The Weeknd was the big winner at the 2016 Billboard Awards Sunday night, but he’s not what people will be talking about in the aftermath of the event at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Nominated for 19 awards, he won eight, including “Top 100 Artist” and “Top R&B Song.” But as has become the standard for the mostly irrelevant awards given out at shows like this, the performances took center stage.
Embattled pop star Ke$ha performed the Bob Dylan song “It Ain’t Me Babe” with Ben Folds, and received a standing ovation. Not long after her appearance was announced, her producer Dr. Luke (who has an iron grip on her career through her contracts with his publishing and production companies) reportedly barred her from performing. It’s unclear exactly why he would, but its possible he feared she would politicize the performance and further publicize her allegations of abuse at his hand on stage. Nevertheless, she was ultimately allowed to perform, and did so without incident.
Newly major Adele took home a pair of big awards, the “Billboard Top Artist” and “Top Album” award for her smash 3rd LP, 25. She also premiered her new music video for “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).”
‘90s pop princess Britney Spears did a career retrospective performance, and celebrated her win of the “Millennium Award,” whatever that means. Celine Dion was given the “Billboard Icon Award,” which is fair, we suppose. She then did a cover of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” the somber tribute to the band’s late singer. Dion’s was clearly directed at her late husband Rene, who recently passed.
Questlove gave a touching Prince speech, and for some reason the BBMA producers thought Madonna was the best person to perform the musical tribute. She did a “Let’s Go Crazy/Nothing Compares 2 U” medley, which felt weird in the wake of Sinead O’Connor’s recent issues. It was redeemed a bit by the Stevie Wonder “Purple Rain” duet.
Elsewhere in the program, Rihanna did a stripped-down performance of “Love on the Brain,” and pint-sized provocateur Ariana Grande did her best to convince us that she’s a “Dangerous Woman.” Some other stuff also happened. Sadly, they’ll probably do it all again next year. See you then.