The People Choice Awards have never carried much prestige, but they have had a very long run. The show has aired continuously since 1975 – longer than the VMAs and nearly as long as the AMAs. Hosting the show for the first time, Kenan Thompson captured the spirit of the show with this dry quip. “It’s kind of like the Oscars,” he said, “except it’s movies that people have actually seen.”
BTS and Dwayne Johnson were the night’s top winners, with three awards each. BTS won as the group of 2021 and for the song and the music video of 2021, both for their mega-hit “Butter.” Johnson, better known as “The Rock,” won as the people’s champion, the male movie star of 2021 and the comedy movie star of 2021.
There were winners in 40 categories, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the show, which aired on both NBC and E! on Tuesday (Dec. 7). The show focused on those winners who showed up at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, Calif. to accept their awards, allowed videotaped acceptances from a few others, such as Adele, Selena Gomez and Jimmy Fallon (whose The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon won as the nighttime talk show of 2021), and hardly mentioned the other winners.
Two TV shows won for their final seasons. The Ellen DeGeneres Show won as the daytime talk show of 2021 for its 19th season. Keeping Up With the Kardashians won as the reality show of 2021 for its 14th season. Not one to miss a promotional beat, Kardashian clan matriarch Kris Jenner teased their upcoming show on Hulu, set to launch in 2022.
Here are seven memorable moments from the show.
H.E.R. performed a tribute to Marvin Gaye to mark the 50th anniversary of his landmark What’s Going On album. She performed the title song and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).” H.E.R. has maintained that album’s legacy of injecting social commentary into R&B. She won a Grammy in March for the BLM anthem “I Can’t Breathe” and an Oscar in April for “Fight for You,” songs that are clearly influenced by Gaye’s masterwork.
Blake Shelton performed his hit “Come Back as a Country Boy,” which has the deep, rootsy, traditionally country sound of his 2019 smash “God’s Country.” Shelton won as the country artist of 2021. Shelton is also a coach on The Voice, which won as the competition show of 2021. In his acceptance speech, Shelton said that fan-voted awards are the ones that mean the most to him (a comment that may not serve him well at peer-voted shows such as the Grammys and the CMA Awards).
Christina Aguilera won the music icon award. She received a similar award, the people’s voice award, at the People’s Choice Awards eight years ago. Introduced by Becky G, Aguilera performed a well-arranged medley of her hits. She said “I want to thank all the women I have been blessed to share the stage, mic and recording studio with over the years. You are all icons to me, and I’m proud that together we have strengthened the voices of women in the music industry.”
Cardi B presented Halle Berry with the people’s icon award, saying “She’s strong. She’s brilliant and she was the first woman of color to win an Academy Award for best actress. She let little girls like me dream big, inspiring us to reach the stars and break records of our own—which I did by the way, lots of them!” Cardi is featured on the all-female soundtrack to Bruised, a new film Berry directed and in which she stars.
Ellen DeGeneres spoke warmly about her daytime talk show and its crew. “The show has been the greatest experience of my life,” she said. “I have enjoyed every bit of it.” Her win was a surprise because The Kelly Clarkson Show has more heat these days, but voters are sometimes loyal to old favorites. DeGeneres said that this was her 25th People’s Choice Award and added “This is probably my last time up here, unless they create an award for former talk show hosts that are doing nothing at all.”
Kim Kardashian West won the fashion icon award, which was presented by last year’s fashion icon recipient, Tracee Ellis Ross. Kim gave a shout-out to her ex-husband Kanye West for introducing her to fashion. Kim’s sister Khloe Kardashian won as the reality TV star of 2021.
Olivia Rodrigo won two awards – the album of 2021 for Sour and the new artist of 2021. The other music awards went to Adele, the female artist of 2021; Lil Nas X, the male artist of 2021; Bad Bunny, the Latin artist of 2021, and Justin Bieber & The Kid LAROI for the collaboration song of 2021 (“Stay”). In addition, two music stars won in other areas. Britney Spears won as the social star of 2021. Gomez won as the comedy TV star of 2021 for her role in Only Murders in the Building opposite Steve Martin and Martin Short.