Well! It was a dreary night at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, wasn’t it? There were forty performances each from Pitbull and Will.i.am! They only gave out three awards! Justin Bieber talked at length about his craft! Host Tracy Morgan sputtered all of his lines and could barely read the teleprompter! Yes, it was one for the books, folks. One for the books.
That said, there were still some highlights — a handful of exceptional performances and some nice moments of shade-throwing from various members of the pop glitterati — and, well, some lowlights. (Remember when Miguel almost killed somebody? Yeah. That was a bummer.) Let’s recap! (And if you missed any performances, you can watch them all here.)
1. Kacey Musgraves is, was and remains amazing.
Alt-country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves was probably the least-well-known out of any of the performers, but nobody deserved to be there more: The chanteuse turned out a stunning performance of her single “Merry Go Round” that was a luminous sigh of wistful resignation. It should nab her some more attention. She’s earned it.
2. Legendtina rose up like a lotus: This is the beginning.
The great Christina Aguilera has taken more than her share of hits lately (in the press, not on the charts), but as she quite literally rose up onto the stage to perform “Feel This Moment” with Pitbull (which is kind of ugh, but whatever), she looked — and sounded — great. Mostly she looked great; her backing track was a little messy. But after the Lotus massacre, it was pretty thrilling to see her assume her rightful place on the throne. Legendtina Goduilera reigns once more.
3. Prince and Madonna both got special awards and they are both great.
Prince is an iconic performer with unparalleled talent; Madonna is an iconic performer with unparalleled talent. Both of them received awards (Prince was the recipient of the Billboard Icon Award, while Madonna took a Top Touring Artist award), and it was fun to be reminded of their respective successes and legacies. Also, Madonna basically used Will.i.am as a caddy, which feels like a much more appropriate use for his talents than, y’know, “performer.”
4. Shade was directed at Justin Bieber.
Look: I like a lot of Justin Bieber’s music and he’s a talented kid, but oh man, he did not sound credible talking about his “craft” and asking for respect from his contemporaries. Accordingly, Miley Cyrus‘ eye-roll upon announcing his win for Top Male Artist, the roars of boos coming from the crowd as he took the stage to accept the Milestone Award and, perhaps best of all, this gif of Taylor Swift looking completely disgusted at him kissing her best friend Selena Gomez — all of that proved hugely satisfying, if only just in terms of providing proof that the biggest pop stars in the world feel the same way I do.
5. Taylor Swift had a pretty cool performance and didn’t take herself too seriously.
Her live vocals may not be the best, but at least there was some serious effort put into Swift’s debut live televised performance of “22,” which was appropriately dynamic and high-octane. Major points for creativity. At the end of the night, when she accepted the award for Top Artist, she told her fans that they were “the longest and best relationship I’ve ever had,” which is the kind of joke that normally people make at Taylor Swift’s expense, only it was Taylor Swift making it. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling good about that.
1. Ke$ha looked crispy and her only role was introducing Pitbull.
First of all, Ke$ha’s tan. Second of all, Ke$ha’s dress. Third of all, Ke$ha. What happened? She used to be one of the coolest cats in pop music. Now, she’s relegated to the role of introducing Pitbull so he can perform with someone else? The indignity of that is truly more than I can bear.
2. Miguel accidentally killed, like, twenty people.
Miguel is one of the most talented dudes in the industry right now, and it was totally not his fault, but as he was wrapping up a performance and did a flying leap off the stage, he landed directly on a girl’s neck, literally severing her head from her body. No, that didn’t exactly happen. And by all accounts the girl was fine, and he apologized and ended up taking her backstage, and it was cool. But still, it looked rough, didn’t it? Maybe she just hated the Billboard Music Awards as much as I did and was hoping she’d die. Hard to fault her for that, really.
Why is this still happening? Who actually likes this guy’s music? What kind of Live Nation-Clear Channel-Illuminati conspiracy shit is keeping him in the game? And why was he on stage for 90% of the show? Can anyone explain this to me? Seriously.
4. PSY and Tracy Morgan did a skit, and then introduced Chris Brown.
This is the apocalypse.
Look: I’m not trying to say that the Billboard Music Awards were the worst night of my life. In addition to being one of the very best music publications out there, Billboard is a pretty amazing organization that does something really cool by providing the metrics by which we can measure artists’ commercial impact, and they deserve to have a space where they honor those who have achieved extraordinary successes to that effect, and there were some super-talented people on stage at various points of the evening (although most of them didn’t sing). But — and in all fairness, I say this after almost every major awards show, but this one felt particularly gruesome — it’s hard to recall a duller, more shamelessly cynical broadcast. When Miguel accidentally crushing someone to death with his crotch is the only truly compelling thing that happens during a three-hour live broadcast of a bunch of pop stars singing their biggest hits and sniping at each other, there’s a pretty serious problem. So let’s just cancel them going forward.