Published Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009 | 11:40 p.m.
Updated Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 | 3:10 a.m.
“Yes We Can” on YouTube
Barack Obama said it, a handful of celebrities repeated it, and Thursday night Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas won an award for the video he produced titled “Yes We Can.”
The pro-Obama video won a statuette for best “Outstanding Short Format Informational” at the first-annual Global Media Awards, which were presented by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Consumer Electronics Association.
“Yes We Can” outdid short format nominations from CNetTv.com, Chow.com, mtvU and CBS Interactive/BNet.com for the prize. The acclaimed song has already been recognized with a Daytime Emmy Award for “Best New Approaches in Daytime Entertainment.”
“Reasons to make songs aren’t just to make money. Sometimes you’re supposed to make songs to inspire people to change,” Will.i.am said after accepting the award. “It’s made me realize how powerful we are with using tools to engage with.”
“That speech changed my life, technology has changed my life … that song changed my life,” he said.
The hyper-political video, which he made with a handful of fellow Democratic celebrities – including Scarlett Johansson, Tatyana Ali, Aisha Tyler, Nick Cannon, Kate Walsh and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – was a departure from the light-hearted hip-pop music he and the Black Eyed Peas are known for.
Still, the video quickly became an Internet sensation during the campaign, attracting 4 million YouTube views within its first week.
“It got more views than any CNN upload, any NBC upload, any traditional networks’ content, or anything the Obama campaign paid for,” he said. “It was pretty phenomenal. It shows you the power of the person, of the people.”
The funky and influential superstar, who was born William James Adams Jr., admitted even he was impressed by the song’s far-reaching impact.
“I was surprised by the outcome of the success, like people like (Al) Gore saying, ‘That changed the election,’” he said. “It’s changed everything. We’re talking on the ceilings.”
While he was proud of the award and all that the video achieved, he said Obama’s victory belonged to the country’s young people.
“There’s a new power that has shown itself in the last year, in the last eight months,” he said. “The youth.”
“We didn’t have to march this time. We didn’t have to picket. We didn’t have to do those things they did in the ‘60s. All we had to do was upload and blog our opinions, and go out and vote. And that, there, is fantabulous.”
He said the video’s success, despite its grassroots origin and Popsicle stick-sized budget, go to show that the power remains with the people of America and not big business.
“The ‘Yes We Can’ song that I won the award for was not done by a record company, it was not done by the Obama campaign, it was not asked (for) by the Obama campaign,” Will.I.am pointed out. “It was done out of pure passion.”
While the 33-year-old star was inspired by the campaign and delighted by the Democrats’ victory, he admitted he doesn’t know if the passion witnessed during the campaign will carry over after Obama takes over the Oval Office.
“I hope people after the inauguration are this enthused about what’s going on in June,” he said. “The inauguration is important but what’s important is the inauguration four years from now and what we’ve done after the (2009) inauguration.”
Will.i.am’s Global Media Award win came just 13 days before the president-elect’s swearing-in ceremony and celebrations.
The star said he will be in Washington D.C., to watch as Obama becomes president on Jan 20. “It’s going to be awesome,” he said, noting he has a handful of inaugural appearances and performances scheduled.
The awards ceremony was hosted in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show at the Venetian.
Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro presented Will.i.am with his award.
“It’s always good to recognize those who are leading the way, those who are the pace-setters, those who are the trend-setters, in making the world better,” he said. “This is what this award ceremony is about.”