Becky G, Ed Sheeran, MGK, more reviews

Tonight’s 2022 Billboard Music Awards promise a diverse lineup of performances, from soul throwbacks Silk Sonic to Latin pop star Becky G to onetime country pariah Morgan Wallen.

This year’s edition of the show, hosted by Sean “Diddy” Combs and beamed in from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, will bring stage turns from Florence + The Machine, Latto, Megan Thee Stallion, Ed Sheeran (joining from his concert in Belfast, Northern Ireland) and, making his first award show appearance since the Astroworld tragedy last fall, Travis Scott.

Unlike its celebratory peers, the Billboard Music Awards aren’t based on subjective voting by music industry insiders or even fans, but are grounded in hard numbers – specifically, performance on the Billboard charts, including album and digital song sales, streaming and radio airplay.

Now, about those performances:

Billboard Music Awards:Travis Scott, Kylie Jenner step out on red carpet with daughter Stormi

Becky G, ‘Baile Con Mi Ex,’ ‘Mamiii’

Perched atop a boxy structure with a backdrop of the Earth rising behind her, the young singer with Mexican roots finger-snapped her way through the melodic “Baile Con Mi Ex” with notable assurance. As a platform lowered her back to the stage, Becky G (aka Rebecca Gomez) stripped off her jacket to reveal a sparkly black leotard with matching thigh-high stockings for “Mamiii,” her worldwide smash that she shares on record with Karol G (no relation). 

Ed Sheeran performed "2Step" from his live show in Belfast.

Ed Sheeran, ‘2Step’

Beaming in live from Belfast, Northern Ireland, the one-man ginger band utilized his rotating stage and hallmark looping technique for the latest single from last year’s “=” album. Performing for a massive outdoor crowd at Boucher Road Playing Fields, Sheeran demonstrated – especially for those who have never seen him live – how one unassuming guy with a guitar and versatile vocal skills can enchant a stadium-sized crowd.

Machine Gun Kelly referred to Megan Fox as his wife during his Billboard Music Awards performance.

Machine Gun Kelly, ‘Twin Flame,’ ‘Born With Horns’

Sporting painted nails, ripped jeans and mussed hair with a light magenta hue, MGK started by quietly saying he wrote the song for “his wife.” Are he and girlfriend Megan Fox married? Only their lockets of blood hold the answer. MGK interrupted the romantic rock ballad to look into the crowd and say, “Happy birthday, my love,” before detouring into a few lines of “Born With Horns.” While his voice wasn’t always on point, there was no denying the authenticity of MGK’s performance, especially when he returned to “Twin Flame,” dedicated it to “our unborn child” and scooped up his electric guitar to crank out some serrated riffs.

Travis Scott (with model Jazzelle, right) gave his first awards show performance since the Astroworld tragedy last November.

Travis Scott, ‘Mafia’ and ‘Lost Forever’

With blizzard effects swirling around the structure where Scott lay in fuzzy wintry pants with a pelt slung over his shoulder, the rapper unfurled a heavily edited “Mafia.” He buried his head against the bikini-clad chest of muse/model Jazzelle (because bikinis and snow – why not?) as the performance blurred between the stage design and black and white video. The attempt to be artsy was disorienting and, really, unnecessary. The performance was a rare sighting of Scott, as well as his first awards show performance since last November’s tragedy at his Astroworld festival in Houston.

Shay Mooney (left) and Dan Smyers of Dan + Shay perform "You" at the Billboard Music Awards.

Dan + Shay, ‘You’

The country duo known for their sweet ballads and angelic harmonizing didn’t disappoint with a gently swaying rendition of the track from last year’s “Good Things” album. Dressed in matching red suits – along with the rest of their backing band – Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney didn’t ignite the stage, but offered a reliable performance of a soulful song. 

Megan Thee Stallion commanded the stage for "Plan B" and "Sweetest Pie."

Megan Thee Stallion, ‘Plan B’ and ‘Sweetest Pie’

Looking sexy in a black leotard that showcased her sleek figure, Megan Thee Stallion self-censored herself as she unspooled her female empowerment anthem, “Plan B.” To support her lyrical theme, she turned her nearly bare booty toward the crowd while grinning over her shoulder. Megan Thee Stallion propelled her rhymes into overdrive for “Sweetest Pie,” which included a pack of dancers, fireworks and the rapper flicking her long black hair off her shoulder as she pitched unspoken attitude from the stage.

