Mary J. Blige, Carrie Underwood, Janet Jackson, Keith Urban and more rock Friday's AMA rehearsals
After Thursday’s Glambert explosion on the American Music Awards rehearsal stage — you can read my interviews with the Idol star here — Friday’s run-throughs were going to have a lot of catching up to do. Turned out to be just your average day of superstars showing up to soundcheck their massive hits: Carrie Underwood kicked off the morning with a hot-pants-free, chair-intensive take on “Cowboy Casanova,” followed by Janet Jackson in a closed rehearsal that observers called pretty damn awesome — look for Ms. If-You’re-Nasty to open the show with one new song and a medley of old favorites. (When I asked if “Miss You Much” would be included in said medley, reps for the show didn’t say yes… but they didn’t say no. OMG OMG OMG.)
Once the doors were reopened to the sea of humanity killing time on the lobby steps during Jackson’s off-limits time period, staffers and guests streamed into the auditorium, filling seats in rows marked by placards bearing the names of expected guests: Kings of Leon. Black Eyed Peas. Jason Aldean. Demi Lovato. Perez Hilton. This somewhat odd cross-section of cardboard celebrity humanity next found themselves treated to Mary J. Blige — in white turtleneck, knee-high white boots, dark sunglasses, and sharp peroxide bouffant — working twice through “I Am,” the first single off her upcoming Stronger With Each Tear. For Sunday’s awards show, L.A.’s Nokia Theater has been transformed from its usual gutted-neon-cineplex-lookin’ self into a slightly more glowy gutted cineplex, but many of the sound issues that have plagued recent events like the Prince trifecta seem to have been largely resolved, or at least corrected for by cranking the rehearsal volume as loud as it can physically go without shattering iPhone screens. While Blige by no means let her massive instrument rip (more or less marking her way through the start of the song both times), great potential for another powerhouse awards show performance by the No-Drama Queen exists.
Less convincing was the run-through from Timbaland, Nelly Furtado, and French newbie SoShy — but this was probably due to the absence of Timbaland himself, whose flight was delayed. Instead, we watched a stand-in mime rap moves while SoShy and Furtado half-sung their parts of “Morning After Dark,” from the upcoming Shock Value 2. (Bonus points to Tim’s DJ Freestyle, who did not hold back on his practice shout-outs to song or LP.) On air, the biggest entertainment value in this performance will likely come courtesy of its accompanying dance number: Spinning off the song’s “Thriller” sample and convenient vampire themes (oh, if only New Moon‘s opening could kill that trend for a while), the choreography is creepy and angular, reminiscent of the original Michael Jackson video moves if they were performed by Chinese acrobats.
After all that smoke and clatter, there was simple solace to be found in the straightforward pop country of Keith Urban — the final media-available rehearsal of the day, since Rihanna opted to close the doors on whatever surely-post-apocalyptic spectacle she has in store. Urban is again performing “Kiss A Girl,” in the exact same spot where he and Kris Allen traded verses on the Idol finale back in May, and during the first full-voiced run-through, the Aussie — whose wife, Nicole Kidman, has been added to the list of AMA presenters, thus upping the cardboard-seat-placard star wattage by a large sum — nearly barked with cheerful energy. His trademark guitar solos rang clear and true on a set adorned only by his three-piece band. His smile lit up the room. And he also gets credit for wearing a t-shirt from NYC’s beloved Mud coffee truck.
Later today, we’ll have details on Saturday’s rehearsals from Lady Gaga (who continues to be caught in a bad romance) and Shakira. Do stop back by! And in the meantime, send in your questions for all the performers, just in case we get the chance to ask them backstage tomorrow night. BTW, have you signed up for our live blog?
(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)
More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
American Music Awards: We’re live-blogging it!
Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images