The 2021 Billboard Music Award finalists were announced Thursday (April 29). A total of 113 artists are nominated, from AC/DC to Young Thug. We’ll have to wait until May 23 to learn who the winners will be, but just by being nominated, these 17 artists are winners.
Look at what they have accomplished:
The Weeknd: The Canadian superstar has 16 nods, more than any other artist this year. For the record, that’s 16 more nods than he received at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards. “Blinding Lights” is this year’s only hit to be a finalist for top song in all three metrics – streaming, sales and radio airplay. It’s also the only non-collab up for top Hot 100 song. ’Nuff said.
Taylor Swift: The superstar is a finalist for top artist for the seventh time. That’s more nods in this category than any other artist since the BBMAs resumed in 2011 following a four-year hiatus. In second place for most nods in this category is Drake, who is nominated for the fifth time.
Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD: The late hip-hop stars are finalists for 10 and seven awards, respectively. They are competing in seven categories, including top artist. Juice WRLD was 21 when he died of a seizure in December 2019. Pop Smoke was even younger – just 20 – when he was shot and killed in February 2020.
Miley Cyrus and Machine Gun Kelly: These artists took decidedly unconventional routes to being finalists for top rock album for Plastic Hearts and Tickets to My Downfall, respectively. Cyrus played Hannah Montana for four seasons on the Disney Channel. MGK was a hip-hop star. Artists evolve.
Bad Bunny: The Puerto Rican Latin trap and reggaeton superstar has three of the five finalists for top Latin album – El Último Tour del Mundo, Las que no iban a salir and YHLQMDLG. That’s the biggest domination of any category by any artist this year. Bad Bunny has seven nods this year, more than any other Latin performer.
Gabby Barrett: The country singer, who first gained notice in 2018 on season 16 of American Idol, is this year’s leading female finalist with nine nods. She’s followed by Megan Thee Stallion (seven), Doja Cat (five), Cardi B (four), Carrie Underwood (four), Dua Lipa (four), Jhené Aiko (four), Lady Gaga (four) and Taylor Swift (four).
BTS and Elevation Worship: The K-pop sensations and the contemporary worship music collective are this year’s leading groups or duos, each with four nods. They are followed by AC/DC (three), AJR (three) and another worship band, Maverick City Music (three). BTS is vying to win for the fifth consecutive year in the fan-voted top social artist category. If they win, they’ll just need one more win in that category to tie Justin Bieber, who owned the category from 2011 to 2016.
Drake, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber: These three artists have received more BBMA Awards than any other artists in history. Drake leads with 27, followed by Swift with 23 and Bieber with 20. All three may add to their totals this year. Drake has seven nods, Swift has four, Bieber has five.
Justin Bieber and Kane Brown: Both artists have made inroads in genres not typical for artists of their race. Three of Bieber’s five nods are in R&B categories, reflecting the stylistic sensibility of his album Changes. Brown is a finalist for top country artist.
Carrie Underwood: The veteran star’s Christmas album, My Gift, is nominated for top album honors in two distinct fields — country and Christian. My Gift features guest appearances from John Legend and Underwood’s 6-year-old son Isaiah Fisher.
Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC: These rock legends are both nominated for top rock album, for Letter to You and Power Up, respectively. These vets released their first albums way back in 1973 and 1975, respectively, long before the vast majority of current BBMA viewers were even born. (In fact, long before the BBMAs debuted in 1990.) AC/DC is also nominated for top duo/group and top rock artist.
Kanye West: The rapper and provocateur is vying to win top gospel artist for the second year in a row. West and another rap star, Travis Scott, are nominated for top gospel song for “Wash Us in the Blood.”
Female power I: All-female collabs are nominated in three genre-specific song categories. “B.S.” by Jhené Aiko featuring H.E.R. is up for top R&B song; “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion is up for top rap song; and “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande is up for top dance/electronic song.
Female power II: Female artists dominate in two categories – top R&B album (Jhené Aiko, Doja Cat and Kehlani) and top gospel album (Koryn Hawthorne, Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Kierra Sheard).