Arts, Music

Artists Push for Social Change at Billboard Music Awards

As with most events in 2020, the Billboard Music Awards looked a little different this year. Kelly Clarkson hosted the show from the Dolby Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, albeit with no audience in attendance. While some artists pre-recorded their performances, there was still plenty of live music to be had. To kick off the night, Clarkson, Pentatonix, and Sheila E. performed a cover of Steve Winwood’s song “Higher Love.” Following the song, Clarkson stressed the importance of “escaping” from the maelstrom that is 2020, and instead “uniting” people through music.

The first award, for the Top Billboard 200 Album, went to Billie Eilish and her 2019 record When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? She accepted the award clad head to toe in an olive green outfit and face mask and expressed her gratitude to her fans, admitting, “It’s always a shock when I win anything at all.” Following performances by Sia and Kane Brown, Swae Lee, and Khalid, among others, Eilish also received the award for Top Female Artist.

After Luke Combs won Top Country Artist, Post Malone and Tyla Yaweh delivered one of the most vibrant live sets of the entire night. Filmed outside of L.A., the pair sang a few songs and were accompanied by an array of fireworks and pyrotechnics. Post Malone would later win Top Male Artist and Top Artist, accepting both awards in-person, wearing all black with a red Solo cup in his hand.

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had the honor of introducing and presenting the first-ever Billboard Change Maker Award to Atlanta native and rapper Killer Mike, who is part of the duo Run the Jewels. The award “honors the artist or group that speaks truth to power through their music, celebrity, and community,” and was given to Killer Mike for his outstanding work as a social activist and advocate for equality. In his acceptance speech, Killer Mike emphasized that anyone who looks up to him, especially the young, should use their talents and status to enact change in their communities and society as a whole.

The Icon Award, presented this year by Cher, was given to Oklahoma native and country music superstar Garth Brooks, who proceeded to play a few of his hit songs with his band. A tribute to artists who have died since last year’s show included a flashback to Van Halen’s performance at the Billboard Awards in 2015. The musician passed away from cancer on Oct. 6. Two awards voted on through TikTok, the Chart Achievement Award and Top Social Artist, were given to Harry Styles and BTS respectively, the latter of which later performed its hit song “Dynamite.”

While it was without the usual pomp and circumstance, the 2020 Billboard Music Awards went off without a hitch. Every presenter, performer, and artist echoed the same messages of strength, encouraging people to use their voices, talents, and platforms to enact social change. 

Photo Courtesy of NBC

October 18, 2020