It wasn’t the most scintillating parade of performances, but the 2022 Billboard Music Awards should be commended for kicking off a truly diverse lineup.
From soulful comebacks Silk Sonic to Latin pop star Becky G to former country outcast Morgan Wallen, the show played hopscotch for three hours, delivering a tour de force from Atlanta rapper Latto, a tribute to Michael Jackson delivered by the perennial Maxwell and a surprise performance from host Sean “Diddy” Combs.
This year’s edition of the show, which aired live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, also featured stage turns from Florence + The Machine, Megan Thee Stallion, Ed Sheeran (joining de his gig in Belfast, Northern Ireland) and, making his first appearance at an awards show since the Astroworld tragedy last fall, Travis Scott.
Unlike its celebratory peers, the Billboard Music Awards are not based on the subjective vote of music industry insiders or even fans, but are based on hard numbers – specifically, their appearances on the Billboard charts. , including digital album and song sales, streaming and radio. air play.
As for the performances, here’s how they ranked from least inspiring to most memorable.
Billboard Music Awards:Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner step out on the red carpet with their daughter Stormi
15. Diddy with Bryson Tiller, Jack Harlow and Teyana Taylor, ‘She Don’t Want It’ / ‘First Class’ / ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems’
The opening segment featured host Diddy dancing on the main stage before opening the way for Bryson Tiller gliding through “She Don’t Want It”. The R&B star shared some verses and handed over the stage to Jack Harlow, who took over the spotlight with “First Class,” his latest single from new album “Come Home the Kids Miss You.” But Diddy isn’t one to sit on the sidelines and quickly reappeared in the middle of the MGM Grand Garden Arena to break a few lines – with Teyana Taylor – from “Mo Money, Mo Problems”, the 1997 smash popularized by the late Notorious BIG, who would have turned 50 on May 21.
14. Dan + Shay, ‘You’
The country duo known for their sweet ballads and angelic harmonies didn’t disappoint with a gently swaying rendition of the track from last year’s “Good Things” album. Dressed in matching red suits – along with the rest of their backing band – Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney didn’t set the stage on fire, but delivered a reliable performance of a soulful song.
13. Travis Scott, ‘Mafia’ and ‘Lost Forever’
With blizzard effects swirling around the structure where Scott lay in fuzzy winter pants, the rapper rolled out a heavily edited “Mafia.” He buried his head against the bikini-clad chest of muse/model Jazzelle (because bikinis and snow – why not?) as the performance faded between set design and black-and-white video. The attempt to be artistic was disorienting and, really, unnecessary. The performance was a rare sighting from Scott, as well as his first awards show performance since last November’s tragedy at his Astroworld festival in Houston.
12. Burna Boy, ‘Last Last’ and ‘Kilometer’
The Nigerian Afrobeat star closed the show with a pair of tracks that at least brought the bland ceremony to an upbeat beat. Strutting down the catwalk in shorts and sunglasses, Burna Boy (aka Damini Ogulu) got the crowd to sing “Last Last.” But it became apparent why it was chosen as the final performance when a drum line appeared, adding even more percussion to “Kilometer” with a fusion of world beat sounds.
11. Becky G, ‘Baile Con Mi Ex,’ ‘Mamiii’
Perched atop a square structure with the backdrop of the Earth looming behind her, the young singer with Mexican roots weaved her way through the melodic “Baile Con Mi Ex” with remarkable poise. As a platform brought her back on stage, Becky G (aka Rebecca Gomez) stripped off her jacket to reveal a shiny black leotard with matching thigh-high stockings for “Mamiii,” her worldwide smash that she shares on record with Karol G (no relation).
10. Morgan Wallen, ‘Don’t Think Jesus’ and ‘Wasted on You’
Set on a square stage in the middle of the arena, Wallen – seemingly forgiven for being caught uttering a racial slur on video in 2021 – opted for a stripped-down approach and a lyrically sharp opening song. Surrounded by his four-piece band, Wallen strummed an acoustic guitar and upped the twang as he sang the chorus of “Don’t Think Jesus,” which includes the lyrics, “World likes to back back and throw a few stones / So boy wants to throw his own rocks / But God knows I’m not perfect Wallen leaned into the gritty qualities of his voice for his second offering, “Wasted on You,” a double-platinum hit from his “Dangerous: The Double Album,” which topped Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart for 55 weeks.
