Travis Scott and Morgan Wallen made controversial returns to the Billboard Music Awards stage on Sunday, while Mary J. Blige was honored for her musical excellence.
Wallen starred in his first major awards show after being filmed over a year ago using a racial slur. After receiving no verbal introductions, the country star sat down alongside her four-piece band and performed “Don’t Think Jesus,” followed by her hit single “Wasted on You,” a single by her popular project “Dangerous: The Double Album”. “
Shortly after his performance, rapper Pusha T presented Wallen with the award for Best Country Artist.
“I mean, ‘Thank God.’ And thank you to my fans. I have the best fucking fans,” said Wallen, who credited his mother for going with him as his date. He also thanked Billboard for inviting him. He did not mention the incident last year, which once found the disgraced singer chastised by the music industry.
“Thank you to my baby boy,” he continued. “You inspire me every day.”
Scott gave his first televised performance since a massive mob killed 10 people and injured thousands at his Astroworld festival in Houston in November last year. The rapper performed his single “Mafia” in a chilling polar-themed setting with heavily censored lyrics.
Mary J. Blige received the Icon Award for being an influential music maker. The singer, known as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, was presented with the Janet Jackson Award and escorted onto stage by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs – who hosted the show, which aired live on NBC from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Blige said she was in a “dream right now” after receiving the honor. She explained that the journey to becoming an icon was not an easy one during her illustrious career.
“I’ve been on this journey for a long time, a journey that hasn’t always looked like what you see me now, one that’s filled with a lot of heartbreak and pain,” she said. “But God helped me channel those experiences and emotions into my music, that’s where I started in music.”
Blige was honored through a video montage with appearances from Queen Latifah, Gabrielle Union and Taraji P. Henson. Previous winners include Prince, Steve Wonder, Mariah Carey, Neil Diamond, Jennifer Lopez, Garth Brooks, Pink, Celine Dion and Janet Jackson.
“I was ghetto fabulous and still am,” said Blige, whose Dr. Dre-produced single “Family Affair” topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001 and had four No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200. “So ghetto and so fabulous and people were threatened by that. Now everybody wants to be fabulous in the ghetto.
Maxwell paid tribute to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in a performance that celebrated the 40th anniversary of the King of Pop’s 1982 album. The singer took the stage in sparkling black gloves and a jacket before performing the heartfelt jam “The Lady in My Life.”
Combs honored activist Tamika Mallory with the Revolt Black Excellence Award. He applauded Mallory’s efforts as an organizer for the 2017 Women’s March, as an advocate for gun control and a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“You fight for us on the front lines, and we just have to respect you, queen,” Combs said before calling her “fearless.”
After hearing Combs’ gracious remarks, Mallory was almost moved to tears. She then took the opportunity to discuss the deadly mass shooting on Saturday that left 10 dead in Buffalo, New York.
The white shooter was arrested for murder after the supermarket attack, in what police said was a hate crime, where most of the victims were black.
“Although they arrested the person who committed the murder, they didn’t stop the hate,” Mallory said. “They haven’t stopped the hurt and the pain. And if you’re not doing anything right now, you’re actually doing something by keeping silent. I’m asking you tonight: get involved, fight for justice.”
Previously, Drake was named Best Artist, Male Artist, Rap Artist, Male Rap Artist, and Rap Album for “Certified Lover Boy.” The rapper extended his record as the most decorated winner in awards show history with 34 wins.
Olivia Rodrigo and Kanye West, alias Ye, picked up six awards in an untelevised ceremony. Rodrigo received the award for Best New Artist.
Ye made his mark in faith-based categories – again: The rapper won top Christian artist for the first time, but he won top gospel artist and gospel song for the third year in a row. It also received Best Gospel Album for the second time.
Kid LAROI has become a winner for the first time, scooping awards for his song “Stay” with Justin Bieber – whose Billboard Music Award win count has risen to 26.
Doja Cat walked away with four prizes. She won Top R&B Artist and Top R&B Female Artist for the second year in a row, as well as Best R&B Album and Top Female Artist.
Taylor Swift – who has won the second most awards with 29 – won four awards. Bad Bunny picked up two wins while R&B duo Silk Sonic of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak took home their first-ever award for Best R&B Song for “Leave the Door Open.”
Amariyanna Copeny showed some nervousness after receiving the Changemaker Award for her community efforts in the Flint water crisis that began in 2014. Copeny, now 14, known as Little Miss Flint, was bursting often laughing while reading the teleprompter on stage.
“I don’t do the work for the accolades and influence,” Copeny said. “I do this for the kids at home in Flint who are still poisoned from the water,” she continued. She received the award from Teyana Taylor.
Becky G, who released the album “Esquemas” on Friday, performed “Baile Con Mi Ex” and her hit song “MAMIII,” which topped Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. Ed Sheeran delivered a performance remotely from Northern Ireland, where he is on tour.
Other performers who took to the stage included Miranda Lambert, Meghan Thee Stallion and Grammy darlings Silk Sonic.