Erykah Badu Returns as 2017 Soul Train Awards Honor Industry Legends and Newcomers

Solange Knowles and Bruno Mars have soul. At least, BET thinks so.

The network has announced nominations for the BET Presents: 2017 Soul Train Awards, an annual ceremony that recognizes the best in soul, R&B and hip-hop music, honing in on artists from the 1970s—or newcomers whose music is evocative of the disco era.

So far, Solange is leading with seven nominations, including video of the year and song of the year for her hit single, Cranes in the Sky.

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CMT Artists of the Year Clocks Record Ratings With Moving Disaster Tribute

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 18: (L-R) Honorees Chris Stapleton, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan speak onstage at the 2017 CMT Artists Of The Year on October 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)

In a powerful display of unity and emotion honoring the victims of manmade and natural disasters across the United States, CMT’s Artists of the Year event aired to record ratings on Wednesday night, skyrocketing 61 percentage points over 2016 numbers while drawing more than 1.1 million fans. The program also ranked as the most social entertainment program in primetime on cable, while #CMTAOTY trended nationally on Twitter.

CMT recast the event – typically a celebration of the year’s premiere country artists – into a “night of hope and healing” following a savage mass shooting that killed 58 people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival earlier this month, as well as a trio of hurricanes and a plague of wildfires that have disrupted life throughout much of the nation.

“We felt a commitment to our fans to transform the event into a night where we honor human resilience through music, and hopefully in the process lift the spirits of our fans,” said CMT General Manager Frank Tanki. “We’re thrilled that the special connected with so many people, especially those who’ve been impacted by the recent tragedies.”

The show’s ratings success hits as CMT is riding a 10-month ratings streak, with sustained year-over-year growth over that period among key demographics.

Here are a few highlights from the show, which aired from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Artists of the Year deliver message of unity and resilience

When the gunfire erupted over the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1, country music star Jason Aldean onstage. His audience was the killer’s target. As Aldean rushed to cover, 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the unending barrage of bullets.

To open the show on Wednesday night, Aldean appeared alongside the other Artists of the Year: Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. The performers – whom the network had selected in September, prior to the format change – had all agreed to forego formal awards and focus on victims of the recent tragedies. They opened with a message acknowledging the power and importance of music, the resilience of the human spirit, and the strength and courage of first responders and fans:

The show resonated especially powerfully in Las Vegas, where ratings increased an astronomical 1,877 percentage points over last year.

Country stars deliver a powerful genre crossover with a tribute to Tom Petty

CMT has a bold tradition of fusing artists (pop legends The Backstreet Boys performed country sensation Florida Georgia Line’s H.O.L.Y. during the show), and one of the night’s most uplifting moments came on just such a crossover. Aldean, Urban, Stapleton and country mainstays Little Big Town united on stage for a tribute to the late Tom Petty, belting out a stirring ensemble cover of the rocker’s I Won’t Back Down.

One of Petty’s most famous songs, the defiant anthem served as an appropriate tribute to the music legend while doubling as an apt rebuke to the fear and retreat that killers like the Las Vegas mass murderer hope to inspire:

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Viacom and One Africa Music Fest Host Employee Meet and Greet With Afrobeat Stars

Afrobeat exploded out of a combination of West African musical styles in the 1970s. From its original sounds exemplified by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti to the Nigerian, Ghanaian and South African artists blowing up the hottest radio stations and nightclubs across the U.S., Europe and Africa today, the Afrobeat movement is alive, well, and on fire!

The BEAT, Viacom’s black employee resource group, wanted to share the Afrobeat movement with its members and the rest of the Viacom family. On the eve of the second One Africa Music Fest in New York City, the BEAT hosted an Afrobeat listening session and meet and greet with two of Nigeria’s biggest Afrobeat artists.

(L to R) Praiz, Ezinne Kwubiri, Flavour Photo by: Oluwaseye

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Rita Ora Returns to Hometown London to Host the 2017 MTV EMA Awards

The 24th annual MTV EMA Awards will be an evening of world-class performances from some of the biggest music acts on the planet. For the first time since 1996, the festivities take place in London, home to iconic bands such as Oasis and the Spice Girls, as well as this year’s host: global superstar Rita Ora.

Ora’s EMA resume is robust. She opened the ceremony in 2012 with a performance of her hit song R.I.P.,  presented Eminem with his Best Hip Hop Award in 2013, and is an eight-time EMA award nominee.

The model, singer and dancer’s career began with a chart-topping debut album, Ora. She’s collaborated with stars like Charli XCX and Iggy Azalea for a number of hits, and was most recently a judge on The X Factor and the host of VH1’s America’s Next Top Model.

“Rita is a multi-talented star who’s been an MTV core artist for over half of a decade,” said Viacom International Head of Music and Talent Bruce Gillmer in a press release. “She’s the perfect hometown hero to lead the 2017 MTV EMAs, which promises to be the year’s ultimate global music celebration.”

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Eminem Drops Exclamation Point on Thrilling BET Hip Hop Awards

The BET Hip Hop Awards splashed down to the Sunshine State for its 2017 ceremony, taking advantage of South Florida’s tropical vibes, frenetic energy and vibrant music scene to honor hip-hop’s hustle. The show attracted a who’s who of hip-hop royalty, including Gucci Mane, Luke Campbell, Playboi Carti and Flo Rida, while transforming Miami’s Jackie Gleason Theater into a trendy South Beach nightclub with bursts of pyrotechnics, fog, and flashing lights.

