Televised music award shows are nothing new, but they are new to Disney. Radio Disney has been celebrating its artists with awards since 2002 when the Radio Disney Music Awards officially began, but in the past this was always an on-air celebration. Last year saw the debut of their first true awards ceremony with a condensed recap airing on Disney Channel. This year Disney Channel was involved from the beginning.
Disney Channel plans to air the ceremony with commercial breaks on Sunday, April 27th, from 8:00 to 9:30. Tickets were on sale to the public for the live taping on April 26th with a strict policy that everybody must be in their seats by 3:30 for the 4:00 start. We arrived at L.A. Live around 2:00 for the special Pre-Party that was held outside the Nokia Theater. A big Radio Disney bus was parked outside where DJ's were broadcasting live from the event. On the main stage, Radio Disney L.A. talent entertained the crowd between acts, which included performances from The Vamps, Sabrina Carpenter, and McClain (formerly known as the McClain Sisters). A large crowd had gathered to join in the fun, which included sponsor booths by Nabi, Duck Tape, and American Girl. All of the sponsors had engaging crafts for kids. Radio Disney also had two merchandise booths at the pre-party.
The doors to the Nokia Theater opened at 2:30. We were able to spot a few Disney Channel stars as we entered the theater before the official red carpet festivities began. With the threat of no admittance past 3:30, I was surprised how slow the theater was to fill. I was even concerned that the event would look half-empty on TV, but right on queue at 3:30, nearly all 7,000 seats were full.
As we waited, an emcee came out to make sure everybody had downloaded the Radio Disney app, which was going to be essential to R5's performance for the night. As it got closer to showtime, he had the audience film multiple shots of cheering and screaming for the cameras to get crowd reaction shots. During the actual concert portions, the cameras were glued to the stage, so if you watch the special on Disney Channel and you see an audience reaction shot, that was probably filmed before the crowd had even seen the performance. They also had the audience pretend to laugh so they had footage in case a presenter made a funny joke. In case you aren't aware, pre-tapped award shows are often shot out-of-order and this was no exception.
In the center of the theater was a TV command center with a camera on a swinging crane. Not far from that was a circular stage built into the audience, which is where the hosts took their place to film the intro to the show. Ernie D, Candace, Morgan, and Maddy kicked off the festivities as the camera panned to the stage for a performance of a brand new song called "Problem" by Ariana Grande. While the emcee did instruct the audience to stand during every performance and to make a lot of noise for each artist, this was not necessary for Ms. Grande who was already a big draw for the tweens in attendance. She added a Disney touch to her performance by wearing sparkly mouse ears. At the end of her performance, black and white balloons fell from the catwalk onto the stage and audience.
The cameras cut away and the emcee returned to hype up the crowd for the next performance, which would be R5. By the audience reaction, you would have thought that they had announced that everyone would find $1,000 under their seats. I knew that Austin & Ally was a hit on Disney Channel, but I was unaware that star Ross Lynch's sibling band was this popular. In order to prepare for their performance, the audience was instructed to pop all of the balloons. Not a single balloon could be left in the theater before they took the stage. So when you watch at home and see the balloons magically disappear after the commercial break, just know that there was about 60 seconds of non-stop popping to make that happen.
After an introduction by cousin Julianne Hough, R5 took to the stage to perform "I Can't Forget About You." On queue, the audience ignited the Radio Disney app which synched to the song and created a light show in the audience. This exact same technology was used during Demi Lovato's Neon Lights tour, for those of you who went to her stellar show.
After another brief break, the first award was presented. The awards, by the way, look like a 9" gold vinylmation wearing headphones and it's called an Ardy (taken from the acronym for the awards, RDMA... RD... Ardy...). The That's My Jam award was won by girl group Fifth Harmony for their song "Me and My Girls." They graciously accepted their award dressed all in white when the screen behind them turned red and said "Selfie Alert!" The hosts called up a pre-selected audience member to take a selfie with the group, which was taken on a tablet. When that was done, they took it again with the girls pretending to hold a camera as the audience was expected to cheer. So when you see any of the selfies happening during the show and the artists appear to be holding a video camera, now you know why.
