The MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas was filled with musical legends — and musical legends in the making — on Sunday night for the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. Hosted by Kelly Clarkson, the night was packed with memorable moments and blistering performances including K-pop superstars BTS, Salt-N-Pepa featuring En Vogue, Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Macklemore & Kesha, Shawn Mendes & Khalid, Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, Pharrell, and Janet Jackson, who is also taking home a well-deserved icon award. Plus, Taylor Swift made her first red-carpet appearance in two years
A Powerful Start: Fighting back tears, Kelly Clarkson paid homage to those high school students killed at the shooting at Santa Fe High School in her home state of Texas. The producers asked her to lead a moment of silence, but she wasn’t interested in that, noting. “We need to do better. We’re failing our children.” She had a better suggestion: “Why don’t we not do a moment of silence?” she said. “let’s do a moment of action.”
Best Use of Umbrellas Since Rihanna: Ariana Grande opened the award show with a performance of “No Tears Left to Cry,” and the choreography included back-up dancers wielding umbrellas that she laid across. The BBMAs mark the first award show appearance since the May 2017 terror attack at her Manchester, England concert, where a bomber killed 22 people and injured more than 800.
Bravest Performance: Kelly Clarkson kicked things off with a medley of Billboard hits, including Maren Morris’ “My Church,” Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE,” Khalid’s “Young, Dumb and Broke,” Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” and Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.” And if you have to sing Taylor in front of Taylor you are definitely brave.
Biggest Meme in the Making: Taylor Swift singing along to …Taylor Swift
Best Suggestion: When Rebel Wilson presented the Top New Artist prize to Khalid, she claimed she was fresh from the royal wedding where she had told the Queen to go ahead and give her crown to Beyoncé when she was done with it, and change the name to Bey-ckingham Palace.
Best Duet: Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato’s soon-to-be karaoke classic, “Fall In Line” is a banger for the #MeToo era, and the performance was full of powerhouse performances, yet 100% diva free.
Strangest Juxtaposition: The Chainsmokers and Halsey came out to bid homage to Avicii, the Swedish electronic artist who passed away earlier this year. Then in a jarring segue from somber to celebratory, they presented the Top Hot 100 Song to Luis Fonsí for “Despacito.”
Most Triumphant Return: Taylor Swift hasn’t been seen at the Billboard Music Awards since 2015, but she just happened to be on-hand to take home the Top Female Artist prize — and remind fans that she is on an all-female stadium tour right now with Charli XCX and Camila Cabello.
Best Tweet: John Legend stopped by the show to perform his hit, “A Good Night,” and Chrissy Teigen used the opportunity to lovingly troll her husband (again) on Twitter, while pointing out the double standard that women in the industry face. After all, they just had a baby and shouldn’t he be home taking care of him?
Most Appreciative Fans: There was no doubt that K-Pop supergroup BTS would take home the prize for Top Social Artist, because their ardent army of fans had packed the venue and flooded Twitter with messages, photos, and homages. The boys in the band took the stage in coordinated Gucci ensembles and the appreciative crowded screamed their approval.
Best / Worst Hype Man: DJ Khaled who didn’t bother getting up from his seat to introduce J.Lo from behind a wall a money.
Best Transformation: Jennifer Lopez has entered a Madonna phase, specifically a “Vogue” phase full of bustiers and suits and fedoras and it’s perfect. She performed her new song “Dinero,” which features Cardi B, DJ Khaled, and Madonna’s dance moves. It was perfect.
Most Moving Moment: To pay tribute to the victims of the school shooting in Texas, Shawn Mendes and Khalid were joined in their performance of “Youth,” by the show choir from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, whose own school was the site of a shooting just a few months ago. It was poignant and powerful. It was so poignant and powerful that it made the stars of This is Us cry — and they work on This Is Us.
Most Iconic Moves: Bruno Mars laid out the case for Janet Jackson to become the first black woman to win the Billboard Icon Award, tracking her humble beginnings on The Carol Burnett Show to her global chart-topping success and many, many hit songs. From the moment she yelled, “Gimme a beat!” Janet (Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty) proved she not only deserves the prize, but she deserves all the prizes. In a gold sweater and over-the-knee gold high tops she led fans through ”Nasty,” “Throb.” and “If” and had the crowd dancing and singing the whole way through. By the time she took her prize, she couldn’t even speak because the crowd was chanting her name. An icon, indeed.
Best Quote: “Women have made it clear we will not longer be controlled, manipulated, or abused,” said Miss Jackson, who wrote a song called “Control” and knows a thing or two about it.
Most Break-the-Internet Moment: Taylor Swift snapped a pic with BTS and the internet may never recover thanks to the massive fanbases they both have.
Least Audible Performance: When you have a really, really ardent fan base who knows all the words to your songs and exuberantly sings along, it makes it hard to hear. That was the fate of BTS whose excited fans were so thrilled to see them perform, that they forgot that hearing them sing their single “Fake Love” off their new album, Love Yourself: Tear could be nice, too.
Best ’90s Revival: Early rap icons Salt-N-Pepa and DJ Spinderella closed down the night with a medley of their greatest hits, including “Push It,” “Shoop,” and “Let’s Talk About Sex,” which had the crowd singing and dancing, even if they were listening to Baby Einstein in the ’90s. They were joined by En Vogue to perform “Whatta Man“ and Kelly Clarkson crashed the stage in a fitting farewell.