HOLLYWOOD — Three N.E.R.D.s, one Bad Boy, a singing funnyman, a collective of dancing MCs and a few outspoken Chicks came together at the Palladium Saturday night, but they all brought the same message: Everyone needs to register to vote, and then they need to actually do it come Election Day.
The 11th annual Rock the Vote Awards, held in memory of Rock the Vote co-founder Patrick Lippert, continued the momentum of the 2004 Choose or Lose campaign, which kicked off during Super Bowl halftime with a short film featuring Chris Rock, Julia Roberts, Muhammad Ali, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Tom Cruise and others.
On Saturday night many of the young people took the campaign's message to heart, registering on the spot as they filed in. But the night wasn't all about politics — there was also partying to be done. Fountains of Wayne were the first to perform, mixing their hit "Stacy's Mom" and other songs off their breakthrough Welcome Interstate Managers with older material like Utopia Parkway fan favorite "Red Dragon Tattoo." Fountains ended with a jam session, covering the Steve Miller Band's "Dance, Dance, Dance" and Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good."
Life sure has been good for comedian Jamie Foxx. The actor, who's featured on one of the top records in the country, Twista's "Slow Jamz," always has a smile on his face and joke coming off his lips. Saturday night he presented Sean "P. Diddy" Combs with a Patrick Lippert Award, but first he delivered his now famous lyrics: "She wants some Marvin Gaye, some Luther Vandross ..."
When Diddy came on to address the audience, Foxx greeted him with a dance as "Bad Boy for Life" played. "That's the type of energy we gonna need to get Bush out of office," Diddy said when he took the mic. "Yeah, I said it. If you don't agree with me, then go 'head to the polls and represent him."
Diddy went on to say that come Election Day, he wanted people to "party at the polls" and make their voices heard. He said he didn't yet know who he was going to vote for, but that regardless of who takes office, the president has to focus more on young people and their concerns.
Nick Cannon presented radio personality Tom Joyner with the Rock the Community Award, soul pioneer Solomon Burke presented former Rhino Records President Richard Foos with the Rock the Vote Founders Award, and Michelle Branch introduced the Dixie Chicks, who were given a Patrick Lippert Award.
The night then shifted back to music with the Black Eyed Peas. The four-person crew began with "Hey Mama" before showing they're just as adept at breakdancing as they are at singing and rapping. Members of the BEP faction took it back to the days when b-boys danced on cardboard in the street, performing handstands, head spins and karatelike kicks. As they closed their set, the Peas told spectators they wanted to perform a song that represents the right to choose and went into "Where Is the Love."
Headliners N.E.R.D. received love when they went onstage, but the group's standout star, Pharrell Williams, had to ask where the energy was. "For real, all the partiers come to the front," the producer said, shortly after singing "Brain." "Are you here to party or what? This is L.A., where people make noise. Make some noise!"
After "Provider," mic problems hampered N.E.R.D. in what would've been a surefire noisemaker. They brought out Benji and Joel from Good Charlotte for "Jump" off N.E.R.D.'s new Fly or Die. With the mics not cooperating, you couldn't make out much of what the rockers were saying, but Pharrell conveyed the song's spirit, yelling "Jump, jump, jump!" and following his own orders.
The pace slowed for the smooth and sexy "Frontin.' " Pharrell started off a cappella, crooning, "Don't wanna sound full of myself or rude, but you ain't looking at no other dudes." Seconds later, N.E.R.D.'s band started playing. "I know that I'm carrying on, never mind if I'm showing off/ I was just frontin'/ You know I want ya babe."
The song's guest star, Jay-Z, wasn't there to back the person he calls "For Real," but Williams had more than enough backup throughout the night. During one part in his set, he brought up several fans to dance onstage, and during the finale he again asked for audience participation — the only thing he asked for was that everyone rocking with him jump.
Fittingly, N.E.R.D. closed with "Lapdance," a song about politicians' double talk that found them surrounded by dancing fans.
For more political news, insight into the 2004 presidential election and information on registering to vote, check out ChooseorLose.com.