Billboard Music Awards Sneak Peek: Madonna, Britney and More Major Moments to Expect
Artists planning to wear eyeliner to the 24th annual Billboard Music Awards on May 22 are best advised to invest in a tear-proof brand. "The show is going to be filled with a lot of emotion," says Mark Bracco, an executive producer of the telecast, which, for the first time, will air live coast to coast from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
In addition to the choked sobs that often accompany an acceptance speech -- award finalists are based on album and digital song sales, radio airplay, streaming, touring and social engagement measured by Billboard and its data partners -- this year's BBMAs will include performances by Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Fifth Harmony with Ty Dolla Sign, Troye Sivan, Meghan Trainor, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Nick Jonas featuring Tove Lo, Rihanna and Demi Lovato, as well as the debut of Adele's music video for "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" and special showcases featuring Britney Spears, Pink, Celine Dion and Madonna, designed to evoke thrills, tears or both.
Britney's Big Opener
Bracco tells Billboard that Spears, who will receive the Billboard Millennium Award, is slated to open the telecast with a "kick-ass medley" of her greatest hits. "It's going to be her with a couple dozen dancers, plus costume changes, and she's going to walk through her catalog," he says. Don't expect any star cameos, though. "When you have Britney, you don't need anyone else," says Bracco.
Madonna Celebrates Prince
After the death of Prince in April, the BBMA producers began discussing a tribute to the multitalented artist, which led to conversations with Madonna's team. Although the details of Madge's performance are under wraps, Bracco says it will be "intimate." "She has been very involved in how it will be presented," he says. "It will be one of the emotional highlights of the show."
Celine Dion Returns
Icon Award recipient Dion will perform on TV for the first time since the deaths of her husband of 21 years, René Angélil, and her brother, Daniel Dion, both to cancer and within two days of each other in January -- and she has chosen a particularly poignant song for the occasion. Dion will sing Queen's "The Show Must Go On." The 1991 tune primarily was written by the band's guitarist Brian May as an elegiac tribute to frontman Freddie Mercury, who struggled to perform while suffering from the final stages of HIV/AIDS. (He died later that year.)
"We've always had a close relationship with Celine," says Bracco, and in the wake of her personal tragedies, he says the show's producers approached her camp about receiving the Icon Award (previous honorees include Neil Diamond and Stevie Wonder). Dion, he says, "seemed to feel that this was the right moment for her to return to the spotlight. And we created a really special moment."
Pink Tops Herself
"You don't want to miss Pink," says Bracco, who tells Billboard that the singer's top-secret performance of "Just Like Fire" is so ambitious that she's rehearsing it off-site for five days. "She has done incredible award performances -- she has flown through the air, there have been acrobatics and fire -- but it's all going to come together in this performance."
This article was originally featured in the May 28 issue of Billboard.