Review: ‘Coming 2 America,’ starring Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley and Wesley Snipes

March 4, 2021

by Carla Hay

Bella Murphy, Akiley Love, Arsenio Hall, Eddie Murphy, Shari Headley, KiKi Layne and Paul Bates in “Coming 2 America” (Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures/Amazon Prime Video)

“Coming 2 America”

Directed by Craig Brewer

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional African country of Zamunda and briefly in the New York City borough of Queens, the comedy sequel “Coming 2 America” features a predominantly black cast of characters (with a few white people) representing African royalty, working-class Africans and Americans of various classes.

Culture Clash: An African royal, who is shamed for not having a male heir, finds out that he has an illegitimate American son, who is brought to Africa to be groomed as an heir to the throne.

Culture Audience: “Coming 2 America” will appeal primarily to fans of 1988’s “Coming to America,” but this sequel lacks the charm of the original movie.

Wesley Snipes, Jermaine Fowler and Leslie Jones in “Coming 2 America” (Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures/Amazon Prime Video)

The comedy film “Coming 2 America,” which is the sequel to 1988’s “Coming to America,” is a perfect example of a movie that was not worth the wait. It’s a dull and disappointing mess that trashes or wastes the character relationships that made the “Coming to America” a crowd-pleasing hit. Co-stars Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall, who were a dynamic duo in “Coming to America,” don’t have very many scenes together in “Coming 2 America.”

The new characters that are introduced in “Coming 2 America” are bland or obnoxious. An endearing romance/courtship that was at the heart of “Coming to America” is largely absent from “Coming 2 America,” which rushes a predictable relationship between a young couple who have almost no believable chemistry with each other. And “Coming 2 America” is filled with misogyny and racist stereotypes about black people, from a mostly white team of filmmakers.

The title of this dreadful and boring sequel shouldn’t have been “Coming 2 America.” It should have been titled “Shucking and Jiving in Zamunda.” That’s essentially what all the main characters do throughout this idiotic movie that takes place mostly in the fictional African country of Zamunda, not in America.

The “fish out of water” premise of culture shock that worked so well in “Coming to America” is muddled and mishandled in “Coming 2 America,” which was directed by Craig Brewer. This entire film looks like a tacky TV-movie instead of what it should have been: a cinematic triumph in comedy. (It’s easy to see why Paramount Pictures chose not to release “Coming 2 America” in theaters and sold it to Amazon Prime Video instead.) It doesn’t help that the movie’s musical score is schlocky sitcom music by Jermaine Stegall. Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield wrote the awful and lazy screenplay for “Coming 2 America.”

Murphy and Hall do their expected schticks of portraying various characters (some in prosthetic makeup), just like they did in “Coming to America.” It brings some mildly amusing moments that are fleeting and recycled. (The barbershop scene is back, and it’s not as funny as it was in the first “Coming to America” movie.) But these moments are not enough to save “Coming 2 America,” which is ruined by too many stale jokes that would’ve been outdated in 1988.

In fact, there’s almost nothing modern about “Coming 2 America,” except for some of the contemporary costumes. The song selections and musical numbers that are used as filler in this movie are straight out of the early 1990s, as if the filmmakers are trying to relive the music of their youthful days. And there are several celebrity cameos from African American entertainers, to distract from the movie’s silly plot. However, sticking a bunch of talented black people in front of the camera doesn’t make the writing and directing of “Coming 2 America” any less moronic and cliché.

In the beginning of “Coming 2 America,” Prince Akeem (played by Murphy) and his loyal sidekick/best friend Semmi (played by Hall) are living an uneventful life in Zamunda. Akeem and his American wife Lisa (played by Shari Headley)—who met, fell in love, and got married in “Coming to America”—are now celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary, as well as peace and prosperity in Zamunda. Semmi is still portrayed as a bachelor who has nothing better to do with his life but to be Akeem’s glorified lackey.

Akeem and Lisa have three children, all daughters: eldest Meeka (played by KiKi Layne), who’s in her mid-to-late 20s, is the only daughter with a distinct personality, since she’s the most assertive and outspoken of the three. Middle teenage daughter Omma (played by Bella Murphy, one of Eddie Murphy’s real-life daughters) and youngest pre-teen daughter Tinashe (played by Akiley Love) don’t have much dialogue in the movie. Their only moments where they get to shine are in some choreographed fight scenes.

Lisa’s father Cleo McDowell (played by John Amos) has expanded his fast-food McDowell’s restaurant business to Zamunda. McDowell’s blatantly copies McDonald’s, even down to having a “golden arches” sign in the shape of the letter “M.” This copycat gag leads to a not-very-funny segment in the beginning of the movie about how much McDowell’s imitates McDonald’s. Cleo quips, “They’ve got Egg McMuffins. We’ve got Egg McStuffins.” That’s what’s supposed to pass as comedy in this horribly written film.

