The 2019 Billboard Music Awards managed to pack the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas with some of the biggest names in music. The show this year features all-star performances by a slew of talented musicians, including Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, the Jonas Brothers, Madonna, BTS and more, all hosted by Kelly Clarkson.
Here are the best, worst and wildest moments of the award show:
Biggest Entry: Taylor Swift arrived on stage with Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie along with an entire drumline and dancers all dressed in sherbet-colored clothes to perform “ME!” The stage show was like a detour through Candyland until it started raining on stage and dancers descended from the ceiling with umbrellas, Mary Poppins-style. If it’s possible to steal the show that you are opening, Swift pulled it off.
Best Cover Songs: Host Kelly Clarkson took a seat next to Terry Crews, but soon security came along to oust her because that seat was saved for “the third best band,” a.k.a. Florida Georgia Line. To prove she was important, Clarkson grabbed the mic and started singing a medley of other people’s hits including “In the Middle,” “Material Girl,” Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” Dan + Shay’s “Tequila,” and even “I Like It,” with Cardi B watching nervously from the audience.
Best American Idol Reunion: As security dragged Kelly Clarkson away, she begged Paula Abdul to help prove her identity, because Abdul discovered her back when she was competing on reality TV and the judge straight up denied knowing her. C’mon Paula, it’s not like she’s Taylor Hicks!
Best Support System: As Halsey performed a stripped down, sensual version of “Without Me,” which was surprisingly intimate considering she was in a packed arena, she had some serious fans — BTS. They were in the crowd clapping louder than anyone else for their “Boy With Luv” collaborator, and Twitter watchers even think Jungkook cried during the performance.
Best Throwback: While it was no real surprise that Imagine Dragons, Panic! At the Disco, and Twenty One Pilots were nominated for Top Rock Artist of the year, there was one surprising nominee — Queen. Hopefully after Bohemian Rhapsody they will be nominated in this category every year forever.
Most Political Moment: While Imagine Dragons was collecting their award for Top Rock Artist (barely beating out Queen), the band used their time on stage to denounce conversion therapy. Frontman Dan Reynolds took the mic to tell the audience that “34 states have no laws banning conversion therapy” and that “58% of LGBTQ population live in those states.” He then encouraged people to talk to their state legislators.
Best Janet Jackson Vibes: When Ciara showed up to perform “Thinkin Bout You” it looked like she had raided the tour wardrobe of Janet (Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty). Dressed in a pinstripe suit paired with a cropped top and a slicked back, sky high ponytail, she looked like she came straight out of Rhythm Nation — and it was perfect. Even Taylor Swift approved, dancing along with Ciara as she made her way through the crowd.
Biggest Game of Thrones Spoiler: As Drake collected his award for Top Billboard 200 Album for Scorpion, he couldn’t help but give a shout-out to Stark for “putting in that hard work last week.”
Best Back-Up Singers: As Nick Jonas, Kevin Jonas and Joe Jonas (a.k.a. the Jonas Brothers) took to the stage to perform a medley of hits, their significant others Priyanka Chopra, Danielle Jonas, and Sophie Turner, all sang along, danced, and even did synchronized hand gestures from their seats.
Prettiest in Pink: No music award show in 2019 would be complete without Ariana Grande. She graced the stage with a millennial-pink stage set and costume for her pitch-perfect performance of “7 Rings”. There were no fireworks or holograms or anything, but she still managed to stand out in a show packed with, like, every icon.
The Most Madonna Moment: Madonna apparently decided that the best back up dancers she could find were holograms of herself. The eye-patch wearing icon hit the stage with Maluma to perform their new track, “Medellin,” accompanied by hologram back-up dancers that looked just like Madonna, but in different costumes, appearing on stage, and then disappearing into thin air. It’s a tribute to how advanced the hologram technology has become that when watching from the couch it was difficult to tell who was a real person and who was a hologram until they disintegrated like a post-stake vampire. The technological marvel was only topped by the fact that at one point, the Pirates of the Caribbean-looking extras cleared the stage long enough for Maluma to spank Madonna. There’s no doubt that the Material Girl still knows how to put on a memorable show.
Best Public Service Announcement: Cardi B took the prize for Top Rap Song for “I Like It,” and when she hit the stage, after shushing her fans for interrupting her speech (which was delightfully on brand), she reminded the audience that if you have a favorite artist, be sure to support them, stream their music, listen to their music, tell a friend to tell a friend about their music.
Biggest Fan Crossover Event: Turns out that Taylor Swift loves Mariah Carey as much as we all love Mariah Carey. The singer was spotted in the crowd dancing and singing along to Carey’s medley of her greatest hits. The only bigger moment of cross-music fandom took place off-camera, when Nick Jonas posted on his Instagram story a sad emoji face with the caption, “When your brother gets a fist bump during your performance from BTS but you don’t.”
Most Meme-able Moment: After Mariah Carey wrapped up her performance and moved to the main stage to accept her Icon award, she wiped her eyes with a tissue. She didn’t know what to do with it, though, and seemed to consider handing it to Jennifer Hudson, who had introduced her. She quickly thought better of it and then just flicked it to the side, like she was in her own house, which in fairness, she sort of was.
Most Enthusiastic Fans: When K-Pop sensations BTS hit the stage, the crowd erupted in screams, cheers, and ear-piercing shrieks of unbridled enthusiasm. The BTS Army is one of the wildest, most ardent, and dedicated fan groups ever and it’s truly impressive to witness them in action (even if it kind of hurts your ears).
Most Conspicuous Absence: Maroon 5 won the Billboard Top Hot 100 for “Girls Like You,” but they weren’t there, so the cameras turned to Cardi B who was their collaborator on the track. She looked confused, but is a team player, so she headed to the stage to collect the trophy — and show off her third outfit of the night.
Biggest Technical Difficulty: Billboard’s Twitter feed accidentally tweeted out the winner for Top Artist while on the television broadcast, Kelly Clarkson was still reading off the names of the nominees. It gave the Twitter community a head start on complaining that, no offense to Drake, Ariana Grande was robbed.
Biggest Missed Opportunity: The Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reunited on stage and not one person yelled, “Sweep the leg, Johnny!” or asked about the next season of Cobra Kai.
Best Way To End The Night: The 2019 Billboard Music Awards closed out with an all-out ’80s Dance Party led by Paula Abdul, who worked through a catalogue of her hits including “Forever Your Girl,” “Straight Up,” “Cold-Hearted Snake,” and more. There was even an appearance by MC Skat Kat, just to end the night with one more hologram.
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