The “Billboard” charts are all about certainty, giving definitive answers as to music’s popularity. This year’s Billboard Music Awards was all about confusion, thanks to the random performances and antics stuffed into a show that sometimes felt disheveled. Sure, there were standout moments, as there always are (especially when Megan Thee Stallion is in the building). But just as often, the ceremony left us with more questions — starting at the top, thanks to host Diddy. That is to say, it was a music awards show, if one where the awards themselves (based on the year’s “Billboard” charts) don’t generally mean much. Here are the highs, lows, and whoas of the 2022 Billboard Music Awards.
WHOA: A fever dream of an opening.
Diddy set the tone for the night with his opening performance and monologue — and that tone was confusion. The host kicked things off with some choreography, before ceding the stage to Bryson Tiller and Jack Harlow for abbreviated performances (of Diddy’s new “Gotta Move On” and Harlow’s hit “First Class”). Next, Teyana Taylor came out to sing the hook of “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” which was a highlight. But did we understand why she was there? Of course not! Then DJ Khaled introduced Diddy’s opening monologue — in which the host claimed he was “now a tonal frequency” and attempted a stale slap joke.
HIGH: Silk Sonic sliding to “Love Train.”
Will we ever get tired of watching these guys’ awards-show performances? When they stay that suave, the answer is no.
LOW: Diddy turning off the teleprompter.
To keep the cringe of his opening going, Diddy made a big deal of telling the crowd he was going off-teleprompter — only to deliver a moment that screamed “scripted,” in which he let his assistant, Frank, introduce Rauw Alejandro. But hey, congrats to Frank!
LOW: NBC’s and Peacock’s sound issues.
A music awards show is the last place you want have sound glitches. Yet the BBMAs was plagued by a terrible mix that swallowed up big voices like Florence Welch, complete with repeating glitches on the Peacock stream.
HIGH: Miranda Lambert and Elle King’s chemistry.
Wanna know how “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” became such a hit? Just watch Miranda Lambert and Elle King’s performance, where their electricity radiated off the stage as the two strutted and belted their way through their dance-country hit.
WHOA: Latto brings big stage presence.
After some simpler stagings by Florence + the Machine and Lambert and King, Latto gave us the excess we were looking for, performing a dramatized rendition of “Big Energy” with a troupe of shimmering dancers. The backing track drowned out her live vocals, but in one of her first awards-show sets, she knew the performance was about more than what we hear.
LOW: What Megan Thee Stallion got during her performance.
Megan Thee Stallion’s BBMAs performance was the best of both worlds. She opened with a simple “Plan B,” spitting her new single from the top of the stage (well, all the words she could say on prime-time TV). Then the dancers came out, and Megan dropped it for “Sweetest Pie,” turning around to show off her black lingerie.
HIGH: Mary J. Blige is an icon, and she knows it.
The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul herself was this year’s Billboard Icon, and she had the confidence to match. After accepting her trophy from the previous year’s (well, and always) icon, Janet Jackson, Blige was sure to tell producers not to play her off, before reflecting on her career and embracing her status. “Every female artist that came into the game wanted to do everything that I was doing — and still does to this day,” she said.
LOW: The Bad Men Awards, starring Morgan Wallen and Travis Scott.
The BBMAs was the culmination of long returns to the public eye for Morgan Wallen and Travis Scott. Sure, Wallen has won awards since he said the N-word in a video in early 2021, and Scott has been getting back into performing after his November 2021 Astroworld set left ten dead by a crowd crush, but the show marked their first performances since those events — “uncanceling the canceled,” as host Diddy put it ahead of the show. Wallen went the emotional-acoustic-performance route, yet didn’t have the voice to sustain those stripped-back renditions of “Don’t Think Jesus” and “Wasted on You.” Scott’s performance of “Mafia” didn’t meet the moment either, going so high-concept (with fur-clad dancers) that it felt nearly disrespectful as a return.
WHOA: Machine Gun Kelly had some late-breaking news.
As far as awards shows go, the BBMAs doesn’t generally make news outside of some fun performances. Machine Gun Kelly changed that with his performance of “Twin Flame,” which he dedicated to his “wife” — news to the world, who thought he was merely engaged to Megan Fox. (Kelly also later dedicated the song to their “unborn child,” which could be a reference to Fox being pregnant, or to a possible miscarriage, as fans have theorized about the song.) And on the blood moon, no less?
HIGH: Changemaker Award winner Mari Copeny has no reason to be embarrassed.
The Changemaker Award is a respectable gesture, if a bit confusing as to why we’re recognizing activists on a music awards show. Still, Mari Copeny, a.k.a. “Little Miss Flint,” made the most of her award with a sweet, entertaining, and galvanizing speech that touched on not only her activism around the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, but the Supreme Court’s impending overturn of Roe v. Wade. At one point in the speech, she messed up, paused, and exclaimed, “That was so embarrassing!” Far from it, we say.
WHOA: Doja Cat stays relatable.
By downing her drink and hitting her vape before accepting her two awards.
LOW: A tribute to Thriller, hold the hits.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller is an album famously packed with hits, all of which would have been perfect for the BBMAs’ slightly random tribute to the album’s 40th anniversary. Instead, performer Maxwell chose closing track “The Lady in My Life,” which lacked the energy we needed to power through the third hour of an awards show.
WHOA: Burna Boy goes out with a bang (of a drum).
Watching Burna Boy’s closing performance isolated from the rest of the BBMAs, you wouldn’t believe it came after three long hours of an awards show. The Afrobeats star worked the crowd with a smile on his face, and the crowd responded, on their feet and dancing. And with a marching band to top it all off? That’s called going the extra “Kilometre.”