The line between backstage and the show itself is getting thinner in the age of digital media. Dedicated fans could see Taylor Swift's dressing room and Carly Rae Jepsen's encounter with Stevie Wonder when both artists tweeted pictures during the show. And spontaneous moments like when Wiz Khalifa began freestyling as LMFAO's RedFoo beatboxed were captured on Billboard's own backstage Ustream broadcast. Still, there were some true behind-the-scenes moments that weren't caught on social media.
The rapport between Wonder and Alicia Keys extended beyond their onstage chemistry. The pair joked with each other like old friends during rehearsal breaks. At one point, Keys told Wonder that she would put his award on the piano so he could look at it. Wonder simply threw his head back and laughed. Later on, the evening's Icon Award honoree confirmed the rumors that he is actively recording a new album. "It will be called 'Ten Billion Hearts,'" Wonder said, adding, "I'm also working on [creating] my own label." He shared that he just might work on creating something with Keys. "I was showing her a song I wrote a while back; maybe we'll be doing a collaboration together."
Jordin Sparks turned in one of the night's most talked-about moments, singing "I Will Always Love You" during the Whitney Houston tribute. Before the show started, those who'd heard her during rehearsal told those who hadn't that "she can hit the note," but during the show itself, when she did, jaws still dropped and there was spontaneous applause-and not a dry eye in the house.
Jepsen was one of the new stars of the night, the one people didn't know and wanted to meet. After her performance of "Call Me Maybe," Creative Artists Agency managing partner/head of music Rob Light ran over to her manager, Jonathan Simkin, to offer his compliments to Jepsen.
Motown was in the house-not just Wonder, but Gladys Knight as well (a delighted Usher hugged and kissed Knight, who looked pretty delighted herself). And rounding out the Motown crew was founder Berry Gordy, there with his son RedFoo of LMFAO, one of the night's top winners, with six Billboard Music Awards.
For U.K. boy band the Wanted, the show started early, and so did the after-party. An hour or so before showtime, the quintet stood at the top of the ramp leading to the stage rehearsing the harmonies of its hit "Glad You Came" over and over. But once their performance was finished, they were spotted backstage, beers in hand. And no one seemed to enjoy Wonder's show-closing performance more than the Wanted. The group members were bouncing off the backstage walls after the soul icon's medley of hits. "Did you see how he was just jamming on the keyboards? I had tears in my eyes," one of them said.