“Music Unites All” at 2020 Billboard Music Awards

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The Billboard Music Awards (BBMA), hosted by Kelly Clarkson, aired on NBC on Oct. 14 with the theme “Music Unites All.” 

The BBMAs, originally scheduled for April 29, celebrated music from 2019. Nominations for tracks like Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” — announced in front of an empty theater — made for a night which was nostalgic of pre-quarantine life but glaringly fit for 2020. 

The big winner of the night was Post Malone, who racked up the most nominations and took the BBMA for “Top Artist,” “Top Male Artist” and seven other awards. Billie Eilish also had a standout night, winning “Top Female Artist,” “Top New Artist,” and “Top Billboard 200 Album.”

Luke Combs won “Top Country Artist.” Bad Bunny won “Top Latin Artist.” “Top R&B Artist” went to Khalid. Lil Nas X accepted the award for “Top Hot 100 Song” for his hit single “Old Town Road,” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, which spent a record-setting 17 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

Cher introduced Garth Brooks as the 2020 “Icon Award” recipient. Brooks has had at least one top 10 hit every decade for five consecutive decades, and he sang a medley of fan favorites to the sounds of a pre-recorded crowd before accepting the award. 

Award winners came from backstage to make their solo acceptance speeches to a crowd of empty seats. Eilish was one of the only artists who wore a mask for the duration of the night. Band members and dancers were also masked up for the night’s performances.

The mayor of Atlanta, Kiesha Lance Bottoms, introduced the first-ever “Billboard Changemaker Award,” recognizing someone who is influential in music and a force for social change. Atlanta native Killer Mike won the award and was honored for his work advocating for social justice issues within the Black community. 

Several artists chose to use their platform to encourage viewers to vote. 

“Thank you to all the women who came before me and paved the way,” Eillish said. “Please vote. Please wear a mask. Wash your hands and be safe.”

Lizzo grabbed the audience’s attention in a black bodycon dress with a bold ‘VOTE’ pattern when she accepted the BBMA for “Top Song Sales Artist.”

“I wonder would I be standing here right now if it weren’t for the big Black women that refuse to have their voices be suppressed.” Lizzo said, “There’s power in who you are. There is power in your voice. So whether it’s through music, protest, or your right to vote, use your power, use your voice and refuse to be suppressed.” 

Demi Lovato’s world premiere of her new single “Commander in Chief,” was a targeted criticism of Trump’s response to COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. A choir joined Lovato while she played the piano and sang lyrics such as: “we’re in a state of crisis, people are dying.”

Digital stars played a larger role in this year’s BBMAs than in years past. TikTok star Addison Rae introduced the TikTok fan-voted “Chart Achievement Award” to an absent Harry Styles. Doja Cat sang her instant hit “Say So,” which has over 20 million recreations on TikTok, and YouTubers Tim and Fred Williams, known for their reaction to oldies music videos, popped in to give commentary throughout the night. 

South Korean boy band BTS won the fan-voted “Top Social Artist” award. The K-pop group streamed in from South Korea to perform “Dynamite,” their first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Fans of the mega-stars kept #BTSxBBMAs  as the top trend on Twitter for hours after the show ended.

En Vogue closed out the awards singing their 1990s chart-topper “Free Your Mind” with the words hatred and systematic racism along with images of protests on the screen behind them. The trio ended the night by raising a Black Power fist. 
For the full list of 2020 BBMA winners visit https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/bbmas/9465082/2020-billboard-music-awards-winners.

ljtmfm@mail.umkc.edu

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