Oscar-winning “Black Panther” costume designer Ruth E. Carter did the costumes for “Coming 2 America.” The costumes in “Coming 2 America” are among the few high points of the movie. Unlike “Black Panther,” which treated its female and male characters as equals, “Coming 2 America” is a parade of misogyny that makes the female characters look inferior to the male characters in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

The running “joke” in the film is that Zamunda is a socially “backwards” country with laws where women can’t be the chief ruler of the nation, and women can’t own their own businesses. The Zamundan culture is that women exist only to cater to men. Females can’t make any big decisions without the approval of the closest patriarch in her family. It’s sexism that could be ripe for parody, if done in a funny and clever way. But “Coming 2 America” bungles it throughout the entire movie, except for the end when a predictable decision is made to resolve a certain problem related to Zamunda’s sexist laws.

That decision is rushed in toward the very last few minutes of the movie. And it looks like what it is: the filmmakers’ way of pandering to feminism. However, this fake feminist plot development doesn’t erase all the ways that “Coming 2 America” marginalizes and “dumbs down” the women in the movie in a way that’s so foul and unnecessary.

“Black Panther” proved you don’t have to make black women in an African country look like they’re incapable of being smart and strong leaders. The “Coming 2 America” filmmakers try to rip off a lot of “Black Panther’s” visual style, but it’s all a smokescreen for the way “Coming 2 America” makes the African country of Zamunda (and therefore the people who live there) look like a very ignorant culture that’s behind the times.

In “Coming 2 America,” the “rank and file” black female citizens in Zamunda are just there to literally shake their butts in the dance routines; act as servants who are required to bathe or groom the royal men; or be preoccupied with marriage and/or motherhood. Akeem is shamed and ridiculed by a rival named General Izzi (played by Wesley Snipes) because Akeem has no male heirs. Izzi is portrayed as a cartoonishly buffoon villain who’s power-hungry and jealous of Akeem’s status as a royal heir.

In order to gain power in Zamunda, Izzi would rather form some kind of alliance with Akeem, instead of fighting Akeem. When Izzi storms the royal palace with an army of men, Izzi tells Akeem: “I came here for blood, but not the murder kind. Family blood, marriage blood.” Izzi suggests that Izzi’s son Idi (played by Rotimi Akinosho) marry Meeka, but Akeem rejects the offer.

Akeem’s widower father King Jaffe Joffer (played by James Earl Jones) thinks he’s going to die soon. And the king isn’t happy that Akeem doesn’t have a son. “The throne must pass to a male heir,” King Jaffe declares. Jones, who is a majestic presence in many other movies, has his talent squandered in “Coming 2 America,” which makes him look like a sexist old fool who doesn’t think any of his granddaughters could be worthwhile leaders.

Izzi tells Akeem that it’s too bad that Akeem doesn’t have a male heir, because Izzi think his daughter Bopoto (played by Teyana Taylor) would be a perfect match for any son of Akeem’s. And just like that, Semmi and a crotchety elderly man named Baba (played by Hall, who’s made to look like a tall, African version of Gollum) tell Akeem that he actually does have a son that Akeem didn’t know about for all of these years. Akeem doesn’t really believe it, until he’s reminded of something that happened when he and Semmi were in the New York City borough of Queens, during the time that the “Coming to America” story took place.

Meanwhile, King Jaffe announces, “My funeral should be spectacular. Let’s have it now, while I’m alive.” This was apparently an excuse for the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers to have one of several dance numbers in the movie as a gimmick to fill up time.

King Jaffe’s “funeral party” features Morgan Freeman introducing performances by En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa, who perform the 1993 hit “Whatta Man.” Also performing at the party is Gladys Knight, who is forced to embarrass herself in butchering her 1973 classic “Midnight Train to Georgia” because the filmmakers made her change the song to “Midnight Train to Zamunda.” At any rate, King Jaffe dies at the party (he falls asleep and doesn’t wake up), which is a good thing for Jones, because the less screen time he has in this garbage movie, the better.

After his father’s death, Akeem becomes king, but Akeem is now desperate to find a male heir. Akeem’s son (who is constantly called a “bastard” in this movie) was the result of a one-night stand that Akeem had in Queens. “Coming 2 America” then shows how this son was conceived. Akeem and Semmi, who were in Queens to look for a woman to marry Akeem, were at a nightclub, when Semmi spotted an American woman named Mary Junson (played by Leslie Jones) at the bar. (“Coming 2 America” uses flashbacks from “Coming to America” and some visual effects to recreate this moment.)

Semmi struck up a conversation with Mary and told her that he was working for an African prince who was looking for a bride. Mary takes one look at Akeem and doesn’t need any encouragement to hook up with Akeem. She invites Akeem back to her place. And as Akeem remembers it in the present day, Mary blew smoke from marijuana (which he calls “wild herbs”) in his face, thereby impairing his judgment.

Akeem describes Mary and his sexual encounter with her in this way: “A wild boar [Mary] burst into the room and rammed me and rammed me.” The sex is shown in a flashback in a very problematic scene, because it portrays Mary as someone who sexually assaulted Akeem. He definitely wasn’t a willing partner, by the way it’s portrayed in the movie, but it’s played off as something to laugh at in the movie. It makes Mary look like she’s so desperate for sex that she will incapacitate and rape a man.

