Demi Lovato, Brandi Carlile, and H.E.R. paid tribute to Elton John during Thursday night’s iHeartRadio Music Awards, and the legendary singer himself imparted a few words of wisdom prior to the performance. “Relax, I’m so glad and appreciative that they’re doing it,” John said in a pre-show interview with Elvis Duran. After all, they were each handpicked by John for the performance.
H.E.R. kicked things off playing piano and guitar for “Bennie and the Jets,” even getting a reaction out of John, who could be seen yelling, “YES!” Carlile then mellowed things out with fan-favorite “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” Finally, Lovato gave it her all, and got John to join in for “I’m Still Standing.”
Coldplay’s Chris Martin introduced the medley in a purposefully chaotic speech about John and his well-known songs, namely “Uptown Girl” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” (In case you’re wondering, that was a joke “made” by the teleprompter operator since Billy Joel sang “Uptown Girl” and Stevie Wonder sang “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”) Following the performance, Lil Nas X also honored John, describing him as a “trailblazer to those who live their lives freely and unapologetically.” John returned the compliment in his acceptance speech, saying, “A special thanks to Lil Nas X, because he is a wonderful artist and has balls of steel!”
You can see highlights from the tribute performance and John’s speech ahead.