Drake won multiple honours at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards and encouraged the audience of musicians to give their peers their flowers while they’re still alive.
“We’ve obviously had like an unfortunate series of losses within our business, and I just want to encourage everybody to let other artists know how you feel about them,” Drake said as he accepted top male artist Wednesday. “Let them know that you love them (and) respect them while we’re all still here.”
Drake could have been referring to a number of deaths in the music industry, from Nipsey Hussle to Aretha Franklin.
The Toronto-born rap star, who walked into Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena with 17 nominations, also won top Billboard 200 album, beating out Cardi B, Travis Scott, Post Malone and the late XXXTentacion.
“Shout-out to Arya Stark for putting in that work last week,” he said of the Game of Thrones star.
Taylor Swift brought her new music video to life as she opened the show with a colourful, eye-popping performance of her song Me!
Swift was backed by dancers wearing bright, pastel colours and her featured guest — Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco — descended from the ceiling holding an umbrella at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Swift is the most decorated winner in the history of the Billboard Awards with 23 wins. She is nominated for two awards at the show airing live on NBC — top female artist and top touring artist.
BTS was also having a big night. At the Billboard Awards and American Music Awards, the K-pop band had only previously won “social” awards based off their fanatic fan base, but on Wednesday BTS picked up top duo/group, besting Grammy-winning groups like Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons and Dan + Shay.
“I still can’t believe we’re here on this stage with so many great artists,” RM said as fans screamed loudly. “We’re still the same boys from six years ago, we still have the same dreams … we still have the same thoughts. Let us keep dreaming.”
Kelly Clarkson is hosting the show for a second time — and sang a medley of hits following Swift’s performance, from Cardi B’s I Like It to Boo’d Up by Ella Mai, who won the first award of the evening, top R&B artist.
Clarkson will also perform later in the show. Other scheduled performers included Madonna with Maluma, BTS with Halsey, Paula Abdul, Dan + Shay, Jonas Brothers, Khalid, Tori Kelly, Panic! at the Disco, Lauren Daigle, and Ciara. Grande will perform via satellite from her tour.
Mariah Carey performed a medley of her hits from throughout the decades, showing off her five-octave range before accepting the Icon Award. She touched on Always Be My Baby, Emotions, We Belong Together and Hero.
Dabbing her eyes with tissue during her speech, she shouted out to her children in the crowd. She acknowledged both her mistakes and the memes she inspired, but said the fans carried her through the highs and lows.
“I guess I always felt like an outsider, someone who doesn’t quite belong anywhere, she said. “And I still feel like that lost interracial child who had a lot of nerve to believe I could succeed at anything at all in this world. But, and this is the truth, I did believe because I had to. The truth is I dedicated my life to my music — my saving grace — and to my fans.”
Cardi B’s 21 nominations include top female artist and top Billboard 200 album for her Grammy-winning release, Invasion of Privacy. With her No. 1 hits — I Like It featuring J Balvin and Bad Bunny and Girls Like You with Maroon 5 — she is nominated twice in categories like top Hot 100 song, top selling song and top collaboration.
Rap music, which dominated the charts and streaming services last year, owned the top Billboard album category. Along with Cardi B, the nominees include Drake’s Scorpion, Scott’s ASTROWORLD, the late XXXTentacion’s ? and Malone’s beerbongs & bentleys.
For top Hot 100 song, rap dominated again with nominees like Cardi B’s I Like It, Juice WRLD’s Lucid Dreams, Scott’s SICKO MODE and Malone’s Better Now. Maroon 5 and Cardi B’s Girls Like You is also up for the prize.
XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot last June, earned 10 nominations, including bids for top male artist, top R&B artist and top rap album. Last year, he posthumously won honours at the American Music Awards and the BET Hip-Hop Awards.
The late Aretha Franklin also earned a nomination. The Queen of Soul, who died last August, is up for top gospel album with Gospel Greats. Queen — whose music hit a new peak late last year with the Oscar-winning Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody — received nominations for top rock artist and top soundtrack.
Presenters at the show include Jennifer Hudson, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley of This Is Us, David Guetta, Eva Longoria, Florida Georgia Line, Kane Brown and Terry Crews.
Nominees and winners for the Billboard Awards are based on album and song sales, streaming, radio airplay, touring and social engagement. The awards are based on the chart period of March 23, 2018, through March 7, 2019.
This story originally appeared on CBC