And the dialogue in this sexual assault scene is just so cringeworthy. Before Mary attacks Akeem, she says to him, “I hope you like pumpkin pie, ’cause you goin’ to get a whole slice.” Mary can’t speak proper English in the movie because the filmmakers want to make her look as dumb and uneducated as possible.

It’s also downright sexist and racist to call a black woman a “boar,” which is an animal that is an uncastrated male swine. It doesn’t make it okay if another black person says this insult, just because he was paid to say it as an actor. It should be mentioned that two out of the three screenwriters of this crappy “Coming 2 America” screenplay are white. Had there been more black people on the filmmaking team, it’s doubtful that there would have been so many insulting and offensive portrayals of black people (especially black women) in this trash dump of a movie.

Portraying Mary as a desperate sexual assaulter isn’t the only problematic thing about this character. The entire character of Mary is problematic, because it’s all about reinforcing the worst negative stereotypes that movies and TV have about black women who are single mothers: loud, crude, stupid, broke/money-hungry and promiscuous. Mary (who doesn’t seem to have a job) calls herself a “ho” multiple times in the movie.

Akeem also calls Mary a “morally bereft” woman when he describes his memory of her. And when Akeem and Semmi inevitably go back to Queens to find Mary and the mystery son, Mary isn’t sure if Akeem is the father of her child. That is, until she finds out how rich Akeem is (Semmi accidentally drops open a suitcase full of cash in front of her), and suddenly Mary can’t wait to move to Zamunda and live in the royal palace.

The filmmakers go out of their way to make Mary as mindless and vulgar as possible. When Mary goes to Zamunda and she’s served caviar, she doesn’t know what this delicacy is and calls it “black mashed potatoes.” And in another scene in the movie, Mary shouts, “I am so hungry, I could eat the ass out of a zipper!”

Mary and Akeem’s son Lavelle Junson (played by Jermaine Fowler) is a good guy overall. But the filmmakers force a negative stereotype on him, by making him yet another black male who breaks the law. Lavelle and his Uncle Reem (played by Tracy Morgan, using the same shady clown persona that he usually has in his movies and TV shows) are ticket scalpers. Clearly, the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers wanted yet another ghetto stereotype of black people who commit illegal acts to make money.

“Coming 2 America” has a very racially condescending scene of Lavelle and Reem (who is Mary’s brother) at a corporate office on Lavelle’s 30th birthday. Lavelle is at this company (a firm called Duke & Duke) to apply for some kind of computer job. Lavelle tells Reem that he’s tired of having an unstable income from ticket scalping, and he wants to earn an honest living in a steady job. Reem thinks Lavelle is a dolt for wanting to get a legitimate job, and he asks Lavelle if he’s going to use his “white voice” in the interview.

In the interview with the firm’s racist scion named Calvin Duke (played by Colin Jost), Lavelle is subjected to a barrage of bigoted assumptions that are meant to make Lavelle feel inferior. When Calvin finds out that Lavelle was raised by a single mother who’s unemployed (she got laid off from her job), Calvin makes a snide remark: “They say that not having a dominant male figure at home is detrimental to a child.” There are some more racist insults (Calvin asks Lavelle if his mother is addicted to drugs or gambling), before the interview ends predictably, with Lavelle angrily telling Calvin he doesn’t want the job.

The thing is that even though the character of Calvin is supposed to represent white elitists who are racists, the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers do everything to make a lot of the movie’s black characters (especially Mary) the very degrading stereotype that racists like Calvin have of black people. And that’s why the movie’s job interview scene is very phony in its intentions to make it look like racists are most likely to be spoiled white rich kids. The reality is that people from all walks of life can be racists.

It turns out that Lavelle isn’t going to need a job because Akeem soon finds Lavelle (who’s scalping tickets outside of Madison Square Garden), introduces himself as Lavelle’s long-lost father, and tells Lavelle that his new identity is as a wealthy royal heir in Zamunda. Lavelle says he won’t move out of New York without his mother. And quicker than you can say “stupid comedy sequel,” Lavelle and Mary are in Zamunda. And this time, the Americans are the ones who are the “fish out of water.”

Lisa isn’t too happy that Akeem has a son that they didn’t know about until recently. However, she’s willing to forgive Akeem because Lavelle was conceived before Akeem met Lisa. Someone who is even less thrilled about Lavelle is Meeka, who sees Lavelle as a threat to any leadership power she hoped to inherit as a legitimate member of this royal family. The sibling rivalry scenes predictably ensue.

Meanwhile, Lavelle meets a hair stylist named Mirembe (played by Nomzamo Mbatha), who works for the royal family. She’s single and available, so you know where this is going. Mirembe changes Lavelle’s hairstyle from the Kid ‘n Play-inspired fade that he had in Queens to a short-cropped locks hairstyle that Erik Killmonger from “Black Panther” would wear, but with a rat tail braid in the back.

