Cher brought the house to their feet at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday night (May 21) with a joyful run through her most iconic dance hit and a Billboard Icon Award acceptance speech that mixed her signature wit with a big dollop of self-deprecation.
“So, I’ve wanted to do what I do since I was four years-old,” she said as the crowd hooted their approval. “And I’ve been doing it for 53 years. That is not an applause thing, I’m 71 yesterday. And I can do a five-minute plank, okay? Just saying.” The singer (born Cherilyn Sarkisian), thanked her mom, who she recalled told her when she was really young: “you’re not going to be the smartest, you’re not going to be the prettiest, you’re not going to be the most talented, but you’re going to be special.”
And, when she met late husband/musical partner Sonny Bono, she said, he told her the same thing. Well, they were wrong, as she sustained a nearly six-decade career of hit TV shows, singles, albums and movie roles that have netted her Ocars, BBMA, Emmys, Grammys and three Golden Globes. She shouted out some of the famous producers and musicians she worked with, including producer Phil Spector (who she said she toiled for for a year for just $25), as well as the legendary Los Angeles group of session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew and lots of other people you might not know, but who she said are the backbone of the music industry.
“I think luck has so much to do with with my success,” she said. “I think it was mostly luck and a little bit of something thrown in.” She ended by thanking songwriter Diane Warren, as well as Warner Bros.’ Rob Dickins and longtime friend and label boss David Geffen.
The award was presented by Gwen Stefani, who called Cher “truly the definition of an icon,” praising her inspiration as a musical trailblazer, cultural influencer, humanitarian and fashion trendsetter.
Before accepting the award, Cher sang an EDM-ified version of her biggest hit, 1998’s iconic “Believe,” marking her first awards show performance in over 15 years. And, of course, she did it in her inimitable style, decked out in a bleach blonde wig, barely-there dress made out of strands of glittery silver fabric accented by heart-shaped pasties and silver boots while surrounded by male and female dancers in complimentary costumes. Co-host Vanessa Hudgens, clearly revved up, could be seen dancing in the audience while wearing her own skimpy Cher-inspired shimmering belly-baring outfit.
As if that wasn’t enough, Cher also busted out a sky-high black curly wig, black leather jacket, thigh-high boots and sparkling black bodysuit for a rocking run through her 1989 career-reinventing smash “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
The “Believe” singer joins an esteemed list of past award recipients, which include Celine Dion, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Wonder and Neil Diamond. But with more than 100 million albums sold worldwide and a No. 1 single in every decade from the 1960s to the 2010s (not to mention, she was the first artist to have a No. 1 single on a Billboard chart in each decade), Cher has certainly earned such an honor.