The 2017 Billboard Music Awards featured performances from some of the most decorated artists in the history of popular music, as well as from artists who were bravely crashing their first major awards shows. But which of the many excellent performances rose to the top?
Read on for the 10 standout sets from this year’s Billboard Music Awards.
10. Camila Cabello, “I Have Questions”/“Crying in the Club”
What does Camila Cabello, a former girl group member and new solo artist, look like? Based on her first solitary performance on Sunday night, the ex-Fifth Harmony member will offer a spectacle that combines dancing, fiery visuals and a voice with more than a little nuance. As “I Have Questions” gave way to “Crying in the Club,” Cabello’s hustle helped guide the debut performance of either song, as the stage veteran worked quickly to sell herself as a viable contender in the mainstream pop landscape. It worked, and then some.
9. Lorde, “Green Light”
A few things that Lorde confirmed during her Billboard Music Awards performance: singing “Green Light” at karaoke is a blast; going to karaoke with Lorde is similarly great, especially when she picks her own song; and Lorde does not need to be standing up to unveil her gloriously twitchy dance moves. With an inventive stage piece and committed vocal take, Lorde was a champion for the pop fans who aren’t afraid to sing along loudly.
8. Sam Hunt, “Body Like a Back Road”
You could travel pretty far in this world with the combination of Sam Hunt’s charm and knack for blending several disparate musical styles together into a pureed country soup. “Body Like a Back Road” went down easy with zero bells and whistles supporting Hunt onstage, as the hottest artist in the genre engrained himself to potentially unfamiliar viewers with a wink and extended metaphor.
7. Julia Michaels, “Issues”
As simple as the plucked violin strings that introduce her debut solo single, Julia Michaels’ performance of “Issues” was wonderfully straightforward, keeping the focus on an expertly crafted pop song amidst the pomp and circumstance of the performances around it. Michaels, a highly successful songwriter for others, showcased her strong vocals, but the best moment of “Issues” was the subtle smile she flashed during the bridge — the look of a young artist soaking in a huge career moment.
6. Cher, “Believe”/“If I Could Turn Back Time”
There’s a reason that Cher was given the Icon Award on Sunday night: at 71 years old, the pop legend has now spent over a half-century entertaining people while staying true to her vision. Watching Cher perform two of her biggest solo hits at an awards show in 2017 is a treat, but she was up to the task of dazzling an arena and joining in with her flexible dance crew. While we too often need reminders to appreciate timeless musicians after they have stopped putting out new tunes, Cher — who’s working on new music! — is never forgotten, and at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, she lapped many of today’s hit makers.
5. Drake, “Gyalchester”
Sometimes a visual concept for an awards show performance is so bulletproof that the performance itself matters very little. And while Drake’s “Gyalchester” was not the killer pop moment that something like “Passionfruit” would have been, the Billboard Music Awards man of the hour certainly wowed by opting to rap it in the middle of exploding fire and water. Traipsing around inside the famous Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas, Drake commanded our attention, and more than justified his record-breaking celebration.
4. Bruno Mars, “Versace on the Floor”
What a delight it is for Bruno Mars to be in the middle of an album cycle, stopping by each major awards ceremony and effortlessly nailing his slick throwback jam of the moment. Even if “Versace on the Floor” is not the show-stopper that recent No. 1 hit “That’s What I Like” is, Bruno sold it with aplomb on Sunday, his appeal familiar but never dull.
3. Nicki Minaj Medley
For nine minutes, Nicki Minaj turned the Billboard Music Awards stage into a sexier sequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, with the rap queen channeling Furiosa as she hopped across songs and collaborators with ease. With Lil Wayne, David Guetta, Jason Derulo and (seemingly) dozens of dancers all lending assists, Minaj commanded the arena’s attention by sneering, slithering and smacking down all opponents over the course of four songs; with a dynamite stage presence, Nicki opened the BBMAs with a bang.
2. Miley Cyrus, “Malibu”
The launch of “Malibu” earlier this month confirmed that Miley Cyrus was past her Bangerz era sonically, but her bittersweet Billboard Music Awards performance visually captured how far she’s wandered from her twerking days of yore. Simplifying the pop-rock blueprint of her new single and letting the twang in her voice take center stage, Cyrus signaled to the fans rooting for a country-influenced new sound that, yes, happy tears are very much allowed.
1. Celine Dion, “My Heart Will Go On”
Near, far, wherever you are — from the Titanic hit’s moment of inescapability, its impact goes on and on… just like Celine Dion’s voice, in Las Vegas or wherever she is at that particular moment. Twenty years after “My Heart Will Go On” dominated popular culture, Dion’s performance at the 2017 ceremony was the right type of nostalgia, as Dion’s in-the-round singing, commanding presence and blooming stage setup helped highlight the reasons why the world fell in love with Jack, Rose and their anthem in 1997. Thinking that this wasn’t going to be an emotional powerhouse was the dumbest bet you could have made in Vegas this weekend.