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A Look at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards

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The 2021 Billboard Music Awards (BBMAS) were held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Calif. on May 23 at 5 p.m. PDT. Broadcasted live by NBC, the ceremony wasn’t exactly typical but was nonetheless an entertaining ceremony amid the county’s lift of certain COVID-19 restrictions. Hosted by Nick Jonas, the chart company’s annual awards show honored multiple artists throughout the decade and served as a historic evening for the biggest acts in the music industry. 

Unlike other award shows, the BBMAS finalists and winners are entirely based on fan interactions with album and digital song sales, radio airplay, streaming and social engagement. This year’s award ceremony was based on Billboard reports collected from March 21, 2020 to April 3, 2021. The only category that wasn’t given any awards was the touring category due to the global pandemic putting a temporary halt to any live performances during the past year. 

The show opened with a live performance of “We Going Crazy,” (stylized as WE GOING CRAZY), by DJ Khaled, H.E.R. and Migos — a song from DJ Khaled’s newest album “Khaled Khaled,” (stylized as KHALED KHALED,), released April 30.  

Though most of the winners were announced at the actual ceremony on May 23, Billboard revealed a few artists who won big prior to the show, like Pink (stylized as P!nk), who took home the 2021 Billboard Icon Award. Established in 2011 and previously given to Prince, Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, Cher and Mariah Carey, among others, this award recognizes artists who have not only made their mark on the Billboard charts but also who have constantly succeeded at inspiring the music industry and the world. 

P!nk gave an overwhelmingly eloquent and breathtakingly stunning acrobatic performance alongside her nine-year-old daughter Willow. The singer began her performance carrying her daughter and carefully placing her on the ground while she tangled herself in aerial rope. As soon as P!nk’s song “Cover Me In Sunshine” began playing, Willow joined her mom on the aerial rope. The song was sung by P!nk and Willow, further revealing the love they share for one another. The performance was both graceful and beautiful, exemplifying the duo’s corde lisse skills — an aerial circus skill that involves acrobatics on a vertically hanging rope — and the unbreakable bond she shares with her daughter. 

Jon Bon Jovi was given the honor of introducing and presenting this year’s Icon Award. In her acceptance speech, P!nk was more than star-struck by the man giving her the award. In fact, she shared with the world an embarrassing story from her childhood — one that most of us can relate to. 

“I did not come out of my room for a week when you married Dorothea Hurley,” she said. “I’m very glad you found lasting love Jon, but you broke my heart.”

Meanwhile, Drake took home this year’s Artist of the Decade award. His predecessors include Carey for the 1990s and Eminem for the 2000s. This award honors Drake’s ever-growing success on the Billboard charts, including the domination of and prosperity he’s had in the music industry throughout the entire 2010s. 

The ceremony also honored Houston-based rapper Trae tha Truth as the Change Maker. The Billboard Change Maker award was first announced last year in 2020 with Killer Mike as the honoree. This new prize honors the artist or group who are constantly active in the community, politically aware, socially conscious and who use their platform to influence and improve the lives of others. Truth was named this year’s Change Maker for his social justice advocacy and charitable work, especially during the heavy police brutality amid the global pandemic. 

“It’s important to change people’s lives,” he said while ending his acceptance speech with the goal of bringing justice to Breonna Taylor. 

The Weeknd dominated the award show and made an incredible impact on the ceremony by winning in 10 categories: Top R&B Song, Top Radio Song, Top Hot 100 Song Presented by Rockstar Energy, Top R&B Album, Top R&B Male Artist, Top R&B Artist, Top Radio Songs Artist, Top Hot 100 Artist, Top Male Artist and Top Artist. He also gave an incredible performance of his hit single “Save Your Tears” that illustrated his lyric tenor and spectacle lower range. 

Photo provided by Billboard Music Awards @BBMAs/Twitter

Other notable performances of the night include Alicia Keys’ celebration of her legendary album “Songs in A Minor,” which was released June 5, 2001. The R&B savant was introduced by Michelle Obama and took her usual position on the piano while commemorating the 20th anniversary of her debut album, delivering an awe-inspiring, melodic performance. Keys’ LP won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best R&B Album, and its lead single “Fallin’” won the Best R&B Song after being No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 of 2001. 

Despite the global pandemic changing the way the award shows are normally held, the 2021 annual Billboard Music Awards proved that excellence and inspiration can still be found within the music that each artist and/or band releases. This year’s ceremony not only illuminated the talent within the music industry but also worked towards shedding light on the trauma that embarked upon the world in 2020. From the fight for equal rights to bringing back some of the normalcy that was stolen from all of us, the BBMAS honored the very voices and talents that the world looks up to. 

 McKenzie Boney is an Entertainment Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at mboney@uci.edu