Trophies take back seat to spectacle at Billboard Music Awards

Like countless awards shows before it, this one began with an apology from a dude in turquoise underpants who jiggled like gelatin incarnate next to two individuals zipped into a dancing Zebra costume.

“Sorry for party rocking,” offered Redfoo of electro pop cut-ups LMFAO during the tune of the same name, part of a three-song medley that opened the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday at the MGM Grand Garden.

Now, now, Mr. ‘Foo, no need to beg for anyone’s forgiveness on this night: LMFAO’s insistently catchy, over­caffeinated, knowingly lightweight repertoire set a suitably playful, frivolous tone for the evening.

This night was less about who was going to win what than it was a well-produced, spectacle-heavy outlet for musicians and actors to promote new projects and bask in the adulation of “10,000 drunk people,” as co-host Ty Burell described the crowd.

There were some serious questions posed, however.

“Is this next group a boy band or a man band?” Burrell wondered while introducing fresh-faced Brits The Wanted, who proved themselves to be somewhere between the two with breathy R&B lite propelled by a house music beat.

Other pressing issues were addressed, like what’s Katy Perry going to do following the show with her 91-year-old grandmother, a Las Vegas native, who joined her at the event?

“I can’t wait to do shots with you after this,” Perry gushed from the podium upon accepting the spotlight award.

Wait, what’s the spotlight award, you ask?

Who knows?

And does it really matter?

Whatever it truly signifies is less interesting than watching a tattooed, chiseled Chris Brown, who looked like a disgruntled action figure, take the stage on a glowing BMX bike and perform with bikers getting aerial on a half-pipe behind him or Justin Bieber sing his latest single, “Boyfriend,” surrounded by what looked like Far Eastern mimes and chicks in Day-Glo bikinis.

There was an emphasis on the literal: Carrie Underwood belted a driving, full-throated “Blown Away” backed by a wall of fans re-creating the wind she sings of in the song; rockers Linkin Park played their moody, tempestuous “Burn it Down” in front of flames.

And then there was Nelly Furtado giving bawdy voice to her new song “Big Hoops” with stilt walkers and some fellows spinning, you guessed it, hoops around themselves.

“I bet you never seen something like that,” Furtado sang.

Nope.

Despite all these hi-watt flourishes and the festive vibe of the show, there were some more reflective moments as well.

There was a pause of silence for the Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb, who died hours before the show’s start time.

Fellow disco icon Donna Summer, who passed away earlier in the week, was remembered by Brit singer Natasha Beding­field, who delivered a spirited take on Summer’s “Last Dance.”

Cee Lo Green reunited with the Goodie Mob crew for a raucous shout-along version of the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party),” in memory of the recently deceased Beastie Adam Yauch, as that notorious party animal Carrie Underwood sang along in the crowd.

John Legend and Jordan Sparks paid tribute to Whitney Houston by performing emotionally charged renditions of “The Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You,” respectively, as audience members illuminated the arena by holding their cellphones aloft.

Afterward, Houston was honored with Billboard’s millennium award.

Similarly recognized for a storied body of work via the icon award was Stevie Wonder, who dueted with Alicia Keys on staples like “Higher Ground” and “Overjoyed.”

Other big winners included Taylor Swift, who was named woman of the year; Wiz Khalifa, who earned top new artist honors; and Lil Wayne, who scored the top male artist award.

Adele won an armload of trophies, for top artist, top female artist, top Billboard 200 artist among many others, though she wasn’t present at the show and was barely recognized during the program.

As for the aforementioned LMFAO, they won for top duo/group, Hot 100 song of the year, top pop song and more.

“We make the music that you can celebrate to,” Redfoo said of LMFAO’s appeal, trophy in hand, speaking to reporters afterward in the pressroom.

And then, in keeping with the prevailing theme of the evening, he was off to do just that.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at
jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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