May 17, 2015 9:47 PM EDT

Sam Smith won the Billboard Music Award for top male artist Sunday night, but the four-time Grammy winner was unable to accept it in person. Smith was in New York City recovering from vocal surgery after vocal cord hemorrhaging forced him to cancel his Australian tour.

But the British crooner still made time to accept the award remotely—using cue cards that allowed him to rest his recovering voice. Though Smith will be forced to keep quiet for several weeks, his speech was no less heartfelt, thanking his fans and sending some special messages to friends like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Nicki Minaj.

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Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com.

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