9. Maxwell, “The Lady of My Life”
Of all the songs to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” let soul king Maxwell choose one of only two on the nine-track album for do not go out as a single. But Maxwell brought his velvety vocals and suave approach to the ballad written by Jackson’s regular songwriter Rod Temperton. Dropping to his knees and removing his sunglasses, Maxwell, wearing studded mittens in perhaps another form of tribute, paid a heavy tribute to the King of Pop. “We love you Michael Jackson!” he said at the end of the song, looking a little overwhelmed with emotion.
8. Machine Gun Kelly, “Twin Flame”, “Born With Horns”
Sporting painted nails, ripped jeans and tousled hair with a light magenta tint, MGK began by quietly saying that he wrote the song for “his wife”. Are he and his girlfriend Megan Fox married? Only their blood medallions hold the answer. MGK interrupted the romantic rock ballad to look into the crowd and say, “Happy birthday, my love,” before taking a detour to a few lines of “Born With Horns.” Although his vocals weren’t always on point, there was no denying the authenticity of MGK’s performance, especially when he returned to “Twin Flame”, dedicated it to “our unborn child”. and picked up his electric guitar to throw out some jagged riffs. .
7. Miranda Lambert and Elle King, “Drunk (and I don’t want to go home)”
The primal drumbeat that fuels this scorcher of two-vocal power set the tone, and Lambert and King turned up his strumming force. Their performance survived a wobbly opening verse, but by the chorus, the two women – coordinated in black pants decorated with blue fringe, flames and stars – fell into the spirit of the song, singing along to full throttle like it’s 2am in a grimy pool hall. .
6. Rauw Alejandro, ‘Cúrame’ / ‘Museo’ / ‘Todo De Ti’
The Puerto Rican hitmaker known as the “king of modern reggaeton” launched into his trio of songs, sitting pensively during the ballad “Cúrame” in front of a lit tree trunk. But in a few moments, a phalanx of dancers joined him to navigate with agility “Museo” and “Todo De Ti” around a jungle of steel cubes. Alejandro, who performed for the first time on the BBMAs, is not only a fluid singer, but also an impressively flexible dancer.
5. Silk Sonic, “The Love Train”
In their now-iconic wide-lapel rust-colored suits, Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak and the rest of Silk Sonic made their BBMA debuts with pelvic thrusts and Temptations-style dancing with their backup vocalists. “Love’s Train” is another cozy submission from their comeback project, filled with finger snaps, soft grooves and enough space for Mars to engage in skyward punches – and its glorious high notes. .
4. Ed Sheeran, “2 Steps”
Beaming live from Belfast, Northern Ireland, the ginger solo band used their signature rotating stage and looping technique for the final single from last year’s ‘=” album. Performing to a huge outdoor crowd at Boucher Road Playing Fields, Sheeran demonstrated – especially for those who’ve never seen him live – how an unassuming guy with a guitar and versatile vocal skills can wow a crowd. the size of a stadium.
3. Florence + The Machine, ‘My Love’
The ever-enigmatic Florence Welch took the stage swathed in dry ice, her waist-length auburn hair and flowing cream-colored dress as captivating as her dramatic unveiling of “My Love.” Swirling across a stage strewn with scraps of paper that looked like letters (love notes, perhaps?), Welch was a startling sight under a halo of red lighting as she performed a slightly more rooty version of the disco-influenced song from the new album “Dance Fièvre.”
2. Megan Thee Stallion, ‘Plan B’ and ‘Sweetest Pie’
Looking sexy in a black leotard that showed off her sleek figure, Megan Thee Stallion self-censored as she unfolded her female empowerment anthem, ‘Plan B’. To support her lyrical theme, she turned her almost bare booty towards the crowd while smiling over her shoulder. Megan Thee Stallion rocketed her rhymes into overdrive for “Sweetest Pie,” which featured a group of dancers, fireworks and the rapper knocking her long dark hair off her shoulder as she threw an unspoken attitude from the scene.
1. Latto, “The Great Energy”
A standout export from the hip-hop mecca of Atlanta, Latto, joined by a sextet of dancers, sang his No. 1 club-sampling R&B-hip-hop hit Tom Tom with surly assurance. But there was no denying how much fun Latto was having as she twerked and twisted, banging her wavy mane in time with the pyro erupting behind her. For those unfamiliar with born upstart Alyssa Stephens, it was a star performance.