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Youth, veterans energize Billboard Awards show in Las Vegas

The 2018 Billboard Music Awards turned into a battle for the ages Sunday night in the MGM Grand Garden arena.

In one corner, the show’s first five performers — Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Shawn Mendes, Khalid and Normani — whose average age is 21. In the other, Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson, who turned in two of the evening’s most energetic performances.

No one was going to outshriek fans of the South Korean boy band BTS. After the cacophony that accompanied their every on-camera appearance, including their win for something called the Top Social Artist Presented by 23andMe.com, host Kelly Clarkson donned a pair of pink earmuffs before mentioning them again. Jackson, though, received arguably the second-loudest response for the medley of hits she sang before accepting the Icon Award.

To put things in perspective, not only were most of the show’s performers not alive when Jackson released her 1986 breakthrough album, “Control,” many of them would have been learning to read a clock around the time of her Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.”

Ed Sheeran took home six golden microphones, including the one for top artist. Kendrick Lamar also won six, including top rap artist, while Bruno Mars won five, including top R&B artist. The three led all nominees with 15 each. Las Vegas’ Imagine Dragons won four awards.

For a celebration of music, the night took several somber turns.

Clarkson began the show with what was designed as a moment of silence for the victims of Friday’s shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas. “I’m so sick of ‘moment of silence.’ It’s not working,” she said through tears. Instead, she called for “a moment of action” and “a moment of change.”

Mendes and Khalid, who’d already performed separately, returned to sing “Youth” with the show choir from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The song, which includes the lyric “Waking up to headlines/Filled with devastation again/My heart is broken/But I keep going,” was Mendes response to last May’s terror attack at a Grande concert in Manchester, England.

Presenters The Chainsmokers and Halsey honored the late Avicii, with the latter calling his death “a reminder to all of us to be there and to support and love all of our friends and family members who may be struggling with mental health issues.”

Luis Fonsi dedicated the award for top Hot 100 song for “Despacito,” his collaboration with Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, “to all my Latino brothers, all the immigrants, all the Dreamers out there — all of those that get made fun of when they speak with an accent.”

Macklemore and Kesha sang “Good Old Days” under the stars in front of T-Mobile Arena, because the wireless carrier is sponsoring their upcoming tour. The prerecorded performance aired while it was still daylight.

Lipa sang “New Rules” while wearing a purple silk robe as though she was just awoken from a slumber party that, for some reason, was being held atop a massive flamingo.

And, in keeping with its split personality, the show was bookended by the 24-year-old Grande singing “No Tears Left to Cry” and a medley of hits performed by Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue, celebrating the former’s “Push It,” which hit the Billboard Top 40 chart three decades ago.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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