Swift appeared with presumed boyfriend Calvin Harris
Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea's debuted "Pretty Girls"
Kanye West handled finale duties
Even if she hadn’t premiered her epic, star-studded “Bad Blood” music video at the top of the show, Taylor Swift still would have been the big winner of the 2015 Billboard Music Awards.
Taking home eight awards – including top artist, top Billboard 200 artist, top Hot 100 artist and top streaming song – Swift took home the most trophies, followed by Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea and Pharrell, who each won three awards, as well as One Direction, Hozier, Jason Aldean, Enrique Iglesias and John Legend, each of whom won two. The awards were hosted by Chrissy Teigen and Ludacris, produced by dick clark productions and aired live on ABC from the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
Swift was also seemingly the night’s most popular attendee. Flying in that day from her brother Austin’s college graduation at Notre Dame, Swift was accompanied by the majority of her “Bad Blood” co-stars throughout the night and flanked in her audience seat by presumed boyfriend Calvin Harris, with whom she shared several touching embraces throughout the night.
During her acceptance speech for top female artist, Swift thanked “all the girls I talk to on the Internet and we talk about your feelings and you teach me your teen slang.” And later, upon receiving the fan-voted chart achievement award, she added, “Honestly, the fans – I’m obsessed with you. You guys are the reason this year has happened the way that it’s happened.”
Two-time winners One Direction (top duo/group, top touring artist) were equally heartfelt in a pair of speeches, shouting out their devoted Directioners as well as “our brother Zayn Malik,” as the band’s Liam Payne said during 1D’s acceptance of top duo/group.
And Smith, whose recent vocal hemorrhage led him to pull out of the ceremony, mutely accepted his award for top male artist via video with very British, Love Actually-esque cue cards. “First, thank you Billboard for this incredible honour,” Smith wrote. “Secondly, thank you to my amazing fans. It’s time like this that I realize how lucky I am to have you in my life. Can’t wait to get this surgery out of the way so I can sing my ass off for you again. And lastly, seeing as you guys are in Vegas. Taylor…put a 100 on black for me. Nicki…Oh…My…God..Look at her bum. Ed [Sheeran]…I’ve organized a special dance for you at…Chippendale’s.”
Equally memorable performances were in full effect too. An octave-leaping “Vision of Love/Infinity” medley from Mariah Carey, the TV debut of Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea’s “Pretty Girls,” a new single from Kelly Clarkson and an exclusive duet of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” with special guest Faith Hill brought major diva heat. Tori Kelly played rising single “Nobody Love” as Kia’s One to Watch artist, while Meghan Trainor’s cute duet with John Legend on Title cut “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” drew praise and a slight jab from Legend’s wife, BBMA co-host Teigen. “Whoa, you guys had a little chemistry up there. Not bad, right? Little jealous,” said Teigen, whose hubby later assured her, “I like bass and treble, baby.”
Fall Out Boy and Wiz Khalifa’s special team-up on “Uma Thurman,” a reunited Van Halen, a blues-y Hozier, a moving Ben E. King tribute from Imagine Dragons and a stadium-sized, hologram-enhanced performance by Ed Sheeran repped for rock. Molly Ringwald introduced Simple Minds for a 30th anniversary tribute to The Breakfast Club, but not before sending out a quick plea to Swift: “I wanna be in your club Taylor, please!” As a camera cut to Ringwald seemingly swapping numbers with Swift (on sponsor Samsung’s phones, no less) after “Don’t You Forget About Me“‘s final “hey hey hey HEY!,” it looked like the artist formerly known as Claire Standish quickly got her wish.
For hip-hop heads, Khalifa, Charlie Puth and Lindsey Stirling formed a BBMA supergroup on Hot 100 topper “See You Again,” while Pitbull and Chris Brown brought Miami heat to “Fun” and Nicki Minaj teased new single “The Night Is Still Young” before bringing out David Guetta for their latest hit “Hey Mama.” For R&B enthusiasts, a laser-lit Nick Jonas slayed “Jealous,” while “Empire” star Jussie Smollett and Estelle teamed up for standout ballad “Conqueror,” while the show’s Bryshere “Yazz” Gray joined them for his fan favorite “You’re So Beautiful.”
Kanye West handled finale duties, with an explosive – literally – take on current single “All Day” that was often more bleeped and obscured by pyro flames and smoke than it was intelligible. But he concluded with a victory lap performance of 2013’s “Black Skinhead,” which gave extra emphasis to the lines “I ain’t finished/ I’m devoted/ And you know it/ And you know it!” in light of his imminent (and recently re-titled) album Swish.