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August 19th, 2014
Kwame Hills is a long-time floor director for Much. This is his story about his once-in-a-lifetime experience singing with Jordin Sparks in front of thousands of fans at the Air Canada Centre.
My moment with Jordin Sparks all began because of karaoke. The New.Music.Live crew designated Thursday nights as “Crew Karaoke Night”, where we would head out and sing all of our guilty pleasure songs. Naturally, my guilty pleasure was No Air by Jordin featuring Chris Brown. It was my go-to song any time I got a mic in my hand, and it became common knowledge that if I was on the karaoke stage, you were going to hear one song and one song only.
So when it was announced that Jordin Sparks was coming to New.Music.Live for an interview, the producers thought it would be fun to have me test my karaoke chops with her. I reluctantly agreed, knowing that I would never hear the end of it if I screwed up!
When it came time for Jordin’s interview, our host Phoebe introduced me and I joined Jordin on the New.Music.Live couch for the big duet. Jordin and I sang a verse and a chorus of No Air together, and she seemed to really enjoy it! So much so that she invited me to do the song with her on stage at the Air Canada Centre the following evening (she was opening for NKOTBSB on their sold-out tour). I accepted the invitation, not really thinking that she was serious. I figured she was just being polite, so as to not embarrass me on national television.
Immediately after her interview was finished, her management approached our producers and said that I was IN for the duet, and to be at the ACC ready to go the next night. Of course, my jaw was on the ground and my hands were shaking, but at this point I was invested. I couldn’t back out now!
The next morning I was called into work early, and our Much publicist had arranged a slew of interviews to promote the big event. I went from CP24, to eTalk, to Much answering the million dollar question: how are you going to handle the pressure of being on stage with an American Idol winner? I still don’t have an answer for that question to this day!
Once the interviews were finished, it was time to head down to the Air Canada Centre and perform in front of a packed house for the NKOTBSB tour. I found a washroom to change clothes in, warm up my voice, and focus on not letting my nerves get the best of me. After a few moments of watching the opening acts on stage, I was brought to Jordin’s dressing room where her stage crew was gathered for a pre-show prayer and pep talk. She held my hand and told me “don’t mess up…” with a cheeky smile on her face, and then we proceeded down to the backstage area. I was handed a microphone and before I knew it, she was through the large black curtains and the opening bars of No Air were blaring through the ACC sound system, matched only by a wall of screaming voices.
Jordin began singing the song, sounding absolutely perfect, and then it was my moment. I busted through the curtains and started to pretend, at least for the next five minutes, that I was Chris Brown. The venue was so big that the song was echoing all around me. I had to stare at Jordin’s lips to make sure I was on beat!
There’s a theory that when you’re performing in front of a large crowd, your nerves are eased by the fact that you can’t see any faces. It’s just a sea of lights. THAT IS A LIE. I saw every face in the crowd, including a bunch of my friends who had come down to see me either sing or cry on stage. I think they took bets. Just as frantically as the day had started, the song finished and I gave Jordin a big hug and kiss on stage. I went back through the curtains feeling really good about myself, happy that I didn’t chicken out. I was taken up to a private box to join my friends and watch the rest of Jordin’s performance, and she did not disappoint. Once the show was over, my friends and I went out for a celebratory drink and of course, more karaoke!
The next morning, I was slated to do more interviews and I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the kind words people had for me. Once the post-interviews were complete, it was business as usual and I went right back to work at Much.
It was a crazy three day stretch and I had a great time with the whole experience. It’s great to have such a fun story for the grandkids one day!
- Kwame Hills
Photo credit: Noreen Hamid
In celebration of Much’s 30th Anniversary we’ll be sharing more personal and behind-the-scenes stories from past and present Much employees. Keep up with the great anniversary content on Much.ca and by using the hashtag #ForeverYoung. Our special, 30 YEARS OF MUCH, premieres Saturday, Aug. 30 at 9 p.m. ET.Tweet