The best Billboard Music Awards performances |

Sunday 20 May 2018

The best Billboard Music Awards performances

It's time to rinse out the big chip bowl that's been collecting dust on top of your fridge and send out your e-vites; there's an award show approaching. This Sunday, May 20, is the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) hosted by Kelly Clarkson. Nominees for the 2018 BBMAs cover a broad spectrum, from some of the industry's top dogs to more commercially known artists that your mom might recognize from the radio. While they don't offer quite as much prestige as the Grammys, the BBMAs do award winners and honorees based on their Billboard Chart performances, and have provided us with plenty of entertainment since they began in 1990.

Though the award show went dormant from 2007-2010 and underwent a number of network changes due to contract negotiation, the BBMAs always seem to come out on top as one of the most interesting nights of the year. Between the expressive variety of bold outfit choices to the downright embarrassing on-stage mishaps, one thing is always guaranteed: a night full of performances for you to pick apart based on your personal feelings towards the performer, and some objectively good ones that will trend on Twitter for at least 24 hours. Bad lip-syncs, so-so tributes, and massive comebacks from musical icons have graced the Billboard Music Awards stage in the past, and this year is sure to be no different. With a handful of music industry bigwigs scheduled to perform, and Janet Jackson slated to receive the Icon Award, we're in for a real live-music treat this weekend.

But how are we to judge this year's performers without honoring those that came before them? Long before Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, some artists raised the BBMA performance bar and it's time we recognize the trailblazers that made the award show such a highly anticipated concert event. While it's way more fun to revel in the disappointing acts of the past, we can't help but praise the artists that truly delivered while the cameras were rolling. Hopefully Sunday's show will give these performances a run for their money, but for now here are the 10 best Billboard Music Awards performances.

10. Jordin Sparks and John Legend (2012)
Getting two of the most talented artists of the past decade to pay tribute to one of the most talented artists of all time was a no-brainer at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards. Just a few months after her death, Whitney Houston was memorialized with a collaboration by Jordin Sparks and John Legend at the BBMAs. Legend serenaded the masses with "Greatest Love of All" at his trusted piano before Sparks took center stage to tackle "I Will Always Love You", delivering an unforgettable homage to Houston.

9. Cher (2017)
Do you believe in life after this performance? Before accepting the Icon Award at last years BBMAs, Cher demonstrated just how worthy she was of the honor with back-to-back performances of her hits "Believe", and "If I Could Turn Back Time". At 71 years old, she kept up with her dancers and paid homage to herself in classic Cher-esque costumes that reminded us why we stan, proving that we haven't seen the last of her just yet.

8. Michael Jackson (2014)
Five years after his tragic and unexpected death, the King of Pop made an appearance at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards thanks to technology. Michael Jackson's hologram put on quite a show performing "Slave to the Rhythm" with a spectacle of live dancers and special effects that made it feel like he was actually there. The royal backdrop and dance solo also did MJ justice.

7. Alicia Keys, Angie Stone, and Eve (2001)
This incomparable trio of female solo artists teamed up to blow the roof off the 2001 Billboard Music Awards with a fun and soulful performance. After Alicia Keys kicked off the production with her song "A Woman's Worth", she was joined by Angie Stone for a rendition of "Brotha" featuring a rap solo from Eve. Their energy, combined with their talents, made for six minutes of unadulterated showmanship.

6. 'N Sync (2000)
Securing their spot as boy band royalty, 'N Sync performed "Just Got Paid" at the BBMAs in 2000 at the peak of their popularity. The charismatic performance had everything: synchronous dance steps, silly props, pop harmonies, and solos from Justin Timberlake. The entire production serves as a sign of the times, as do the all-white outfits and beatbox breakdown.

5. Beyoncé (2011)
No list of memorable performances would be complete without you-know-who. Beyoncé used her 2011 BBMA performance of "Run The World (Girls)" as a feminist statement, but even the bold messaging couldn't overshadow her talents. Starting with video messages from a long list of other iconic celebrities, Beyoncé dispersed messages of positivity for women throughout the performance until a large quantity of female dancers filled the stage to capacity - and she hit every note along the way.

4. Celine Dion (2017)
Once you wipe away your tears, it's easy to see why Celine Dion's 2017 performance of "My Heart Will Go On" is one of the best in BBMA history. Her extravagant dress and the enormous chandelier dangling above her really set the mood for this emotional performance. Being center stage with a spotlight in an otherwise dark room made her stand out, but it was her perfectly buttery vocals that truly made this performance a home run.

3. Bruno Mars (2013)
Among the most elite spots is a hot-and-ready performance that was just a taste of what was to come later in Bruno Mars' career. His performance of "Treasure" in 2013 was, well, a real treasure. Joined onstage by his equally talented band and signature hype man, Mars threw it back to disco-era entertainment with matching red suits and some of the best minimalist dancing in the music industry. While his vocals were spot on, the performance was really a spotlight for Mars' artistry.

2. Mariah Carey (1999)
The look. The band. The high notes. Mariah Carey's performance of "I Still Believe" may not have been the biggest production at the 1999 Billboard Music Awards, but it showcased her vocal abilities and validated her reign as the queen of pop music (and sophisticated simplicity). Sporting a simple black dress and sharing the stage with a full band, Mariah used the opportunity to show off her range. The sultry ballad choice even left Stevie Wonder swooning.

1. Rihanna (2016)
Thank you all for your service, but she'll take it from here. Rihanna did not come to play with her 2016 performance of "Love on the Brain". No gimmicks or backup dancers were needed for Rih to show off her amazing pipes; just her, the microphone, and a green fur over her pant suit. A blissful few minutes of belting were a sweet digression from her usual intensely choreographed numbers at the BBMAs, and reminded us just how well-rounded she really is.


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