Lenny Kravitz is pumped for his first hosting gig at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Awards.
“I’m just ready to get out there and I’m grateful to still be here,” the 58-year-old rocker tells Variety. “After all the years I have behind me — to still be so vibrant and feel so inspired — is truly a gift. And in this very special case, it’s beautiful to meet and witness the people coming up now in this generation. It’s a special moment in my career.”
Fresh off his In Memoriam performance at the 95th Oscars ceremony, Kravitz’s schedule is as busy as can be. Aside from hosting the awards show on March 27, Kravitz is also set to deliver a “roughly four-minute” medley of at least three of his career-defining tracks — a challenging feat for the artist, whose catalog spans over three decades of hits.
“We are working on getting the timing and rhythms right while making sure the message is being represented,” he says. “I’ve been working with the people [at iHeart] to make sure it’s all locked in and sounds exactly as we envision it.”
In its 10th year, the iHeart Radio Awards will also see performances by Pink, Coldplay, Keith Urban, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Latto, Muni Long, Cody Johnson and Kelly Clarkson, who recently covered Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” on her daytime show.
“She probably never saw it but I actually sent her DM to tell her that she killed it. I thought was a great interpretation,” he says of Clarkson’s performance.
When his mind isn’t on music, Kravitz is fielding requests from Hollywood to follow up his cameo as Sean opposite Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Lopez in the Amazon original romantic comedy “Shotgun Wedding.” He’s also landed roles in TV series like “Better Things” and “Star,” but it’s his time as Cinna in “The Hunger Games” franchise that’s brought him an unforeseen amount of attention lately.
“Why is that?” he asks, seemingly unaware of the mania Netflix recently unleashed as the films were re-added to the hub, and only further spurred by TikTok’s re-obsession with YA series. “I started to notice more and more people were calling me Cinna out on the street and I was like, ‘What’s going on? Why are people all of a sudden back on that?’”
As for future screen time, Kravitz says he’s in the process of reading through scripts, “trying to find something that really fits…I make few new movies because I’m normally in the studio or on the road.”
Indeed, the singer is prepping for a 2024 tour and is in the mixing stages of a new “upbeat” record which he anticipates will drop sometime in the fall. And while he waits for the awards show’s big night, Kravitz is on a quest for the perfect team of collaborators that will appear on his new record, which he describes as the one “I didn’t get to make in my teens — before [‘Let Love Rule’] came out.”
He continues, “I was making music at that time under another name, and it didn’t happen. I found myself through [‘Let Love Rule’]. It was really sort of an epiphany album because I ended up using my real name and was like ‘I guess this is what I’m supposed to be doing,’ but this new record celebrates the time before that. It’s the album I never got to do.”
As a first-time host, Kravitz is eager to celebrate this full-circle moment of his career with the help of longtime industry friends and iHeartMedia execs John Sykes and Tom Poleman.
“The relationships we have with artists like Lenny are years in the making and we’re happy to have the opportunity to bring so much talent to the same room,” says Skyes, iHeartMedia president of entertainment enterprises. “When we launched the show 10 years ago, we decided to not make it a competition show — but rather a celebration. Several of our nominees and honorees already know that they’ve won and so we are really looking to chronicle their journeys in a special way.”
Taylor Swift is set to receive the Innovator Award, “something that we give out very rarely,” adds Sykes. “She’s one of those artists that has really changed the game, not just in music, but in culture. She’s also an advocate for her other songwriters, and artists to finally get control of their careers. And that’s pretty bold.”
And on the other side of the world, Coldplay is set to remotely accept the award for tour of the year from their Music of Spheres stop in Brazil.
“We want it to be a party in [the Dolby Theatre]…but if you’re gonna give an award for the best tour, why not show the tour?” says Poleman, iHeartMedia’s chief programming officer and president of national programming.
Meanwhile, Pink will receive the Icon Award during the event, while LL Cool J will pay tribute to 50 years of hip-hop with “a special on-air moment.” A star-studded list of presenters — including Ice Spice and PinkPantheress — are set to take the stage, while artists including Cher, Damar Hamlin, Donald Faison and Zach Braff, H.E.R., Joel McHale, Jordan Davis, Nicole Scherzinger, Nikki Glaser, Phoebe Bridgers and TLC will make appearances.
“There are a lot of cool new ways to find music, but radio is still the way to drive a record home to No. 1,” concludes Sykes. “This is our way of celebrating that success. It’s their award show.”
The 2023 iHeartRadio Music Awards will air live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 27 at 8 p.m. ET (PT tape-delayed) on Fox.
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