When Drake takes the T-Mobile Arena stage in Las Vegas at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, it will be the first time the year’s top-nominated artist performed at an award show since joining Rihanna for “Work” at the BRITs in 2016.
In Drake years — releasing both Views and More Life since then — this is a long time.
With that in mind, there’s a lot to speculate about what his performance might have in store. Will he join forces with show-opener Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne for “No Frauds”? Or possibly bring his international More Life collaborators to the U.S. stage? Will it just be a straight up hit parade with all his biggest tracks? Mark Bracco, executive vice president of programming and development with dick clark productions and the Billboard Music Awards’s executive producer tells Billboard to expect the big and unexpected.
“You know, Drake does not perform on television very often so I think whenever he does it’s a real event,” says Bracco. “We built a real terrific relationship with his team, working creatively with them and coming up with a big idea, and I think it’s gonna be a very, very big moment in the show. It’s not a surprise necessarily but it’s gonna be a moment that people aren’t exactly expecting…. It’ll be memorable, I promise you that.”
Preparing for Drake’s performance on Sunday has been months in the making, says Bracco, taking that time to make sure the show is as big as the hip-hop superstar deserves.
“I always joke we start planning next year’s show the day after this year’s show,” he continues. “We were talking with Drake’s people for months about doing the show. Obviously he then became the biggest nominee and that’s a big deal and just trying to come up with something really different and unique and exciting and spectacular… And that’s what Drake deserves is a big, huge moment and, luckily, in working with his team I think we’ve come up with something creatively that’s going to be really astounding.”
Of course, as big as Drake is, he is only one of more than a dozen massive artists who will be taking the stage during the show. Those others range from Miley Cyrus‘ live TV debuting of “Malibu” to Camila Cabello making her solo award show debut to Celine Dion celebrating the 20th anniversary of Titanic and “My Heart Will Go On” to Minaj opening the show with a nine-minute set to Florida Georgia Line and John Legend teaming up to Imagine Dragons honoring the late Chris Cornell and much more, all of which present their own unique challenges to the show’s producers.
“When you have 16 performances on a show it’s all about trying to make each one of them feel different and unique and working with the creative team of each artist to come up with something really interesting and special over the coarse of three hours so nothing ever feels the same or you’re repeating a beat or something like that,” says Bracco. “Especially with the variety of so many different artists from different genres and different eras, it’s such a diverse show, which is really fantastic. There are so many different left turns throughout the three hours, which is what really makes it exciting and makes you — I hope — want to keep tuning in, because you never know what’s coming next.”