Travis Scott and Morgan Wallen made controversial performances on the Billboard Music Awards stage on Sunday, while Mary J. Blige was honored for her musical excellence.
Wallen performed in his first major awards show after he was caught on camera using a racial slur. After not receiving a verbal introduction, the country star sat alongside his four-piece band and performed “Don’t Think Jesus” then his chart-topping “Wasted on You,” a single from his popular project “Dangerous: The Double Album.”
Shortly after his performance, rapper Pusha T presented Wallen with the top country artist award.
“I want to say, ‘Thank God.’ And thank my fans. I got the best damn fans,” said Wallen, who acknowledged his mother for accompanying him as his date to show. He also thanked for Billboard for inviting him. He did not mention last year’s incident, which once found the disgraced singer rebuked by the music industry.
“Thank you to my little boy,” he continued. “You inspire me every single day.”
Shortly after Wallen’s set, Scott made his first televised performance since a massive crowd surge killed 10 people and injured thousands at his Astroworld Festival in Houston in November last year. The rapper performed his single “Mafia” in an icy, polar-themed prerecorded set that was heavily censored.
Mary J. Blige received the Icon Award for being an influential music maker. The singer, known as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, was presented the award by Janet Jackson and escorted on stage by Sean “Diddy” Combs – who emceed the show, which was broadcasted live from the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
Blige said she was in a “dream right now” after she received the honor. She spoke about the journey of becoming an icon not being an easy feat during her stellar career.
“I’ve been on this journey for a long time, one that didn’t always look the way you see me now,” she said. “One that is filled with a lot of heartache and pain, but God helped me to channel those experiences and emotions in my music which is where I started in music.”
Earlier, Drake was named top artist, male artist, rap artist, rap male artist and rap album for “Certified Lover Boy.” The rapper extended his record as the most decorated winner in the history of the awards show with 34 wins.
Olivia Rodrigo and Kanye West, known as Ye, took home the most awards with six during a non-televised ceremony. Rodrigo was awarded best new artist.
Ye made his mark in the faith-based categories – again: The rapper won top Christian artist for the first time, but he claimed top gospel artist and gospel song for a third year in a row. He also received top gospel album for the second time.
The Kid LAROI became a first-time winner, taking home five wins for his song “Stay” with Justin Bieber – whose Billboard Music Awards win count rose to 26.
Doja Cat came away with four awards. She won top R&B artist and R&B female artist for the second consecutive year, along with top R&B album and female artist.
Taylor Swift – who has the second most-ever award show wins with 29 – won four awards. Bad Bunny received two wins while R&B duo Silk Sonic, comprised of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, won their first-ever award for top R&B song for “Leave the Door Open.”
Becky G, who released the album “Esquemas” on Friday, performed her hit song “MAMIII,” which topped the Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. Ed Sheeran delivered a remote performance from Northern Ireland, where he is on tour.
Other acts who took the stage include Miranda Lambert, Meghan Thee Stallion and Grammy Awards darlings Silk Sonic.
Nominees are determined by Billboard chart rankings and winners are selected based on several criteria, including their album and digital song sales, airplay and streaming success and touring.