Morgan Wallen sang a bare-bones "Don't Think Jesus."

Morgan Wallen, ‘Don’t Think Jesus’ and ‘Wasted on You’

Set up on a square stage in the middle of the arena, Wallen – seemingly forgiven for getting caught uttering a racial slur on video in 2021 – opted for a stripped-down approach and a lyrically pointed first song. Surrounded by his four-piece band, Wallen strummed an acoustic guitar and turned up the twang as he belted the chorus of “Don’t Think Jesus,” which includes the lyrics, “World likes to rear back and throw a few stones / So boy wants to throw a few stones of his own / But Lord knows I ain’t perfect.” Wallen leaned into the gritty qualities of his voice for his second offering, “Wasted on You,” a double-platinum hit from his “Dangerous: The Double Album,” which has led Billboard’s top country albums chart for a record-breaking 55 weeks.

Latto dazzled with "Big Energy."

Latto, ‘Big Energy’

A noteworthy export from the hip-hop mecca of Atlanta, Latto, joined by a sextet of dancers, rap-sung her Tom Tom club-sampling No. 1 R&B-hip-hop hit with snarling attitude. But there was no denying how much fun Latto was having as she twerked and twisted, headbanging her wavy mane of hair in rhythm with the pyro popping behind her. For those unfamiliar with the upstart born Alyssa Stephens, it was a star-making performance.

Miranda Lambert (left) and Elle King gave a fiery performance in coordinating starry suits.

Miranda Lambert and Elle King, ‘Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)’

The primal drumbeat that fuels this scorcher from a couple of vocal powerhouses set the tone, and Lambert and King rode its strutting force. Their performance survived a wobbly opening verse, but by the chorus, both women – coordinated in black pantsuits decorated in blue fringe, flames and stars – fell into the spirit of the song, singing full throttle like it was 2 a.m. in a grimy pool hall. 

Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine took the stage bathed in dramatic lighting for "My Love."

Florence + The Machine, ‘My Love’

The always enigmatic Florence Welch stepped onstage shrouded in dry ice, her waist-length auburn hair and flowing cream-colored dress as captivating as her dramatic unveiling of “My Love.” Twirling across a stage dotted with pieces of paper that looked like letters (love notes, perhaps?), Welch was a striking vision under a halo of red lighting as she performed a slightly rootsier version of the disco-inflected song from new album “Dance Fever.”

Rauw Alejandro performed in front of a light-up tree.

Rauw Alejandro, ‘Cúrame’ / ‘Museo’ / ‘Todo De Ti’

The Puerto Rican hitmaker known as the “king of modern reggaeton” eased into his trio of songs, sitting pensively during the ballad “Cúrame” in front of a tree with a lighted trunk. But within moments, a phalanx of dancers joined him to nimbly step through “Museo” and “Todo De Ti” around a jungle gym of steel cubes. Alejandro, who performed on the BBMAs for the first time, is not only a smooth singer, but also an impressively lithe dancer. 

Silk Sonic popped over from their Las Vegas residency to perform at the Billboard Music Awards.

Silk Sonic, ‘Love’s Train’

In their now-trademark wide-lapel, rust-colored suits, Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak and the rest of Silk Sonic made their BBMAs debut with pelvic thrusts and Temptations-styled dancing with their backup singers. “Love’s Train” is another comfortable submission from their throwback project, filled with finger snaps, smooth grooves and enough room for Mars to engage in fist-clenching reaches for the sky – and his splendid high notes. 

Host Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs kicks the evening off with a performance with Bryson Tiller and Jack Harlow.

Diddy featuring Bryson Tiller and Jack Harlow, ‘She Don’t Want It’ / ‘First Class’ / ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems’

The opening segment featured host Diddy dancing on the main stage before clearing the way for Bryson Tiller gliding through “She Don’t Want It.” The R&B star shared a few verses and ceded the stage to Jack Harlow, who took over the spotlight with “First Class,” his latest single from new album “Come Home the Kids Miss You.” But Diddy isn’t one to stay on the sidelines and soon reappeared in the middle of the MGM Grand Garden Arena to bust a few lines of “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” the 1997 smash popularized by the late Notorious B.I.G., who would have turned 50 on May 21. 

Anita Shire

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