The best and worst moments at the 2020 Billboard Awards

The Billboard Music Awards took over Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2020, to hand out trophies to some of music’s top artists. With host Kelly Clarkson and performances from artists such as Garth Brooks, Bad Bunny, and Doja Cat, the night was eventful, to say the least. Billie Eilish took home a couple awards; Post Malone performed and snagged an award; and Lizzo encouraged viewers to vote and make their voices heard. 

Of course, as with every single award show across the entertainment industry, every high point is met with a low point, and the 2020 Billboard Music Awards were not immune. While there were some memorable performances that left us in tears, there were also some very awkward moments that we could have done without. Yes, we’ll chalk up many of the issues to COVID-19 and the changes that inevitably had to be made for production, but alas. Keep reading to check out our full review of the show!

Worst: The total lack of audience

These award shows in the time of COVID-19 are tricky, to say the least. The 2020 Billboard Music Awards didn’t have a live audience, and while that’s become the norm, it didn’t make the feel of the award show any less awkward. Host Kelly Clarkson made a couple jokes about talking to no one, but even her humor couldn’t save the situation. Clarkson also revealed that she had a canned audience noise machine that she could control — to emit laughs, claps, etc. — but that might have just made it worse? 

Playing to an empty room was tolerable while the performers were on stage singing, but there was something almost sad about announcing an award, only to have the artist take the stage to accept it with no one clapping. We tried clapping along at home, but it just didn’t have the same effect.

Best: Billie Eilish wore a face mask while accepting her awards

The 2020 Billboard Music Awards were already socially distanced, with no live audience to watch the ceremony or hear the artists’ performances in person, but Billie Eilish took COVID safety measures a step further, wearing a face mask while she accepted the awards for top Billboard 200 album and top female artist.

“Thank you to all the women that have come before me and paved my way. I love you,” Eilish said while accepting one of her prizes. “Please vote. Please wear a mask. Please wash your hands. Be safe.”

Awards shows are a break from the pandemic and election news — an attempt at normalcy amid so much uncertainty in the country, but with the election coming up and the coronavirus pandemic raging on, there’s no time to be complacent. Eilish’s straightforward message was a reminder to fans that the pandemic and the fight for social justice are far from over.

Worst: The winners felt scripted

With some award shows, it’s become obvious that if a nominee wants to win, they pretty much have to be in attendance. Fans and critics of many award shows have voiced irritation at shows not handing out awards fairly and favoring those willing to show up. While we won’t deny that any of the Billboard Music Award winners are worthy of their trophies, it was a little bit obvious that some, if not all, of them knew ahead of time that they’d won. Come on, a show during a pandemic with no audience, and yet every single winner was on hand to accept their award?

And let’s not forget those winners whose performances immediately followed the award they were nominated for — such as Luke Combs and Bad Bunny. Seems likely the show would not have been slated that way if the artists didn’t already know they’d won. Maybe the show required more careful planning this year due to COVID-19 and this was the result, but it was still a little disappointing.

Best: Lizzo wore a dress with a not-so-subtle message

Lizzo won the Billboard Music Award for top song sales artist, and she made a statement before she even started her acceptance speech. Wearing a one-shouldered black dress printed with the word “vote” in white letters, Lizzo’s point was clear. 

“I’ve been thinking a lot about suppression and the voices that refused to be suppressed,” Lizzo said in her acceptance speech. “And I wonder, would I be standing here right now if it weren’t for the big Black women who refused to have their voices be suppressed?”

The “Good As Hell” singer went on to remind fans that their voice matters and that they should vote in the upcoming election if they’re able to. “And I just want to say right now, if you’re at home watching this and you are thinking about changing yourself to feel worthy, this is your sign to remain true to who you are,” she added. “Let me tell you all something: When people try to suppress something, it’s normally because that thing holds power. They’re afraid of your power. There’s power in who you are. There’s power in your voice. So whether it’s through music, protests, or your right to vote, use your power, use your voice, and refuse to be suppressed.”

Worst: Harry Styles was a no-show

Though the winners seemed a bit scripted, considering they were all on hand to accept their awards (or available via video, like BTS), one artist was noticeably absent and completely unavailable to receive his award: Harry Styles. Styles won the chart achievement prize, which is picked by fans, but when presenter Addison Rae announced Styles as the winner, she went on to say he wasn’t there to receive the award and she’d accept it on his behalf. 

Fans of the “Falling” crooner know that he’s not much for award shows. While a member of One Direction, he attended shows all over the world, but as a solo artist, he’s more reserved and often chooses to just send his gratitude after the fact. That’s not to say he never shows up, though — he’s made appearances at the Brit Awards and the ARIA Awards. However, his lack of attendance at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards was a total bummer, particularly for the fans who helped him win and probably could have used a good-news surprise after a really rough year.

Best: John Legend dedicated 'Never Break' to Chrissy Teigen

In his first performance since he and Chrissy Teigen suffered a tragic pregnancy loss, John Legend delivered an emotional performance of his song “Never Break” at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards. The lyrics took on new meaning as he dedicated the piece to his wife, saying, “This is for Chrissy,” before he started to sing.

The song’s lyrics about facing adversity and sticking together hit differently after what the couple has gone through. “We will never break / built on a foundation / strong enough to stay,” Legend sang. “You are the explanation of what love really means / it’s bigger than you and me.”

Kelly Clarkson, who hosted the socially-distanced awards ceremony, also called Legend one of her all-time favorite artists and expressed her sympathy. “My heart, obviously all of our hearts, go out to you both in this very difficult time,” Clarkson said. “And I’m thankful that you continue to share your light and your talent with all of us.” She also said that the couple has a “warm way of inviting us into their world, the highs and the lows.”

The couple’s pregnancy loss is an unimaginable low, but their decision to talk about the experience with fans has resonated with countless people in similar situations. 

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