Dick Clark ProductionsThe 2018 Billboard Music Awards were packed with big performances and peppered with some heavier moments Sunday night, kicking off with an emotional cold open from host Kelly Clarkson.
The show, which aired on NBC live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, began on a serious note with a tearful call to action from Kelly in the wake of the latest school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.
She refused to lead the audience in a moment of silence, instead saying, “Why don’t we do a moment of action? Why don’t we do a moment of change? Why don’t we change what’s happening? Because it’s horrible.”
Fittingly, following Kelly’s emotional message, Ariana Grande opened the show with a performance of “No Tears Left to Cry.” And indeed when Kelly returned to the stage, she was dry-eyed and ready to lighten things up a bit.
Kelly launched into an energetic medley of some other artists’ songs, including “Too Good at Goodbyes” by Sam Smith, “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift and “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran.
Shawn Mendes and Khalid later picked up Kelly’s call to action. After Shawn first took the stage to perform his new single “In My Blood,” he returned with Khalid to perform their powerful duet “Youth” as a tribute to victims of gun violence with the help of the show choir from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Female empowerment was also a running theme of the night, with Janet Jackson becoming the first black woman to receive the Billboard Icon Award and paying tribute to strong women in her speech.
“Women have made it clear that we no longer will be controlled, manipulated or abused,” Janet said in her speech, during which she also urged people to turn back to God as a source of calmness and love.
Prior to accepting the award, she took the stage and performed a choreography-heavy medley of some of her classics, including “Nasty,” “If” and “Throb.” It was her first TV performance in nine years.
Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato also took the stage together for the first time to perform their new feminist anthem “Fall in Line.” They traded soaring vocal acrobatics and held their own amidst a menacing mob of authoritative male figures.
Taylor Swift used her win for Top Female Artist to shout out other female artists, in particular her tour mates Charli XCX and Camila Cabello. She also took home the prize for Top Selling Album for Reputation and thanked her fans for “making me feel understood again.”
Before presenting the award for Top Hot 100 Song to Luis Fonsi for “Despacito,” The Chainsmokersand Halsey paid tribute to Avicii, who died last month at age 28. The Chainsmokers also dedicated their award for Top Dance/Electronic Artist to the late DJ-producer.
Other winners presented during the broadcast included Khalid for Top New Artist, BTS for Top Social Artist, “Body Like a Back Road” by Sam Hunt for Top Country Song, “Rock Star” by Post Malonefeaturing 21 Savage for Top Rap Song, and Camilla Cabello for Billboard Chart Achievement Award.
The show closed out with Ed Sheeran taking home the prize of Top Artist and a ‘90s throwback performance by Salt N Pepa, DJ Spinderella and En Vogue.
The two biggest winners of the night with six awards each were Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar. See a complete list of winners here.
The night’s other performances included:
– Dua Lipa performing “New Rules” with the help of a girl squad and a giant flamingo.
– Khalid and Normani performing their steamy duet “Love Lies.”
– New dad John Legend singing his new single, “A Good Night.”
– Jennifer Lopez and DJ Khaled making it rain dollar bills with their new track “Dinero.”
– Ed Sheeran performing a rousing rendition of “Galway Girl” from his tour in Dublin, Ireland.
– Maren Morris, Zedd and Grey joining forces to perform their hit “The Middle.”
– Soon-to-be tour mates Macklemore and Kesha singing “Good Old Days” from a faux campsite at Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.
– Kelly Clarkson belting her sassy tune “Whole Lotta Woman.”
– K-Pop boy band BTS drawing the loudest cheers for their performance of “Fake Love.”
– Camila Cabello performing “Havana” and her new duet with Pharrell Williams, “Sangria Wine.”
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