Next Ben Savage, Daniel Fishel, Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard were introduced as the cast of Girl Meets World. The audience didn't really know how to respond, but I was cheering loudly having been a fan of Boy Meets World. They introduced a video recap of a few awards that would not be presented live. The audience went crazy when One Direction won Best Music Group. In that same portion, "Birthday" by Selena Gomez won Best Song to Dance To.
Following another break, Fifth Harmony was introduced to perform "Miss Movin' On." They appeared in all black high on top of an elevated platform and they started the song acapella. As the stage lowered them to the ground again, the music kicked in and they began to dance along, too. I previously saw them as an opening act for Demi Lovato and I am so impressed with this group. They were incredible at the RDMA's and their performance extended into the audience towards the end.
After another break, the Best New Artist award was presented to Becky G, who also won Radio Disney's Next Big Thing earlier this year. In another round of video awards, "What Does the Fox Say?" by Ylvis won Catchiest New Song and Paramore won Best Crush Song for "Still Into You." Justin Timberlake took home the Best Male Artist award and he prepared a special acceptance video, during which he sang his speech.
Zendaya was the next performer, after yet another brief break. I was familiar with her danceability from her former Disney Channel series Shake It Up and she was impressive with a big team of dancers on stage. Her song "Replay" is in heavy rotation on Radio Disney and the audience went nuts as she danced her heart out wearing a white suit with a long pony tale. I'm not sure how much live singing occurred during this performance and signs of lip synching may be evident during the TV broadcast, but her performance was still really energizing and her fans were beside themselves with glee.
In the next round of awards, Ariana Grande was surprised with a special Show Stopper award. This one was not on the ballot that fans could vote on and she seemed genuinely surprised by it. Through a video award, "Let It Go" from Frozen won Best Song From a Movie or TV Show. Demi Lovato prepared a video acceptance speech from her tour for winning Best Female Artist and Best Roadtrip Song for "Made in the U.S.A."
Shakira was presented with a special crystal Ardy for her work through her charity called Barefoot Foundation which provides education resources to impoverished nations. She shared the award with three teenagers from across the country who have done outstanding volunteer work in their communities. One student got her city to ban smoking, one started an anti-bullying club at his school, and the final one has become the national spokesperson for the Boys and Girls Club of America.
Becky G. blew the roof off the Nokia Theater performing her half-rap/half-pop song "Shower." She emerged from a three-dimensional graffiti-style cutout of her name and did an amazing job live singing and dancing. This is something that most artists have a hard time doing and some of the other performers at this show seemed to rely on lip synching to pull off similar performances. I would not be surprised to see her break out of Radio Disney market into mainstream radio soon.
Next another special surprise Showstopper award was given to R5, who returned to the stage to accept their Ardy. Through another round of video awards, Best Song That Makes You Smile went to "Ooh La La" by Britney Spears and Best Musical Collaboration went to Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran for "Everything Has Changed."
Austin Mahone took the stage for an exhausting dance performance to his song "Mmm Yeah." This felt like the end of the show and tween girls appeared to be on the verge of passing out from excitement during his part. When he was done, people stood up thinking it was time to go. However, this is filmed out of order and there were a few more items that remained to be filmed.
Zendaya was presented with the Best Style Award, having changed out of her white performance outfit into something more fashionable for an awards show. Finally, there was a video about an 11-year-old girl named Aalyah Rose from Utah who caught Disney's attention with her YouTube cover of "Let It Go." They surprised her while singing the national anthem at a softball game with an invitation to come and perform it at the RDMAs. Dove Cameron introduced her to the stage and she miraculously gave the best performance of the night. She had a full string orchestra on stage to accompany her and as the song finished with her on the round stage in the audience, snow fell. I don't know if Disney plans to use this as the end of the edited show or not, but it was a fantastic way to end the awards.
As we exited the theater in an organized line with 7,000 of my closest friends, the murmurs from the attendees were varied. Most parents wanted nothing more than to get in their car and go home or to dinner. After all, this was a two-and-a-half hour experience and they probably need a doctor to check their ears for internal damage after being exposed to loud screams for an extended period of time. Many were hoping to go behind the theater to see the stars leave, while others were desperately trying to find information about an after-party that might not even exist. We took the high road... 10 East to 5 South to the Disneyland Resort.