The 2019 Billboard Music Awards brought the past, present and future together for a fantastic night of performances from popular music’s best and brightest. Alliances were forged, haters were silenced and Taylor Swift had as much fun dancing at her seat as she did kicking off the ceremonies.
All the performances from Wednesday’s (May 1) ceremonies were impressive, but here were our 10 favorites.
11. Halsey, “Without Me”
A sweaty, guttural and extremely raw performance, Halsey performed a stripped-down version of her Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Without Me” while engaging in a highly physical and emotionally visceral dance routine with a female co-star. It was an intense, intimate and quietly subversive production to bring to the BBMAs, reminiscent of some of P!nk’s finest award-show moments of the past decade.
10. Kelly Clarkson, Opening Medley
As part of her opening routine as host, Kelly Clarkson attempted to prove to “security” — really, retired New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski acting on a complaint from country duo Florida Georgia Line — that she was more than just a seat-filler by performing a medley of hits by many of the performers in attendance, including Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up,” Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes,” and older hits by veteran honorees Madonna and Mariah Carey. Kelly’s energy and pipes were top-notch as always, and the gleeful reaction of Khalid in the audience as she ran through his hit collabs “Eastside” and “Love Lies” was an early highlight for the evening.
9. Ariana Grande, “7 Rings”
Good to be Ariana Grande and have your choice of No. 1 hits to play at the BBMAs. This time, she opted for “7 Rings,” with all her backup dancers clad in pink, dancing around a graffiti-covered flat top car that lowered her into the stage when the high-energy performance was over. Another reason it’s good to be Grande? She can just hold the mic out to the crowd and have them fill in her lyrics for her, as she did several times tonight.
8. Lauren Daigle, “You Say”
In her first big look on an award show stage, CCM crossover star Lauren Daigle gave a powerhouse performance of her Hot 100 top 30 hit “You Say,” clearly captivating the crowd with her thunderous rendition of the stripped-down ballad. There’s still only one Adele, but Daigle will certainly do until she gets back.
7. Khalid, “Talk” & “Better”
Few artists have had as many new hits since the last BBMAs to choose from, but Khalid selected the two collaborator-free cuts off his recent Free Spirit album that recently became his first two totally-solo Hot 100 top 10 hits: “Talk” and “Better.” The performances were unassuming but powerful, and the number of fellow stars singing along in the MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd demonstrated what we probably all know by now anyway: Nobody doesn’t like Khalid.
6. Taylor Swift & Brendon Urie, “ME!”
Channeling Easter, 1930s Hollywood drum lines, Mary Poppins, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and just about every effulguent pastel delight you can imagine, Taylor and Brendon recreated the “ME!” video with a surprising fidelity to the music video (those suitcases were in the same pattern; let the obsessive guess work commence). But most of all, they seemed to be having a blast, indicating we may be standing on the precipice of Swift’s most casually enjoyable era yet.
5. Tori Kelly and Dan + Shay, “Speechless”
A rare treat to have Dan + Shay on an awards show and have them perform a song other than their monster hit “Tequila.” The country duo instead opted for follow-up hit “Speechless,” bringing along recent pop-gospel crossover artist Tori Kelly for a showdown of some very impressive vocal fireworks on the smoldering ballad.
4. BTS feat. Halsey, “Boy With Luv”
For their second BBMAs performance in as many years, BTS repeated most of the winning staging and choreography from their recent SNL performance of “Boy With Luv” — though of course this time, they brought along their superstar pal Halsey to add some welcome new energy to the mix. Ultimately, the screams that undoubtedly made it a deafening experience for anyone inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena were well-earned.
3. Mariah Carey, Medley
The evening’s recipient of the Billboard Icon Award, Mariah Carey casually flashed her resumé with a decades-spanning hit medley that started with her recent single “A No No,” went as far back as 1991’s “Emotions,” hitting about a half-dozen timeless classics in between. Mariah didn’t move much onstage, letting her backup dancers and the gigantic “M” behind her do most of the visual grandstanding, but she let her hits and her still-singular voice do the rest.
2. Madonna & Maluma, “Medellín”
Madonna and Maluma began their memorable performance of their new collab alongside several hologrammed versions of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer before joining a mock-cafe full of backup dancers, and taking center stage for a little tango of their own, Madonna teasing her co-star with a dominatrix flogger, and him removing her garter belt. Later, Maluma spanked his collaborator as she lifted up her dress, and the whole thing ended with a conga line and cha-cha. Time will tell if it ends up being one for the all-time highlight reel, but 35 years after “Like a Virgin” at the VMAs, it’s good to see that the pop legend certainly hasn’t lost her ability to surprise and delight.
1. Jonas Brothers, “Jealous,” “Cake By the Ocean” & “Sucker”
Beginning with Nick and Joe performing their mid-hiatus side hits — “Jealous” and “Cake By the Ocean,” respectively — the two brothers then joined third JoBro Kevin on stage for the first live performance of their Hot 100-topping smash “Sucker.” The trio’s mini-medley performance was scorching — somewhat literally, as flames shot off around them all over the stage — and should set the stage beautifully for their recently announced upcoming North American trek, now sure to be one of the most anticipated tours of the summer.