Though it ran a lengthy three hours long, the 2020 Billboard Music Awards whisked viewers away from the treachery of this past year with a stellar lineup of (socially-distanced) performers and excellent hosting duties by Kelly Clarkson.
The show, which celebrates all things chart-topping, was originally scheduled for April 2020 in Las Vegas, but it was delayed due to the pandemic, per People. That being said, the resulting (audience-free) Oct. 14, 2020 affair was broadcast live and boasted quite a roster. Post Malone, the most-nominated act with 16 nods, won top artist and crooned from a “top secret” location. Also, there was a “Dynamite” number from BTS, a medley from icon winner Garth Brooks, a deeply moving tribute from John Legend, and a terrifically retro, Chicago-esque set from Doja Cat. Acts like Lizzo and Billie Eilish stuck to accepting awards and giving politically-minded speeches.
But Kelly Clarkson may have won the night as host, her third time helming the show, per Billboard. Clarkson proved she’s learned a thing or two doing her talk show, keeping things humorous and amped-up. She even opened the night with a powerful, Whitney Houston number. “We’re just honestly trying to give everybody something a little normal,” Clarkson said ahead of the show, per E! News, “and provide the escapism that we all desperately need.” Well, escape we did! So that covers on-stage, but here’s what you didn’t see on TV at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.
There was no audience at the theater
Every award show has had its own take on the socially distanced format, from the Academy of Country Music Awards broadcasting from three Nashville venues to the Emmys’ hazmat suits. And the 2020 Billboard Music Awards followed suit — well, not hazmat suit — with… no audience.
Yup, there were zero people in the seats at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater. But Kelly Clarkson made light of the situation. “There’s no audience,” a chuckling Kelly Clarkson said in a gorgeous glittering gown, per People, before whipping out, yes, a remote device that cued laughter, clapping, and more. “LOVE IT!!! GREAT IDEA!!!,” one Twitter user wrote in response. “So then use it. The awkward silence is so uncomfortable,” another wrote. The remote was maybe underused, but Clarkson’s enthusiasm arguably made the whole night work.
Meanwhile, the days leading up to the show included socially-distanced rehearsals with Luke Combs and the amazing, newly reunited En Vogue, who closed the event. It all seemed like a lot of work. “We do not have an audience at the Dolby,” executive producer Mark Bracco told the Los Angeles Times. “But we’ve created a very cool, immersive set that allows us to engulf the whole venue.” Hmm. For safety, performers and tech did a daily temperature and “health check,” per Bracco. “We’re gonna have a little fun with it,” he added.
John Legend triumphed after a personal loss
The 2020 Billboard Music Awards saw the first live performance from John Legend after a tragic personal loss. On Oct. 1, 2020, Chrissy Teigen and husband Legend announced that after pregnancy complications, they had lost their child (via CNN). The mother of two posted a statement on social media confirming the devastating news, writing, “We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about.” The “All of Me” singer echoed her words, quoting the message and writing, “We love you, Jack.”
Though John Legend has stayed otherwise silent on social media ahead of returning to TV for Season 19 of The Voice in November 2020, the BBMAs were his first televised appearance since the news. According to People, NBC announced earlier in the week that he would be breaking that silence to perform “Never Break,” a song from his 2020 album Bigger Love during the awards show. And perform he did.
“This is for Chrissy,” the star said on stage, per AP. Taking to the piano, his inspiring, emotional number clearly moved audiences. “5 seconds of John Legend performance has passed and I’m already crying,” one Twitter user wrote. “John legend performance..im not crying..your crying..love 2 chrissy,” wrote another. “Our hearts go out to you both in this very difficult time and I’m thankful… for the very special performance, possibly my favorite of the night,” Kelly Clarkson said, per People.
Sia stepped out after adopting two teenagers
Sia appeared on the 2020 Billboard Music Awards to perform “Courage to Change,” a song from Music, the singer’s upcoming feature film directorial debut. If you’re reading that sentence and thinking, “Is there anything that Sia can’t do?” — the answer, as it turns out, is no. In addition to being a hugely successful singer and songwriter, offstage, Sia is the new adoptive mom to two 18-year-old boys.
In October 2020, Sia sat down with Vogue Australia and explained what prompted her to take in the near-adult children. She had previously revealed (via Billboard) that she wanted to stop the boys from aging out of the foster care system, but added more recently that she found the boys after seeing them on TV. The singer told Vogue, “I watched a documentary and saw my son. I was like: ‘What? Like, he doesn’t have anybody. Oh my god. I’m going to find him and I’m going to be his mummy.’ And so that’s what I did.”
Sia also added that she is considering fostering more, and younger, children, saying, “The next thing I’m planning to do is foster actual infants.” She explained that fostering children makes her feel “superhuman,” and despite being the hardest thing she’s ever done, she also lists it as the best.
Demi Lovato got political before the show
Demi Lovato appeared at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards to perform her new song, “Commander In Chief,” which features scathing lyrics aimed at President Donald Trump. The song features lines like “Do you get off on pain? We’re not pawns in your game,” and “Do you even know the truth? People are dyin’.” In case there was any doubt regarding the target of the song, Lovato appeared on CNN the afternoon before her performance to clear up any questions.
The singer told CNN on Oct. 14, 2020, “There’s been so many times that I’ve wanted to write the President a letter or sit down with him and ask him these questions.” She continued, “I thought one way that I could do that is writing a song and releasing it for the whole world to hear and then he has to answer those questions to everyone and not just me.” While the song is quite critical of the president, Lovato added that her message was not partisan, summing it up with, “Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, just get out and vote.”
Lovato’s song and comments weren’t without pushback, with some commenters voicing concern with her decision to speak and write about politics. Lovato shut down critics on her Instagram story (via Yahoo!), writing, “You do understand as a celebrity, I have a right to political views as well?” She added, “I literally don’t care if this ruins my career. This isn’t about that.”
BTS performed from the future
While all the other acts performed from the 2020 Billboard Music Awards stage in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2020, BTS performed their set live from the morning of Oct. 15. Yes, you read that right — the boy band was unable to travel to the United States thanks to COVID-19, so they took the stage in their native South Korea to deliver a mesmerizing performance of their hit song, “Dynamite.” Thanks to time zones, it was already the next day in Seoul, South Korea, so the boy band technically performed from the future for fans watching stateside.
The group also gave another subtle nod to their predicament, performing from Incheon International Airport, just outside of Seoul. The symbolism of their situation was not lost on fans, with one tweeter commenting, “They wanted to show their sadness they couldn’t do the world tour because of this pandemic,” going on to suggest that “it’s a promise they will fly for the ARMYs over the world soon.” Leave it to BTS fans to make the best out of a bad situation.
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