Migos performs “Too Hotty” at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Hosted by Miami native and modern renaissance man DJ Khaled, the Hip-Hop Awards paid homage to both industry veterans like Eminem (who went viral with a politically-charged freestyle) and spunky newcomers like Hustler of the Year, Cardi B.

Check out these highlights from the hottest night in hip-hop:

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These Moments From the 2017 VMAs Are Guaranteed to Orbit the MTV Galaxy for Years to Come

Since 1984, some of pop culture’s most revered moments, quotes and gestures originated at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Britney Spears’ sweeping, serpentine performance of I’m a Slave for You. Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Kanye West’s presidential bid. Miley Cyrus and the twerk heard ‘round the world. Michael Jackson’s moon-walking medleys. Hammer Time. Lil’ Kim, Diana Ross and one purple jumpsuit…these are images embedded in our collective social conscious, through memories and endless GIFs on our Twitter feeds.

Courtesy of GIPHY.

The 2017 VMAs, held at The Forum in Los Angeles in August, certainly spawned plenty of extraordinary moments.

Here were a few of my favorites:

Lorde’s silent, avant-garde performance of Homemade Dynamite

The pop star flounced around stage like a ballerina from Mars, which isn’t too unusual for the VMAs. Not singing (or even lip-synching) is, however, a bit unusual.

Courtesy of GIPHY.

Lorde tweeted a response to confused fans and reporters who covered the event, explaining how she had the flu and was on an IV drip just days before the ceremony.

I still think her modern, possibly interpretive dancing was sick (pun intended).

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MTV Rides Programming Resurgence to First Summer Ratings Increase in Six Years

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fueled by a programming renaissance, MTV scored its first summer ratings increase in six years for the three months ending August 31.

That’s cause for celebration:

via GIPHY

The surge follows the steady re-introduction of several legacy MTV programs that have been recalibrated to appeal to the social-, mobile- and digital-oriented youth of today: My Super Sweet 16, Unplugged and, on Snapchat, Cribs and Beach House. And, coming soon: the hugely anticipated returns of early aughts mainstay TRL.

(Take a look at the Shawn Mendes performance that relit Unplugged – you’re not seeing things – there are no cell phones in the audience; the producers prohibited fans from bringing them into the theater, so they could simply enjoy the concert, 1990s style):

The ratings resurgence has not been entirely tethered to nostalgia, however, as a rejiggering of the network’s The Challenge and the launch of unscripted original Siesta Key (below) also fueled large audiences.

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Viacom Brands Unite for Hurricane Relief Telethon On September 12

After Hurricane Harvey left Texas residents reeling from one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history, CMT teamed up with other broadcast networks to air a benefit telethon on Sept. 12.

Since then, Hurricane Irma decimated entire islands in the Caribbean and left millions of Florida residents without power. The affected areas are still in “rescue mode” according to The New York Times, meaning we don’t yet know the full extent of damage caused by this colossal storm, but experts agree it will be extensive.

Now, the telethon has expanded to aid the victims of Hurricane Irma. Hand In Hand: A Benefit For Hurricane Relief also expanded its broadcast scope. Viacom networks MTV and BET will now join CMT in airing the special.

“Silence is overrated,” tweeted CMT. “Sometimes, music is the only thing that can get your mind off everything else.”

The hour-long special aims to do just that—use music as a way to bring peace of mind to those affected by the hurricane. And with BET, MTV and other broadcast networks now airing the event, Hand in Hand can reach as many homes as possible. This means more opportunity for people to make personal donations to assist hurricane victims. The telethon is predicted to be one of the largest benefit concerts in history.

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P!NK Will Get the Party Started As Video Vanguard Winner for the 2017 VMAs

Michael Jackson earned his title as King of Pop for his mosaic of entertainment talent and ingenuity—especially when it came to creating iconic music videos. With Thriller, Jackson introduced cinematography into music videos, turning what used to be simple live recordings into fully-fledged short films. The 13-minute video (which I performed in a summer camp talent show as a teenager, and still remember most of the moves) was MTV’s first world premiere.

Courtesy of GIPHY.

Jackson’s musical mosaic of R&B, rock, pop, jazz and funk coupled with a repertoire of iconic dance moves made him the benchmark for artistic excellence in the entertainment industry.   The Weeknd, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber are just some of today’s most prominent stars entertainers who cite Jackson as inspiration.

The MTV Video Music Awards pay credence to this legacy with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.

The award celebrates “forerunners in the music video sphere,” according to Slate.

“MTV is legitimately the definitive arbiter on such matters. And their track record with the Vanguard has reinforced their authority: The first recipients of the award, in 1984, were the Beatles and Richard Lester, for the trailblazing A Hard Day’s Night, and David Bowie, for his groundbreaking films from the late ’60s and ’70s.”

This year, pop star P!NK will receive the honor, joining the pantheon of esteemed winners from previous years. The gutsy songstress established a close relationship with MTV and the VMAs over the course of her 17-year career.

Watch some of P!NK’s greatest VMA moments:

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5 Questions With VH1 Save The Music’s Henry Donahue

Over the last 20 years, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation has provided millions of dollars in funding to music education programs at more than 2,000 public schools across the U.S.

We recently talked with Henry Donahue, vice president and executive director of the Foundation, about the positive impact the organization is having on students’ lives and how it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Here’s what Donahue has to say about his work with VH1 Save The Music Foundation:

Created by Viacom Catalyst.