R&B/hip-hop artists reigned supreme last night (Dec. 8) at the Billboard Music Awards, where Usher walked away the big winner with 11 trophies. Alicia Keys netted seven awards during the ceremony at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, with OutKast grabbing five and Kanye West four.
Usher, who opened the Fox broadcast with a performance of “Bad Girl,” was named as the overall artist of the year, and took that honor in Billboard 200, Hot 100 and R&B/hip-hop categories. His Arista release “Confessions” was named The Billboard 200 and R&B/hip-hop album of the year, while his single “Yeah!” featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris was named the Hot 100 single of the year.
After thanking God, his family and a litany of associates, a visibly pleased Usher noted, “It’s been about 10 years since we started, and we knew this would happen. We don’t put out a record without a number one record, do we?”
Among Keys’ honors was the female artist of the year trophy, as well as awards for R&B/hip-hop single of the year (“If I Ain’t Got You”) and Hot 100 songwriter of the year. Introduced by Gloria Estefan and Nick Lachey, Keys performed a rendition of “Karma” that recalled her video for the clip.
Big Boi, half of Atlanta hip-hop duo OutKast, was present to accept the duo/group artist of the year award, noting that his partner Andre 3000 was in London working on a movie. For his part, he said he was “working on two OutKast albums right now,” giving fans something to look forward to in the New Year.
Introduced by Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder was honored with Billboard’s highest honor, the Century Award, while Destiny’s Child was recognized with the special Artist Achievement Award, presented by the members of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Diana Ross paid tribute to Wonder, performing pieces of “My Cherie Amour,” “I Just Called To Say I Love You” and “For Once in My Life,” while Mary J. Blige turned out a rendition of “As” and Destiny’s Child contributed a version of “Livin’ for the City.”
The band vamped to the strains of “Higher Ground” as Wonder ascended the stage, hugging Jones and others, then surprised and delighted the packed arena by singing the chorus and prompting the band to pick up the beat again. “I’m sorry, y’all — I gotta do it!,” Wonder shouted, and launched into a full version of the song as the show pushed past the two-hour mark.
After a few words of thanks, Wonder appealed for peace, decrying war, racism and hatred. “We must come together and love,” he said, “and I encourage all of you, those of you who are singers, musicians, rappers, poets, whatever you might be, use your energy for the goodness of life, for the goodness of us coming together as a united people.”
The event was jammed with celebrity appearances, from Britney Spears, winner of the hot dance sales single of the year award for “Me Against the Music” featuring Madonna, to Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, members of Duran Duran, Anthony Hamilton, Hoobastank, Ciara, Chingy, Big & Rich, Petey Pablo, actor Omar Epps, 3 Days Grace and Hot 100 producer of the year winner Lil Jon.
The newly reunited Motley Crue was on hand to present the digital artist of the year award, but the introduction went off the beaten path as singer Vince Neil and actress Tara Reid had troubles reading the teleprompter. The ensuing chaos found Nikki Sixx bassist’s bit censored by the network before pop rock act Maroon5 was finally announced as the winner.
“That was the most amazing possible introduction that we could have gotten,” frontman Adam Levine quipped before summing up the importance of the award, saying, “Never stop downloading everybody, because that is the future of this business.”
Other performers included Green Day (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams”), Nelly (“N Dey Say”), Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow (“Days Go By”), Gwen Stefani (“What You Waiting For?”) and Evanescence (“My Immortal”).
The Billboard Music Award winners are based on performance on Billboard’s weekly music charts. This year’s honors reflected charts published between December 2003 and November 2004. Billboard’s year-end issue, set to hit newsstands Dec. 17, will include additional award winners.
Click here to view the full list of 2004 Billboard Music Awards winners.