Mirembe says that she would love to open her own hair salon one day (her biggest inspiration is the 2005 movie “Beauty Shop”), but she’s sad and discouraged because the law in Zamunda doesn’t allow women to own their own businesses. Lavelle thinks this law is wrong and he promises her that when he has the power, he’s going to change the law. Lavelle and Mirembe are good-looking, but there’s no believable romantic spark between them, so their inevitable courtship is very boring.

The only thing that looks authentic between them is a meta moment when Mirembe and Lavelle have a conversation about which of the “Barbershop” movie is the best of the series, and how sequels usually aren’t as good as the original. Mirembe says, “This is true about sequels. Why ruin it?” If only the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers took that advice for this movie.

It should come as no surprise that the movie relies on the cliché of a love triangle. Now that Akeem has a male heir, Izzi ramps up the pressure for Bopoto to become Lavelle’s wife. Akeem is open to the idea after Bopoto does a sexy dance for the royal family while showing her ample cleavage. However, Bopoto is deliberately written as a submissive airhead. More than once in the story, Lavelle says he wants to be with an intelligent and independent-minded woman, so it’s obvious which woman he’ll choose in the love triangle.

Fowler has an appealing screen presence as Lavelle, but he’s hemmed in by a character that’s written as average and unremarkable. “Coming 2 America” is also very unfocused, since it can’t decide if the story should be more about the Lavelle/Mirembe romance or the Lavelle/Meeka rivalry. Truth be told, even though Layne plays Lavelle’s half-sister, her scenes with Fowler are more dynamic and have more energy than the scenes with Fowler and Mbatha. Layne’s considerable talents are underappreciated in “Coming 2 America,” because her Meeka character isn’t in the movie as much as people might think she should be.

Continuing with the fixation on early 1990s music, there’s another out-of-place musical number where people do a big sing-along to Prince’s “Gett Off,” led by Akeem’s servant Oha (played by Paul Bates). And there’s an atrociously written scene where Queen Lisa gets drunk with Mary at a party, and they start dancing to Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance.” This scene is supposed to make it look like Lisa is getting back in touch with her New York hip-hop roots.

But when they have Lisa and Mary repeat the lines, “Uppity bitch what?,” it just goes back to making the black women in this movie look like they have a ghetto mentality. It says a lot that the “Coming 2 America” filmmakers make the woman who is literally the movie’s black queen incapable of being completely dignified. They try to make it look like Lisa has been suppressing her “true” self as a trashy party girl, when Lisa was never that way in the first “Coming to America” movie. Almost all the black women in this movie are marginalized as either existing only in the story because they’re appendages to the men, as wives/love interests/sex partners, servants or daughters.

One of the signs of a creatively bankrupt movie is when it relies too much on celebrity cameos without bringing any genuine laughs. (John Legend sings during a mid-credits scene, and it’s a useless appearance that has no bearing on the movie’s story.) Trevor Noah makes a quick and inconsequential cameo as a TV newscaster named Totatsi Bibinyana of the Zamunda News Network.

Eddie Murphy, who is the main attraction for the “Coming to America” franchise, should have been a producer and/or writer of “Coming 2 America.” His company Eddie Murphy Productions helped finance the movie, but Murphy himself was not a credited producer responsible for the movie’s content and day-to-day operations. If he had been a producer or writer, Eddie Murphy could have brought better creative clout to this movie, which makes him do silly sketches that are way beneath his talent. The comedy and tone, including the slapstick scenes, are monotonous and unimaginative.

Lavelle goes through an initiation process that includes taming a tiger and a “circumcision” ritual that are ineptly written and filmed. As part of his “royal training,” Lavelle gets criticism from Semmi, who yells at him: “You walk like an American pimp!” Lavelle shouts back, “You dress like a slave from the future!”

Doing a high-profile, highly anticipated sequel such as “Coming 2 America” isn’t just about the paychecks. It’s about making good entertainment and a fairly accurate representation of cultures to make the story look relatable. And it should be about celebrating people, instead of making them demeaning caricatures that embody what racist and sexist bigots believe.

Amazon Prime Video will premiere “Coming 2 America” on March 5, 2021.

2019 Super Bowl performers: Maroon 5, Travis Scott, Big Boi for Super Bowl LIII halftime show, Gladys Knight for national anthem

January 17, 2019

by John  Larson

The NFL and CBS have now officially announced that rock band Maroon 5 and rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi will perform at the Super Bowl LIII, which will take place at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 3, 2019. In addition, Gladys Knight will perform the National Anthem at the beginning of the game. CBS will have the U.S. telecast of Super Bowl LIII.

