Mary J. Blige Wins Big At Billboard Music Awards

Earning a whopping nine awards, R&B veteran Mary J. Blige dominated the field at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards, held last night (Dec. 4) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The 35-year-o

Earning a whopping nine awards, R&B veteran Mary J. Blige dominated the field at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards, held last night (Dec. 4) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas . The 35-year-old singer nabbed a number of R&B/hip-hop honors, including album ("The Breakthrough") and song ("Be Without You") of the year, as well as Hot 100 airplay song of the year.

"I've never received this many awards at any time in my career, ever," Blige said backstage. "I remember a time when all my fans were crying and sad and going through hell. Now, we're trying to uplift each other and accept ourselves for who we are, even if nobody else does."

"American Idol" starlet Carrie Underwood and Atlanta rapper T.I. scored five statuettes each. T.I. dominated the rap category, winning album artist and album ("King") of the year. Underwood was presented with album of the year for her debut effort, "Some Hearts," in both Billboard 200 and country categories.

Newcomer and urban hitmaker Chris Brown won new artist of the year, as well as artist and male artist of the year. Rock troupe Nickelback also brought home three accolades: artist duo/group of the year, rock album of the year ("All the Right Reasons") and Hot 100 artists duo/or group of the year.

The Fray swept the digital category with three awards, including digital album and digital songs artist of the year. The quartet also worked in a performance of their single "How To Save a Life," which has been prominently featured in the hit ABC drama "Gray's Anatomy."

Rihanna won female artist of the year, female Hot 100 artist of the year and Pop 100 artist of the year categories. "I really can't feel my legs -- this is phenomenal," she said while accepting the trophy for best female artist. "That was a really tough category."

Nelly Furtado, Kenny Chesney, Three Days Grace and the soundtrack to Disney's "High School Musical" bagged one award each. Tony Bennett was also presented with the Billboard Century Award by longtime friend Stevie Wonder.

"[Wonder] is one of the best jazz singers in the world," said Bennett modestly. The 80-year-old jazz veteran earned his best charting position on The Billboard 200 earlier this year, with a No. 3 start for "Duets: An American Classic" (RPM/Columbia).

To open the broadcast, Janet Jackson performed a medley of "Pleasure Principle" and "So Excited." Fergie, along with Black Eyed Peas colleague, tackled her recent hit "Fergalicious" amid a set decorate with peppermint imagery.

Ludacris and Pharrell teamed to perform the recent Hot 100 No. 1 hit "Money Maker," while Young Jeezy chipped in with his new single, "I Luv It." Blige was in amazingly strong voice on a medley of "Enough Cryin'" and "Take Me As I Am," while Gwen Stefani was flanked by dancers and wooden sheep for her new, yodel-happy single, "Wind It Up."

Courtney Love and the Killers (who were scheduled to perform but had to back out after frontman Brandon Flowers came down with laryngitis) presented the finale, a collaboration between Nickelback, Kid Rock and ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons on the latter group's "Tush." Other presenters during the night included Akon, Danity Kane, Jesse McCartney, Bow Wow, Dave Navarro, Big & Rich, and Paula Abdul.

Finalists and winners were determined by actual performance on Billboard's charts, with sales data compiled by Nielsen SoundScan and radio play tracked by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. For a detailed list of winners, click here.