It was a night of redemption at Sunday night’s Billboard Music Awards.
First, there was country star Morgan Wallen — who had been banned from performing at the Grammys and Country Music Association Awards over a video surfaced in early 2021 in which he used the N-word — got a chance to close the stage at MGM enter Grand Arena in Las Vegas. He took the opportunity by going gospel with his song “Don’t Think Jesus” for maximum sympathy.
Then Travis Scott made his first public appearance since last December’s Astroworld tragedy that killed 10 concert-goers. With baby mom Kylie Jenner in the audience, he missed the opportunity to make a statement with a mysterious medley of “Mafia” and “Lost Forever” that looked and felt more like a Mad Max-esque video.
And then towards the end of the show there was the tribute to Michael Jackson’s ’40 Thriller’ Two Gloves – showing plenty of love for the King of Pop despite the child abuse that has tarnished his legacy. “We love you, Michael Jackson!” he said at the end of his performance.
But the emotional high point of the evening came when another superstar Jackson – Janet – got a standing ovation and then presented Mary J. Blige with the Icon Award. It was one of the show’s truly iconic moments when the queen recognized the queen – and you could feel all the love and respect for both women.
It provided some much-needed star power on a night when the biggest winner – Olivia Rodrigo, who took home seven trophies – wasn’t even there. Neither were other strong winners like Drake and Taylor Swift.
The night started with host Sean “Diddy” Combs – who also served as executive producer – breaking out some of his old puffy moves to perform a medley that also features “She Don’t Want It” singer Bryson Tiller and ” First Class” rapper included Jack Harlow. It all ended with Diddy doing a little “Mo Money Mo Problems,” his 1997 hit with Notorious BIG, just a week before Biggie’s May 21 birthday.
Though the ultimate hip-hop hype man was overly hyped at times, Diddy – who won his first BBMA 25 years ago – brought something ghetto fabulous to the event. “I’m doing a fashion show,” the New York native said after one of many costume changes. “Harlem in the house!”
Then there was Diddy’s bad boy signee Machine Gun Kelly, who with his pink hair and painted nails rushed gun by calling fiancé Megan Kelly “my wife” and then their “unborn child” in a medley from “Twin Flames.” and “Twin Flames” addressed “Born with Horns,” which veered from acoustic guitar ballad to pop-punk rave-up.
But the night’s best performance came from the retro-soul super duo – aka Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak – who took a break from their Las Vegas residency in maroon three-suits to perform a cover of Con Funk Shun’s 1982 classic “Love’s.” to deliver Train” that made everyone feel super fly.