The news that Maroon 5 (whose lead singer is “The Voice” coach Adam Levine) would be headlining the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show leaked out in September 2018, but the official announcement didn’t come until months later. The news resulted in considerable controversy, as critics said that anyone performing at the Super Bowl this year essentially agreed with the NFL’s policy against NFL players taking one knee to kneel during the National Anthem as a sign of protest of police brutality against black and brown people. Former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who many say was ousted from the NFL because of his Black Lives Matter activism, has been named as a poster child for the “take a knee” movement. Several black and brown artists, such as Jay-Z, Rihanna and Cardi B said they turned down offers to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl because they want to stand in solidarity with Kaepernick, who has since signed a lucrative spokesperson deal with Nike. Entertainers such as Jay-Z, Amy Schumer and Rihanna also publicly urged artists to boycott the Super Bowl halftime performance until the NFL changed its policy to allow NFL players to “take a knee” during the National Anthem.

Before it was announced that Scott and Big Boi would be performing, the NFL received immense backlash for choosing Los Angeles-based Maroon 5 (a band whose members are all white except for a black keyboard player) to headline the Super Bowl halftime show instead of choosing a black artist or an artist from Atlanta. However, it seems many of the major black artists who were approached to perform at Super Bowl LII turned down the gig. Jay-Z, Rihanna and Cardi B are just the ones who went public with their rejection of the Super Bowl halftime show. Many more could have been asked and said no to the gig, but have not gone public about it. Big Boi, a former member of OutKast, is a native of Atlanta, and so is Knight.

2018 American Music Awards: Aretha Franklin tribute, Ciara, Dua Lipa, Missy Elliott added to show

September 28, 2018

AMAs logo

The following is a press release from Dick Clark Productions and ABC:

Dick Clark Productions and ABC have announced an all-star lineup of soul and gospel legends who will come together to pay homage to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, at the “2018 American Music Awards.” Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin and CeCe Winans, friends of the late, luminary singer/songwriter, will take the AMAs stage for a moving tribute honoring Franklin’s gospel roots and iconic gospel album, Amazing Grace. Consulting producer for the tribute is the Emmy Award® winning music director, composer and producer Rickey Minor.
Also announced:  a red-hot collaboration from multi-platinum selling artist Ciara and two-time American Music Award winner Missy Elliott, as well as a performance from singer/songwriter and first-time AMA nominee Dua Lipa.
Set to perform on the American Music Awards stage for the first time since in 2005, award-winning artist Ciara will be joined by Hip-Hop and R&B legend Missy Elliott for two heavy-hitting performances, including Ciara’s “Level Up,” which debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, ranked in the Top 10 on the Digital Song Sales chart, and became the No. 1-trending topic on YouTube after spawning the Level Up Challenge. Additionally, Ciara will perform “Dose,” the new single from her forthcoming studio album. American Music Awards newcomer and New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One® Savor® Card nominee, Dua Lipa, will take the AMAs performance stage for the first time with two of her hits from the complete edition of her self-titled, debut studio album, including “Electricity,” her latest Billboard Hot 100 collaboration.  Since its debut, the popular house track has landed spots amongst Billboard’s Dance Club Songs, Hot Dance/Electronic Songs and Pop Songs airplay charts.
They join previously announced performers Benny Blanco with Halsey and Khalid, Cardi B with Bad Bunny and J Balvin, Mariah Carey, Post Malone featuring Ty Dolla $ign and Carrie Underwood, with additional performers to be announced.

Hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross, the “2018 American Music Awards,” the world’s largest fan-voted awards show, will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the American Music Awards, dick clark productions and American Music Awards’ producer, Larry Klein, for honoring Aretha Franklin with a musical tribute for this year’s broadcast,” said Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece and executor of the Aretha Franklin Estate. “Throughout its 46-year history, the American Music Awards has continued to stand by the music and honor the best in talent and the greatest in popular music culture. When I heard some of the initial ideas for the tribute, I knew without a doubt that this tribute will go down as one of the best in American music.”  Owens adds, “We still remember when Aretha won her first American Music Award in 1976 for Favorite Female Artist – Soul/R&B, and throughout the years, she went on to win five more awards and we will never forget when she hosted the show; as well as her memorable performances. Dick Clark helped to revolutionize American music, and along the way, Aretha Franklin was part of that revolution.”

“It’s a blessing to be a part of this moving musical tribute to honor our late queen and sister, Aretha,” said Gladys Knight. “She was an icon and visionary, radiated light and love through all of her life’s work, and touched all of us through her incredible gift of music.”

“Aretha was the voice of a generation,” said music director, composer and producer, Rickey Minor. “She transcended racial barriers by reaching into the depths of her soul and taking us on a journey with every note she sang. Her spirit will live forever in her music.”

One of the most iconic voices in music history, Franklin accumulated six American Music Awards in her lifetime, including Favorite Female Artist – Soul/R&B (1976, 1977, 1984 and 1986), Favorite Female Video Artist – Soul/R&B (1986) and Favorite Album – Soul/R&B (1983). She served as host of, and performed on, the AMAs in 1976 and 1983, and last performed on the AMAs stage in 1986. Franklin left a resounding mark on the music world and beyond, also garnering an induction into the Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Blues Halls of Fame, a Kennedy Center Honor, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and by utilizing her voice for social issues including civil and women’s rights.

