YouTube Music Awards: 7 Things Seen and Heard Backstage

Jason Schwartzman makes a dig at the VMAs, Vanessa Hudgens explains the Avicii film glitch and details are revealed about a massive "rickroll" that never happened.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for YouTube
Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts at the YouTube Music Awards

The first-ever YouTube Music Awards, streamed live on Sunday, Nov. 3 from New York City’s Pier 36, honored chart-toppers like Taylor Swift and Eminem and commended the online platform's homegrown artists. Between performances that simultaneously served as live music videos – including Lady Gaga's "Dope" debut, Tyler, the Creator's mosh-pit moment and M.I.A.'s unapologetic light show – The Hollywood Reporter gathered seven things seen and heard behind the scenes:

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1.  Before the award show’s live feed began, the audience was taught a choral riff in preparation for Arcade Fire’s onsite music video of “Afterlife,” directed by Spike Jonze and featuring Greta Gerwig. Co-host Jason Schwartzman joked of the interactive rehearsal, “If we were doing this at the VMAs, we’d be f---ed, because those people would have no idea what they’re doing.”

2.  After the music collective CDZA performed a medley of viral videos to illustrate the history of YouTube (featuring covers of Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and Ylvis’ “What Does the Fox Say?” and featuring appearances by Tay Zonday and T-Pain), they dished that “Never Gonna Give You Up” almost made the cut. “T-Pain was supposed to lead to a big reveal of Rick Astley, and he was going to ‘rickroll’ the whole world,” CDZA’s Michael Thurber said. “We came very close to that happening; it just wasn’t in the cards.”

3.  Fresh off of flying through her live music video for “Crystallize,” violinist Lindsay Stirling celebrated her win for response of the year for Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” with a cappella group Pentatonix. “We want to collaborate again – we’re both super busy, we’re like ships in the night missing each other, and it took us eight months to plan to shoot that video,” she told THR. “We’ve even talked about possibly co-headlining a tour.”

4.  Among the evening’s live music video productions was an interactive short film set to Avicii’s music, featuring Michael Shannon as the deejay and Vanessa Hudgens and Dree Hemingway in a "very planned" fight scene. “Unfortunately our music cue didn’t happen when we wanted it to, so we were all frozen in time without the music stopping, but it’s all good – it’s live, shot happens,” Hudgens said of filming the live short, written by Lena Dunham and directed by Jonze and Chris Milk. “As I got up, I realized my earring fell off, and I was like, classic chick fight move!”

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5.  South Korean group Girls’ Generation took home the award for video of the year, beating Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. “It still feels surreal because she was sitting right in front of me!” said Girls’ Generation member Tiffany of Gaga. “We had all our fans around the world voting for this day and night – as I was sitting in the audience with all the artists, they were like, ‘I heard your fans crushed the poll.’”

6.  Co-host Reggie Watts was told by Jonze to be ready for anything between awards and performances – his rehearsals and call times were repeatedly canceled and shortened by producers to keep skits a surprise – but he said he was the most reluctant to climb over Plexiglass with Schwartzman and take a pair of babies from Rashida Jones’ arms. “This thing could break, and I don’t want to break the baby!” he joked with reporters. “But it was Rashida Jones; when Rashida Jones hands you babies, you take them. I mean, you should ask where she got them first, but you would take them.”

7.  Hip-hop YouTube artist DeStorm Power, awarded innovation of the year for his “See Me Standing” video with Alexandra Govere, also tests out six-second comedy skits on Vine, but doesn’t plan to merge his two online identities. “I try not to really mix my audiences because anytime I get on a social media platform, I like to grow my audience organically,” he explained. “I don’t try to promote and intertwine like a lot of people do. When I announced on Vine that I was going to the YouTube Music Awards, they didn’t even know I was a musician.”

Twitter: @cashleelee