Photos by Neil Van
Hometown hero Shawn Mendes dominated the 2018 iHeart Radio MMVAs this past weekend, walking away with four trophies and opening and closing the annual award show with two performances that raised the show’s energy and the volume of deafening screams from the hundreds of fans crowded around the stage.
Many stars, including MMVA award-winner Bebe Rexha and hosted Awkwafina, noted backstage the unique energy of the outdoor stage and how the award show dynamic shifts when it’s all about the fans. “I love Canada, I love Toronto. Being on that stage tonight – we ran a rehearsal, and it’s nothing like what it’s like when you’re out there,” shared Awkwafina. The actress and rapper has had a busy summer, releasing a new EP and starring in two box office hits, Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, and now, has become the first Asian-American actress to host a North American music award show. Awkwafina brought lots of energy and confidence to her hosting gig.
When asked about the just-announced sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, she shared some excitement but uncertainty about her involvement in it. “Will I be in it? I don’t know yet, but I am available.”
This year’s event lended itself to a lot of other new and upcoming talent. Acts like Kris Wu, 5 Seconds of Summer, Bulow, and The Beaches all took the stage; Wu walked away with the Fan Fave New Artist, and Canadian duo Loud Luxury was awarded the Song of the Summer MMVA for their radio hit “Body”.
22 year-old director and Toronto native Karena Evans, who directed the music videos for Drake’s singles “Nice For What”, “I’m Upset”, and “In My Feelings”, won the Best Director prize during the red carpet for her work behind “God’s Plan”. Speaking on her work with Drake, she said “An idea starts with him and from there, it’s an explosive collaboration.”
Evans, who is next looking to make the jump into film and television, also discussed the importance of female talent behind the lens in the music industry. “Listen to us, know that we’re here, see that we’re here, and know that there is no difference to our male counterpart,” she expressed backstage.
The award show leaned into more socially conscious messaging throughout the night. Stars like Tyra Banks, Prince Michael Jackson, Madison Beer, and athlete Gus Kenworthy spoke about self-love, poverty and helping communities, and the need for greater inclusivity and equality in the world. The Video of the Year went to Logic’s “1-800-273-8255”, a song that explores the struggle with depression, loneliness, and suicide, and led to an increase in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Line. Grammy Award-winner, performer, and last year’s MMVA host Alessia Cara, who lent her vocals to the song, accepted the award on behalf of Logic and Khalid at the end of the night.
Like most years, the MMVAs featured a roster of chart-topping artists – including Marshmellow, Halsey, and Meghan Trainor – to bring big, buzzy performances to the streets of Toronto. The 2018 edition also tapped into a dose of nostalgia by enlisting 90s boy band 98 Degrees to share a medley of their big hits, and featured reality show stars Kristin Cavallari (previously of Laguna Beach and The Hills fame, now with her own show Very Cavallari), JWoww from Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, and couple Ashlee Simpson Ross and Evan Ross, who have their new show debuting on E! next month.
While most years do depend on these international acts, it was refreshing to have a Canadian act be the top liner and highlight of the night – even if it just so happens to be a kid from Pickering, Ontario who is now an internationally renowned pop star. The atmosphere completely shifted at any mention of his name and anytime Mendes appeared on stage, including his performance of “In My Blood”, which concluded the festivities.