The great ones endure, and Gladys Knight has long been one of the greatest. Very few singers over the last fifty years have matched her unassailable artistry. This seven-time Grammy winner has enjoyed #1 hits in Pop, Gospel, R&B and Adult Contemporary, and has triumphed in film, television and live performance. Fall of 2015 marked the release of Knight’s first mainstream dance record, “Just A Little” in nearly twenty years. The song serves as lead single from her twelfth studio album that she is currently working on. Knight, who is a two-time Grammy winner in the gospel category, yet again embraced her gospel roots, releasing her inspirational album “Where My Heart Belongs,” in September 2014. The album was a major success and won an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Gospel Album.” All told, Knight has recorded more than 38 albums over the years, including four solo albums during the past decade:  “Good Woman” (1991); “Just for You” (1994); the inspirational “Many Different Roads” (1999); and “At Last” (2001).  “At Last” showed the world that she still has what it takes to record a hit album, employing the talents of contemporary producers like Randy Jackson, Gary Brown and James D.C. Williams III, Jon John, Jamey Jaz, Keith Thomas, Tom Dowd and Tiger Roberts. Her involvement in other creative undertakings, business ventures and humanitarian activities has been extensive, and has brought her honors from industry and community alike.

Ledisi is a 12x Grammy-nominated vocal powerhouse who has wowed fans ever since she came onto the scene. She’s earned a place in the pantheon of the best soul singers of her generation. Ledisi is a favorite of The Obamas and has performed eight times at the White House. Her fans include icons, legends and current chart-toppers like the late- Prince, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and more. She has headlined two national sold-out tours, performed alongside Richie Sambora, Dave Matthews, Kelly Clarkson, Jill Scott, Maxwell and many more. She’s appeared on nationally recognized shows like Good Morning America, HARRY, The David Letterman Show, The Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and VH-1’s Diva’s Live to name a few. In 2015 she appeared in the Oscar-nominated movie Selma as Mahalia Jackson and is currently starring in Gabourey Sidibe’s Shatterbox Anthology film, The Tale Of Four. Ledisi released her ninth Grammy nominated studio album Let Love Rule, which features John Legend, Kirk Franklin, and B.J. The Chicago Kid among others. The album received three GRAMMY nominations in the “Best R&B Album,” “Best R&B Performance” (High), and “Best Traditional R&B Performance” (All The Way) categories.

Mary Mary is the multi-Grammy® and multi-award winning Gospel recording, sister duo of Erica and Tina Campbell. The sisters broke through in 2000 as Mary Mary with the pioneering hit “Shackles (Praise You).” Mary Mary has earned numerous Stellar & Dove Awards, four Grammy® Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, two American Music Awards, a Soul Train Award, a BET Award, the BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Award, ASCAP Golden Note Award and more. After seven Mary Mary albums and a lifetime–18 plus years of professionally singing–the commercially successful and critically acclaimed Mary Mary has sold more than 5 million albums, toured internationally, graced the covers of multiple high-profile magazines and both have recently launched successful, award-winning solo careers. Erica Campbell’s solo debut album, Help, won a 2015 Grammy® Award for Best Gospel Album. Erica is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show, “Get Up! Mornings with Erica Campbell.” In 2015, Tina Campbell independently released her solo debut album, It’s Personal, winning the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Gospel Album. Her single, “Too Hard Not To,” from her follow-up album, It’s Still Personal, received a 2018 Grammy® nomination for “Best Gospel Performance/Song. Erica and Tina continue to perform as Mary Mary while embracing their solo careers. They are loving wives and mothers who are devoted to their faith and their families.

The three-time Grammy winner, Donnie McClurkin, debuted as a solo artist in 1996 with his self-titled album Donnie McClurkin, featuring mega-hits Stand and Speak To My Heart.Before launching his solo career, he started the New York Restoration Choir and recorded his first album, I See A World that contained the original version “Speak To My Heart.” The gospel anthems, We Fall Down and Great Is Your Mercy, both from the top-selling Live In London And More album was released in 2000.  The acclaimed gospel singer won his first Grammy in 2004 for Again for Best Soul Traditional Gospel Album. McClurkin’s double CD, Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs earned a Grammy in 2006 as Best Traditional Gospel Album.  In 2010, he accepted his third Grammy (Best Gospel Performance) for Wait on the Lord, featuring Karen Clark Sheard from his We Are One: Live in Detroit album.  His other top honors include over 12 Stellar Awards; two BET Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, two Soul Train Awards and three Dove Awards.   He appeared as a judge on BET’s Sunday Best for six seasons 2010-2015. McClurkin is currently in the recording studio, look for new music in 2019.

