Billboard Music Awards 2013: A Viewer’s Guide

Carl Williott | May 17, 2013 5:25 am

The Billboard Music Awards are doled out based on chart success, sales and touring performance, so you have to respect that they’re the one awards show that’s at least up front about this whole spectacle being about money and not art. But because they’re based on readily available numbers, you know what you’re getting. That makes the BBMAs perhaps the most unnecessary of music awards shows (all of which are unnecessary on some level).

However! The Billboard Awards are also great because when you’re using the charts as the metric for quality, then you only hob-knob with the biggest of the big names in pop music. Thus, the collection of performers and presenters here comprises pretty much everyone who matters in music. That’s how you get Prince sharing the stage with peers like Pitbull. It’s ludicrous, but it’s also a show of music’s incredible reach. You’ve all heard almost all of this stuff. So that makes this a very populist awards ceremony, perhaps even one of the last hallmarks of the musical monoculture. Or maybe it’s just a cash-grab for acts who’ve already grabbed all the cash.

Whichever it is, you know you’ll watch it. So read on for everything you need to know about the 2013 Billboard Music Awards. (Oh, they air live on ABC from Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 19 at 8 p.m. ET. You probably need to know that, too.)

YOUR HOST FOR THE NIGHT Former SNL and 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan is handling hosting duties. Did we mention it’s a live broadcast? Nobody is more nervous for this show than the dude in the control room commanding the censor button.

MOST-NOMINATED ARTISTS Taylor Swift, fun. and Maroon 5 are tops with nominations in 11 categories each. They’re followed closely by Rihanna with 10 nods. Behind her is Carly Rae Jepsen with nine and One Direction closes out the top tier with eight.

THE PERFORMERS A giant roster of giant names was released in several giant waves over the past few weeks, so it’s been hard to keep track of all the performers on this most grand celebration of commercially celebrated pop. There’s something for everyone, and something for everyone to hate on. And there’s Icona Pop! How’d they get in there?! Best not to ask questions and just luxuriate in the beauty of it. Anyway, here’s the handy list of acts scheduled to grace the stage on Sunday night, in order of most to least hair:

*Lil Wayne & Nicki Minaj *The Band Perry *Christina Aguilera *Jennifer Lopez *Selena Gomez *Taylor Swift *Kacey Musgraves *Bruno Mars *Icona Pop *Akon, Ne-Yo & David Guetta *Macklemore & Ryan Lewis *Ed Sheeran *Prince *Miguel *Justin Bieber *Chris Brown *Pitbull

THE STORYLINES Lots to keep an eye on, but the biggest story may have nothing to do with the actual ceremony: Miley Cyrus will unveil a new single during the show. Either that or she has epically trolled her Twitter followers. What else? Oh, there’s Prince and Madonna, who are both being honored among the gaggle of youngsters. Prince is getting the Billboard Icon Award, which has previously been given to Stevie Wonder and Neil Diamond. As for Madge, she’s getting the Top Touring Artist award. Her 2012 MDNA tour grossed over $305 million spread over 88 sold-out shows in front of a combined 2.2 million people. Like a veteran.

Another interesting storyline is rap, as in, what happened to it? For the past 10-15 years, rap has been the new rock, dominating radio and the charts. But this past year seems to have been a particularly off year, in terms of hip-hop smashes. In the big awards we’ve really only got Nicki MinajFlo Rida, a dash of Drake and a bunch of viral hits representing the genre. Guess that’s what happens when hip-hop titans like Kanye West, Jay-Z and Eminem stay on the sidelines.


*Will Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez interact? Will they shock the world and attend together? *Will Chris Brown shock the world and unveil his Aaliyah-assisted song, complete with an Aaliyogram? *Which lucky lady will get to perform with Pitbull: JLo or Xtina? *Are we gonna see quiet, timid Prince or shredding, sex freak Prince? *Will Queen Carly Rae catch a break and take home some hardware? *Will Tracy Morgan lift up his shirt to reveal his gut, as is the Tracy Morgan tradition?

What are you looking forward to at Sunday’s BBMAs? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter.