Sunday night's (May 20) Billboard Music Awards were a bittersweet affair, balancing the promise of decades of entertainment from a new generation of record-smashing young artists like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift with fond memories of a number of recently departed musical icons.
In a three-hour show heavy on performances, chart staples LMFAO helped kicked the show off with a typically hyped performance of their inescapable party anthems that featured a cabbage-patching teddy bear and zebra and more animal prints than a Flintstones family reunion.
Justin Bieber was the night's first winner, taking the Top Social Artist award for his huge online presence. The singer swaggered up to the stage and, in an uncharacteristically emotional moment, said, "I just want to say how much of a blessing it's been ... the past three or four years, growing up in front of everybody. ... I want to thank all my fans, because the Internet is where I got my start, and all my fans have helped me get to this position."
Co-host Julie Bowen took a moment out of the program early on to pay tribute to late Bee Gees member Robin Gibb, who died earlier in the day Sunday after a long battle with cancer. The night also featured a touching tribute to recently passed disco queen Donna Summer by Natasha Bedingfield and a segment devoted to music legend Whitney Houston with a medley of her indelible hits performed by John Legend and Jordin Sparks.
Daughter Bobbi Kristina accepted the Billboard Millennium Award on behalf of her late mother. "I just really want to say thank you to everyone who supported us through it all," she said. "Not just when it was good, but when it was bad too ... thank you so much for showing that much love, because she deserved it."
Katy Perry was handed the Spotlight Award for tying the record set by Michael Jackson of five #1 hits from the same album, for her handful of smashes from Teenage Dream. Dressed in a floor-length sparkling silver gown, her hair a muted dark purple, Perry said she was "incredibly honored" to be in the same category as someone like Jackson.
"Most of all, of course, I always say that the people have the power, so I want to say thank you to the glittering, gorgeous community of fans out there," she added to wild applause, while finding a spare few seconds to plug her upcoming 3-D concert film, "Part of Me." Oh, and she said she couldn't wait to do shots later that night with her 91-year-old granny, who was in the audience.
The ladies had a great night, as Taylor Swift was honored with the Billboard Woman of the Year award, acknowledging her stadium full of impressive credits, including a place as the only woman in music history to score three #1 albums in a row, each of which has sold more than 5 million copies. Swift, 22, dressed in a flowing red evening gown and ever gracious, thanked her legions of fans, saying, "I just love you so much, I'm just so humbled and honored by this."
As Miley Cyrus noted, you're only new to the game once, so it was fitting that red-hot rapper Wiz Khalifa best the competition for the Top New Artist trophy. "I'm up here shakin', man," the rapper admitted as he thanked his whole crew and label family, as well as his "beautiful fiancée," Amber Rose. "She's my world and she puts up with my crazy butt, too," he smiled, as Rose beamed from her seat in the audience.
Some other men got a bit of attention as well, with an absent Lil Wayne beating out Chris Brown, Drake, Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber for Male Artist of the Year.
Hot 100 Song of the Year was a tight race featuring smashes from Adele, Perry, Maroon 5 and Pitbull. But could it have gone to anyone but LMFAO for "Party Rock Anthem"? With six weeks atop the Hot 100, the uncle/nephew duo scored the third longest-running top 10 hit of all time. "This is a dream come true," said singer Redfoo. A short time later, Khalifa shouted out the Beastie Boys' MCA before LMFAO were up on the stage again for the Top Duo or Group prize.
Brown got his chance a bit later with a win in the R&B Artist of the Year category, Foster the People took Top Rock Song for "Pumped Up Kicks," Coldplay were named Top Rock Artist, U2 Top Touring Act, Lady Gaga Top Dance Artist and an Icon Award for Stevie Wonder. For a full list of Sunday night's winners, head to Billboard.com.
Among the night's other performers, Kelly Clarkson made the televised debut of her rocking ballad "Dark Side" and British boy banders the Wanted were busy "Chasing the Sun" and saying they were "Glad You Came" above the sound of shrieks from their female admirers. Brown rode his glowing BMX bike out for a high-energy lip-synched run through "Turn Up the Music," while Usher got all gothic and mysterious with a flashy, Las Vegas-worthy, high-concept staging of "Scream."
Bieber stalked the DayGlo stage for a clown- and geisha-assisted future-funk performance of "Boyfriend," followed by his protégé Carly Rae Jepsen singing "Call Me Maybe" and Carrie Underwood standing her ground amid a sea of blowing fans during "Blown Away."
In addition, the performance-heavy show had Linkin Park cranking up the flames for "Burn It Down," Nelly Furtado sporting "Big Hoops," Alicia Keys jamming with Icon winner Wonder, Perry doing a high-wire act in the virtual clouds during "Wide Awake" and Cee Lo Green and Goodie Mob joined by a one-legged Cirque du Soleil break dancer on "Fight to Win" and a stage full of dancing kids for a cover of the Beasties' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" in another nod to MCA.
What was your favorite part of the Billboard Music Awards? Let us know in the comments below!