For an aspiring musician, getting national exposure by playing a televised award show can be the publicity push needed to move a career from successful to super-stardom. In its almost three decades on air, the iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards (Sunday, June 18 at 9 pm ET on MUCH) have been part of taking many musicians from enjoying core, devoted fan bases to becoming some of the biggest acts in the world. From the Queen of Pop to the biggest male pop star in the world, more than a few of today’s biggest musical acts got their start on stage at Toronto’s Queen and John.
We’re not saying that the only reason these musicians saw their careers explode was because they played the iHeartRadio MMVAs, but we are saying it definitely helped.
BRITNEY SPEARS, 1999
In 1999, former mouseketeer Britney Spears could have easily been a one-hit pop wonder, a fate that had befallen many pop stars before her. The music charts at the time were split decidedly between rock and rap, with pop trying to find its own space. The lineup for the 1999 iHeartRadio MMVAs that year was similar, with Our Lady Peace, David Bowie and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in direct opposition to newcomer Britney Spears, who had yet to become the reigning princess of pop. But after one of her first award show appearances, Spears launched an international career that includes selling out arenas 18 years later. Long may she reign.
AVRIL LAVIGNE, 2002
In the early to mid nineties, Canadian women ruled the US charts, with albums by Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette and Shania Twain breaking records and putting the true north on the map. In 2002, a teenage singer songwriter from Napanee arrived on the music scene with her dad’s tie and her no BS attitude and shocked the world by being herself. That year, Avril Lavigne made her debut iHeartRadio MMVA performance, including debuting a bit of her bum, and went on to score eight nominations for her debut album “Let Go.”
KANYE WEST, 2004
It’s difficult to remember a time when not everyone in the world knew who Kanye West was, but even Kanye would have to admit that’s true. Then a virtual unknown, West had only released his debut album “The College Dropout” months before playing the 2004 iHeartRadio MMVAs, but anyone watching the award show that night knew they were witnessing a superstar unlike anyone the world had seen. That’s something Kanye would definitely agree with.
ARCADE FIRE, 2005
Montreal-based indie band Arcade Fire seemingly appeared from nowhere to reinvent folk pop with their 2004 debut album Funeral. Scoring a nomination for Best Alternative Music Album at the 2005 Grammy Awards, Arcade Fire burst into iHeartRadio MMVA history with their show-stealing performance of “Rebellion” complete with a marching band and sound that captivated the country. The rest is history.
CITY AND COLOUR, 2006
At the 2005 iHeartRadio MMVAs, hardcore band Alexisonfire made their debut on the award show stage, delivering a hard-hitting performance heard across the country. Only one year later, founding member Dallas Green returned to the stage as a newly solo City and Colour, and captivated audiences in studio and at home with his beautifully melancholy delivery of the track “Save Your Scissors.” While Alexisonfire has since gone on an indefinite hiatus, Green’s soft somber folk music has made him an internationally renowned artist who continues to play sold out shows around the world.
In 2005, a then-teenaged Rihanna left her home of Barbados to hit a Toronto nightclub and shoot her first music video, “Pon de Replay.” Directed by Toronto native Director X, the video quickly began to gain traction, with Rihanna returning to the city less than a year later to perform at the iHeartRadio MMVAs, marking one of the pop superstars’ first award show performances. Performing again in 2008, Rihanna’s love for the 6ix continues, with the singer reuniting with Director X to shoot her video for “Work” in Toronto in 2016.
ADAM LAMBERT, 2010
In the early 2000s, winning American Idol came with an almost certainty that a best-selling album was not far behind. For Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert, not clinching the final spot meant superstardom was not a guarantee. Lambert released his debut album in 2009 and in 2010 he hit the stage at the iHeartRadio MMVAs to perform his single “Whataya Want From Me” like a first place winner. The album went number one in 14 countries and cemented Lambert as a bona fide superstar.
ED SHEERAN, 2012
In 2012, a then virtually unknown Ed Sheeran scored a performance spot at the iHeartRadio MMVAs as one of the lesser known artists with a small, but devoted fanbase. Sheeran’s debut album + had started gaining some traction, but it was after his iHeartRadio MMVA performance that Sheeran scored a spot on Taylor Swift’s tour and album Red, skyrocketing him to his current position as the biggest male pop star in the world. Sheeran would return to the iHeartRadio MMVAs to perform again in 2013, 2014 and as the show’s host in 2015.
SHAWN MENDES, 2015
Less than two months after releasing his highly anticipated debut album Handwritten, Toronto teen Shawn Mendes made one of his first televised appearances. Singing his new single “Stitches,” the song was a Top 10 hit in Canada and the US, with Mendes going on to win three iHeartRadio MMVAs since then, with the singer nominated for four this year.
ALESSIA CARA, 2016
Brampton, Ontario native Alessia Cara’s slow burn in the music scene seemed to pick up speed every week, following the release of her debut single “Here.” Following her 2016 performance at the iHeartRadio MMVAs, Cara quickly became the voice of a generation. This year the Canadian singer will be hosting the award show along with Joe Jonas.
If you want to see which artist is going to be the next big thing, tune into the 2017 iHeartRadio MMVAs on Sunday, June 18 at 9E/6P.