CeCeWinans has released a slew of duo and solo albums that crossed genres and boundaries and influenced a generation of gospel and secular vocalists. Her mantel today holds a staggering 12 GRAMMY Awards, 23 Dove Awards, and seven Stellar Awards. She’s been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Hollywood Walk of Fame and Nashville Music City Walk of Fame, in addition to being named a Trailblazer of Soul by BMI and garnering multiple NAACP Image Awards, Soul Train Awards, Essence Awards, and more. She’s sold in excess of five million albums in the U.S. alone, topping the Gospel charts repeatedly while managing to cross over with smashes like “Count On Me,” her stunning duet with Whitney Houston from the multi-platinum ‘Waiting To Exhale’ soundtrack, which sold two million copies and cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and Adult Contemporary charts. She touched millions more with inspirational performances everywhere from Oprah to The White House, and even showed off her acting chops on television series like ‘7th Heaven’ and ‘Doc.’ In 2016, Winans became a member of the Artist Committee for the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors.  Winans’ upcoming project, Something’s Happening!  A Christmas Album is scheduled for release on October 19th.

Rickey Minor is a composer and Emmy Award winning Music Director who’s worked with such renowned recording artists as: Whitney Houston, Adele, Rihanna, Demi Lovato, Keith Urban, Diana Ross, Katy Perry, Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Lopez, Little Big Town, Stevie Wonder, Arianna Grande, Carrie Underwood, Sting, John Legend, Common, Elton John, Andra Day, Usher and Beyoncé. His numerous television credits include The Tonight Show starring Jay LenoThe Emmys, American IdolThe American Music Awards, and The Kennedy Center Honors. In addition, he has worked on several major live events and award shows, including some of the most memorable Super Bowl and Grammy Award performances. He has received seven Emmy Award nominations and one win for Outstanding Music Direction — Genius: A Night for Ray Charles, An Evening of Stars: A Tribute to Chaka Khan, The 50th Annual Grammy Awards, The 51st Annual Grammy Awards, The Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles: In Performance at the White House, Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees, Taking The Stage: African American Music and Stories That Changed America.  

Ciara is an award-winning singer/songwriter, producer, model and actress. Over her 13-year career, she has sold over 23 million records and 16 million singles worldwide, including chart-topping hits “Goodies,” “Ride,” “Oh,” “1, 2 Step,” “Body Party” and “I Bet.” Most recently, Ciara has been scorching summer with her new song “Level Up,” which has transformed into a defining moment for the culture with the subsequent movement it has incited. Beyond clocking over 80 million views on YouTube, the song spent several weeks at No. 1 on the iTunes Top R&B/Soul Songs Chart and Top 10 on iTunes overall, and attracted Missy Elliott and Fatman Scoop for a high-profile remix which also shot up the iTunes charts. Its high-powered dance initially inspired fans to shoot their own videos with the hashtag #LevelUpChallenge—stirring up a viral buzz that has seen over 2 million posts across social media and launched the video to a No. 1-trending topic on YouTube. Ciara is a devoted wife and mother of two as well as a philanthropist who is dedicated to improving the lives of children and empowering women across the globe.

MissyElliott is a groundbreaking solo superstar, pioneering producer/songwriter/singer/rapper, and cultural icon. The five-time GRAMMY® Award winner – with nominations spanning three decades – has achieved unprecedented success, including U.S. sales in excess of 30 million. Missy’s six studio albums (including 2001’s landmark “MISS E… SO ADDICTIVE” and 2002’s blockbuster “UNDER CONSTRUCTION”) have each been RIAA platinum certified or better, marking her as the only female rapper to achieve that milestone accomplishment. Missy returned to the scene in November of 2015 with her explosive single, “WTF (Where They From)” Feat. Pharrell Williams. The track’s accompanying video has garnered over 40 million YouTube views and immediately became the #1 trending topic on both Twitter and Facebook upon its release. “WTF (Where They From) Feat Pharrell Williams was also featured as the official theme to ESPN’s kickoff coverage of the 2015/2016 NBA season. Shortly after, Elliott released fan-favorite single, “Pep Rally”, which was featured in Amazon’s Super Bowl commercial starring Alec Baldwin, Dan Marino, Jason Schwartzman, and Missy herself. In March, Missy teamed up with First Lady Michelle Obama to release the female empowerment anthem, “This is For My Girls,”. The track supports various ongoing campaigns that center around empowering young women, and also features the talents of Kelly Rowland, Janelle Monáe, Kelly Clarkson and Zendaya. Most recently, Missy unveiled her latest smash, “I’m Better (feat. Lamb)” which is accompanied by an incredible companion video that has garnered over 19 million views since its release. The following half decade plus has also seen Elliott featured on tracks from artists including Ginuwine, Ciara, K. Michelle, Demi Lovato, The Black Keys, J. Cole, G-Dragon, Fantasia, Monica, Busta Rhymes, Jazmine Sullivan, and of course, Katy Perry, with whom she famously teamed up for 2011’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) (Remix).” Additionally, Missy lit up 2014 with a series of surprise event appearances, joining Pharrell Williams to open the BET Awards with a “Come Get It Bae/Pass That Dutch” mash-up, reuniting with Da Brat and Lil Kim at the Soul Train Music Awards for their 1997 breakthrough, “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” – the trio’s first live performance together in more than 16 years – and of course her unforgettable performance at 2015’s Super Bowl XLIX. Missy joined Katy Perry for the historic happening, wowing 118.5 million viewers – the largest ever audience in Super Bowl history – with a medley of “Get Ur Freak On,” “Work It,” and “Lose Control.” Digital sales skyrocketed in the following days, with both “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It” returning to the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart more than 10 years after their initial successes. In addition, Elliott has been heard on such recent tracks as Faith Evans’ 2014 single, “I Deserve It (Feat, Missy Elliott & Sharaya J),” Jack Ü’s 2015 “Take Ü There (Feat. Kiesza) (Missy Elliott Remix),” and most recently, Janet Jackson’s “BURNITUP! (Feat. Missy Elliott).”

