Sunday’s 2017 Billboard Music Awards from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas featured the usual annual mix of performances and awards — and as usual, some of the performances nearly relegated the awards themselves to afterthoughts.
Drake was the big winner, busting by one the record previously held by Adele by taking home 13 awards, including Top Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200 Artist and …Album for Views, and Top Hot 100 Artist.
Drake accepted his final award with his “whole family” on stage, including his purple-clad dad Dennis Graham, mentor Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, who he called “the love of my life.” He ended his speech with a mostly-bleeped proverb: “Someone wise once told me ‘Life is like a roll of toilet paper. You’re either on a roll or taking s*** from a******s!'”
Beyonce and Twenty One Pilots, neither of whom was in the house, were next, each winning five trophies. None of Beyonce’s were televised, while the Ohio duo accepted their fan-voted Billboard Chart Achievement Award via satellite. Justin Timberlake, The Chainsmokers, Desiigner, Kenny Chesney, Christian artist Lauren Daigle and Latin artist Juan Gabriel each won two awards.
The show was highlighted by a number of special segments:
- Cher’s Icon Award performances of “Believe” and “If I Could Turn Back Time.” The ageless singer — she turned 71 on Saturday, but who’s counting? — wore a flesh body suit with a pastie over one nipple while performing “Believe,” then the black-leather-and-thigh-boots outfit from the video of “If I Could Turn Back Time” while performing that song. Accepting the award she talked about her 53-year career and put her success down to “mostly luck and a little bit of something thrown in.”
- A tribute to Notorious B.I.G. by Sean “Diddy” Combs, on what would have been his 45th birthday. Diddy called him “the best rapper I ever had,” then asked the audience to stand up and give him a round of applause. He brought Biggie’s son, C.J. Wallace on stage, who said he knows his father is “looking down on all of this tonight” and that he and his sister “will continue to carry on his memory with tremendous pride” and live their lives “by his words.” Diddy went on to plug the upcoming Bad Boy artists movie Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, which will premiere on Apple Music on June 25th. The trailer for it was shown.
- A brief spoken tribute to the late Soundgarden and Audioslave singer Chris Cornell by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, followed by a moment of silence for Cornell.
Ludacris and Vanessa Hudgens hosted, with Hudgens showing her talents in an opening bit that had her rapping Nicki Minaj-style and singing “The Power of Love” in a pretty fair take on Celine Dion.
The real Nicki Minaj kicked off the show with a hits medley. Wearing a bejeweled mask and looking like a super hero, she kicked into “Beez in the Trap,” “Starships” and “Moment For Life,” then was joined by guests Lil Wayne, who rapped on “No Frauds,” David Guetta, who deejayed on “Light My Body Up” and Jason Derulo, who sang on “Swalla,” before she wrapped up her performance with “Regret In Your Tears.”
The other performances were:
- Camila Cabello, in her TV debut as a solo artist, on “I Have Questions,” which dropped earlier in the day and, after an onstage pull-away outfit change, “Crying in the Club.”
- Songwriter Julia Michaels with her debut single as a featured artist, “Issues.”
- The Chainsmokers doing “Young” with singer Andrew Taggart playing guitar early on in the song.
- Ed Sheeran performing “Castle on the Hill” via satellite from Santiago, Chile.
- Introduced by dad Billy Ray and sister Noah, Miley Cyrus singing “Malibu” for the first time on TV.
- Lorde, dressed in a blue denim jacket and jeans, and reading her lyrics off a TV Karaoke-style, doing “Green Light.”
- Country star Sam Hunt with “Body Like a Back Road”
- In a throwback moment, Celine Dion — who performed a Queen cover last year — doing “My Heart Will Go On”
- Local heroes Imagine Dragons with their recent hit “Believer”
- Drake working out on “Gyalchester” from the middle of the fountain in front of the Bellagio Hotel.
- Halsey, singing “Now of Never” in an all-white outfit featuring sheer pants and spangled gloves and hair net.
- John Legend and Florida Georgia Line collaborating on their award winner, “H.O.L.Y.”
- Bruno Mars singing “Versace on the Floor.”
THE WINNERS: Presented on the telecast
Top Artist: Drake
Billboard Chart Achievement Award (fan-voted): Twenty One Pilots
Top Country Artist: Blake Shelton
Top Social Artist: BTS
Top Hot 100 Song: The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey, “Closer”
Top Billboard 200 Album: Drake, Views
Top Country Song: Florida Georgia Line, “H.O.L.Y.”
Top Male Artist: Drake
Top Collaboration: The Chainsmokers Featuring Halsey, “Closer”
THE WINNERS: Not on the Telecast
Top New Artist: Zayn
Top Billboard 200 Artist: Drake
Top Hot 100 Artist: Drake
Top Song Sales Artist: Drake
Top Streaming Songs Artist: Drake
Top Rap Artist: Drake
Top Rap Tour: Drake
Top Rap Album: Drake, Views
Top Streaming Song (Audio): Drake Featuring WizKid & Kyla, “One Dance”
Top R&B Song: Drake Featuring WizKid & Kyla, “One Dance” — WINNER
Top R&B Collaboration: Drake Featuring WizKid & Kyla, “One Dance” — WINNER
Top Female Artist: Beyonce
Top Touring Artist: Beyonce
Top R&B Artist: Beyonce
Top R&B Tour: Beyonce
Top R&B Album: Beyonce, Lemonade
Top Dance/Electronic Artist: The Chainsmokers
Top Dance/Electronic Song: The Chainsmokers Featuring Halsey, “Closer”
Top Selling Song: Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”
Top Radio Song: Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”
Top Streaming Song: Desiigner, “Panda”
Top Rap Song: Desiigner, “Panda”
Top Rap Collaboration: Rae Sremmurd Featuring Gucci Mane, “Black Beatles”
Top Duo/Group: Twenty One Pilots
Top Radio Songs Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Top Rock Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Top Rock Song: Twenty One Pilots, “Heathens”
Top Rock Tour: Coldplay
Top Rock Album: Metallica, Hardwired…To Self Destruct
Top Country Tour: Kenny Chesney
Top Country Album: Chris Stapleton, Traveller
Top Country Collaboration: Kenny Chesney Featuring Pink, “Setting The World On Fire”
Top Christian Album: Lauren Daigle, How Can It Be
Top Christian Artist: Lauren Daigle
Top Christian Song: Hillary Scott & The Family, “Thy Will”
Top Gospel Artist: Kirk Franklin
Top Gospel Album: Tamela Mann, One Way
Top Gospel Song: Travis Greene, “Made A Way”
Top Latin Artist: Juan Gabriel
Top Latin Album: Juan Gabriel, Los Duo 2
Top Latin Song: Nicky Jam, “Hasta El Amanecer”
Top Soundtrack/Cast Album: Hamilton: An American Musical