits that we have grown to know and love. Not to mention Diddy accidentally fell into a hole on stage.
3. Billboard Music Awards
First event: 10th December 1990
About: The annual Billboard Music Awards are based on the album and digital sales of the songs, as well as streaming, radio airplay, tours and the engagements on social media. It is tracked by Billboard and other data partners. It used to be held in December, but is now happening in May after American Music Awards and Grammy Awards.
►Whitney Houston brought the house down in 1993! Besides winning numerous awards that night, wearing matching red outfits with then-husband Bobby Brown, she delivered a rousing performance of “I Have Nothing” that still gives us chills until today.
►TLC accepted Artist of the Year honour in 1995 for the successful CrazySexyCool album with a cardboard cut-out form of T-Boz who wasn’t able to make it.
►At the 2011 Billboard Music Awards, Beyoncé took the stage to perform “Me, Myself & I” with hundreds of other lookalikes that had on the same dress, hairstyle and choreography.
4. BRIT Awards
First event: 18th October 1977
About: The BRIT Awards or the BRITS is the annual music awards for the British Phonographic Industry. It started off as just a shortened form of the “British” but went on to become the acronyms for British Record Industry Trusts Show. The nominations are compiled by Official Charts Company and then submitted to the voting academy of over 1,000 members including previous year’s nominees and winners before they vote on a secure website.
►1996 was pretty iconic and controversial when Jarvis Cocker of the band Pulp run up on stage to create some commotion during Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” because he wasn’t impressed by how Jackson was portrayed as a Jesus-like figure.
►When Björk won Best International Female at the BRITs 1998, and her acceptance speech was a very memorable one when she said “I am… grateful… grapefruit.”
►Kanye West gave BRITs audience a show in 2015 when he debuted a new song “All Day” with the British Grime artists like Skepta, Fekky, Krept & Konan, Stormzy and more.
5. Grammy Awards
First event: 4th May 1959
About: This prestigious event was originally called Gramophone Award; the Grammy Awards is presented by The Recording Academy to honour the music industry. Entries are submitted before The Academy’s voting members decide on the nomination and winners. It is reviewed by approximately 350 members of their categories accordingly before the ballots are tabulated and be revealed on the day of the event.
►A Waiting to Exhale medley at the Grammys 1997 features the amazing Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, Cece Winans, Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin sharing one stage for a rousing performance from the amazing R&B soundtrack got a well-deserved standing ovation.
►In 2001, the legendary Elton John joined Eminem for “Stan” which shocked many because the rapper has been controversial for his negative lyrics about the LGBTQ community. It was a powerful moment for the two artists to collide.
►Pink’s performance of “Glitter in the Sky” at the Grammys 2010 left many of us breathless on the suspension rigging that lifted her to the air. When she rose from the tank of water, Pink was twirling and splashing water all directions before coming back down on the stage to receive a standing ovation.
6. iHeartRadio Music Awards
First event: 1st May 2014
About: iHeartRadio Music Awards is the newest addition of music award shows founded by iHeartRadio station in 2014. It acknowledges popular artists and music that are voted by the public in America. Nominations for iHeartRadio Music Awards are based on the radio station’s chart.
►Rihanna’s performance of “Bitch Better Have My Money” in 2015 brought in a helicopter on stage with her killer green fur outfit and matching green boots. She commanded the stage with so much badassery.
►In 2015 as well, country star Jason Aldean performed “Burnin It Down” with his band with real fire on stage and it is literally everywhere! He definitely took the single to live.
►In 2017, Katy Perry performed “Chained to The Rhythm” with Skip Marley with a very cute performance featuring young dancers and there was even a massive life-sized hamster wheel.
7. Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA)
First event: 27th November 1999
About: Abbreviated as MAMA, the Mnet Asian Music Awards was first known as Mnet Music Video Festival in 1999 after being modelled after MTV Video Music Awards. It is a huge South Korean music awards ceremony held annually and is now aired internationally. Besides Seoul, MAMA has been held at Macau, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Yokohama, and Saitama.
►Label mates SHINee and EXO teams up in 2012 for the epic “Lucifer” performance as the latter just debuted that year itself and SHINee was on top of their game. It was definitely a moment to witness 17 members performing “Lucifer” on stage.
►Zico from Block B and Rap Monster (RM) of BTS reunited for a rap battle to Jimin ripping his shirt to reveal BTS’ new album name, it was a very intense yet exhilarating performance we have ever seen.
►In 2015, 2NE1 made a surprise comeback to the stage after member Park Bom’s drug scandal in 2014. Little did we know back then, it would be 2NE1’s last performance before announcing their disbandment in 2016.
8. MTV Video Music Awards (VMA)
First event: 14th September 1984
About: This award is presented by cable channel MTV to honour the best music videos produced. It was originally created as the Grammy Awards but of the video category, but it has become one of the most exciting shows to expect the unexpected performances and moments. The VMA award statue is an astronaut on the moon and was recently called “Moon Person”.
►Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera kicked off the 2003 VMAs as brides to perform Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” before being joined by the original singer in groom suit to perform “Hollywood” which was later on joined by Missy Elliott. It was the kiss among the three pop singers that made headlines everywhere.
►Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift’s Best Female Video acceptance speech for “You Belong with Me” in 2009. He said “Yo Tay, I'm really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” and left the stage leaving Beyoncé embarrassed and Swift flabbergasted. When Beyoncé won Video of the Year, she called Swift back on stage to have her moment.
►This performance by Miley Cyrus got everyone talking during and after the show. The pop star performed “We Can’t Stop” in 2013 before joining Robin Thicke for “Blurred Lines” and simulation sexual moves with the giant foam finger. Despite the controversy, it became an iconic VMA moment.
9. Soul Train Music Awards
First event: 23rd March 1987
About: The Soul Train Music Awards is an annual award show to honour black music from the creators of Soul Train, which is a program that features R&B and Soul performances. It used to be aired earlier in the year, but as of late it has been the last weekend of November. The trophy has been redesigned to resemble the program’s mascot which is an actual train.
►Ronald Isley, Rachelle Ferrell, Peabo Bryson and Tamia performed a beautiful rendition of “If Only You Knew” as a tribute to Patti LaBelle in 1995 who was honoured that night for the Heritage Award that brought her to tears.
►Brandy performed the remix version of her debut single “I Wanna Be Down” with rappers MC Lyte, YoYo and Queen Latifah in 1996 was an unforgettable moment when the R&B and hip-hop combination was still fairly new to the world.
►In 2010, Anita Baker was honoured at the Soul Train Music Awards by Chrisette Michelle, Tamia, Faith Evans, Kem, Rachelle Ferrell, Lalah Hathaway, Goapele and Dionne Farris, as well as El DeBarge. It was a medley of Baker’s greatest hits with the live band and it was truly a magical moment.
►Soul sisters Erykah Badu and India Arie talked to the crowd at the 2016 Soul Train Music Awards about songs that empower women. Badu made us laugh when she started to sing Nate Dogg’s verse from Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” and Juvenile’s “Back That Thang Up” before India Arie stopped her and performed her single “Breathe” inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Cover Credit: Emma McIntyre/NBC / Contributor / Alamy Photo Stock
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
Kevin was the former editor of two music and lifestyle platforms in Malaysia. He is an all-round music enthusiast from the '90's R&B to K-Pop.