With the release of her self-titled debut album, London born, Kosovo raised  DuaLipa  has won over the hearts of fans and press alike. The songs on  Dua Lipa  announce the arrival of a new force in pop—irresistible on the dance floor, thoughtful under closer inspection, constantly discovering creative possibilities. Her critically acclaimed debut has made everyone’s “best of” list, from The FADER  to  Rolling Stone  to  Time Magazine. With her powerful anthem and viral video for “New Rules” making her the youngest female solo artist to reach 1 billion views on YouTube, Dua continues to find herself on the top of the charts. The track reached #1 on Billboard’s Pop Songs airplay chart, and broke the longstanding record for  the most weeks ever on the list.  She was consistently the most streamed female artist on Spotify and in the top 5 globally this past year.  She has  sold 3 million copies, with singles reaching 32 million sold. Most recently, Dua made BRIT Award history becoming the first woman artist to pick up five nominations, taking home the awards for British Breakthrough Act and British Female Solo Artist.

The American Music Awards winners are voted entirely by fans. Voting is now open in all categories. For New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One® Savor® Card, Favorite Social Artist presented by Xfinity and Collaboration of the Year, fans can vote for each award 100 times per day, per voting platform in one or both of the ways below. Fans can vote for all other awards once per day, per voting platform.

  • Via web at VoteAMAs.com
  • Posting a tweet on Twitter that includes the nominee’s name or Twitter handle, the category name and #AMAs within the tweet
Voting for New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One Savor Card and Collaboration of the Year will close on Tuesday, October 9 at 5:59:59pm PT, one hour into the live broadcast. Voting for all other categories will close on Thursday, October 4 at 11:59:59pm PT.
American Music Awards nominees are based on key fan interactions as reflected on Billboard.com, including streaming, album and digital song sales, radio airplay, social activity and touring. These measurements are tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including Nielsen Music and Next Big Sound, and reflect the time period of September 15, 2017 through August 9, 2018.
YouTube Music is the presenting sponsor of the “2018 American Music Awards.”
Capital One Savor Card and Subaru of America, Inc. are sponsors of the “2018 American Music Awards.” Media partner is Cumulus Media/Westwood One.

The “2018 American Music Awards” is produced by dick clark productions. Barry Adelman, Mark Bracco and Tracee Ellis Ross are Executive Producers. Larry Klein is Producer.

For the latest American Music Awards news, exclusive content and more, be sure to follow the AMAs on social and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #AMAs.

Facebook: Facebook.com/AMAs
Twitter: @AMAs
Instagram: @AMAs
Snapchat: TheAMAs
YouTube: YouTube.com/TheAMAs

Tickets are now on sale at www.axs.com.

About the American Music Awards
The American Music Awards, the world’s largest fan-voted award show, features performances from today’s hottest artists and presents fan-voted awards in the music genres of Pop/Rock, Alternative Rock, Country, Rap/Hip-Hop, Soul/R&B, Adult Contemporary, Contemporary Inspirational, Latin, EDM and Soundtrack, and the categories of Artist of the Year, New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One Savor Card, Collaboration of the Year, Tour of The Year, Favorite Social Artist presented by Xfinity and Favorite Music Video. The American Music Awards pays tribute to today’s most influential and iconic artists.  The show is produced by dick clark productions and is seen in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. For more information, visit www.theamas.comwww.dickclark.com or abc.go.com/shows/american-music-awards.

About dick clark productions
dick clark productions (dcp) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and dcp. dcp also owns one of the world’s most unique and extensive entertainment archive libraries with over 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. dcp is a division of Valence Media, a diversified media company with divisions and strategic investments in premium television, wide release film, specialty film, live events and digital media. For additional information, visit www.dickclark.com.

About YouTube Music 
YouTube Music is a completely reimagined streaming music service with music videos, official albums, singles, remixes, live performances, covers and hard-to-find music you can only get on YouTube. It’s ALL here! YouTube Music serves music based on your tastes and what’s moving the community around you. Discover something new or keep up with what’s trending. Basic functions such as playing music and watching videos are totally free, but you can upgrade to YouTube Music Premium to explore the world of music ad-free, offline, and with the screen locked. Available on mobile and desktop.  For additional information, visit  www.youtube.com/musicpremium.