Billboard Music Awards pack in the stars, yet surprise few

Billboard Music Awards pack in the stars, yet surprise few
Dan Steinberg/The Associated Press

The Billboard Music Awards beamed a three-hour commercial for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority into millions of living rooms Sunday night.

Presenters took the stage at the MGM Grand Garden dressed as Elvis, performers employed shimmying showgirls, and comedy bits were set in recognizable Venetian, Caesars Palace and Mandalay Bay attractions.

The show capped a week of events that brought to town dozens of A-list musicians and fans from around the world who clamor to see them entering nightclubs.

For all of the excitement it brought to the Strip, however, the BMAs by its nature brought little of it to the stage. Accolades are conferred to artists based only on how popular they are (according to sales, downloads, radio play and social-media interaction). So last night’s big winners followed a long trend of surprising no one. (If you care, Eminem and Justin Bieber won six each, followed by Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Usher, Taylor Swift, Mumford & Sons, and Taio Cruz with three each).

The fact is, winning a BMA is insignificant compared with a Grammy or even an American Music Award, and that will not likely change. So the future of this franchise rests upon its ability to draw star acts and have them do interesting things. (The awards show was revived, incidentally, after a dormant five years in which no one seemed to notice its absence.)

Hosted by “The Hangover 2” star Ken Jeong, the show drew the stars. But it didn’t have them do interesting things. U2, for instance, didn’t perform. And while solid performances were delivered by Jennifer Lopez, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum, none were particularly inspiring.

The hopes of organizers were obviously pinned on an unbilled appearance by Britney Spears, who dueted on Rihanna’s show-opener “S&M,” and on her own “Till the World Ends” with Nicki Minaj. However, Spears failed to deliver, appearing listless and seeming to lip-sync.

The opposite end of the excitement spectrum was occupied by Cee Lo Green , who executed a mind-numbing somersaulting piano trick while somehow managing to sing “Bright Lights, Bigger City” and “Forget You” while not plummeting 25 feet to his death.

Of all performers, Neil Diamond, who won a Billboard “Icon” award, got the crowd the most worked up for the show finale: a medley of “Sweet Caroline” and “Coming to America.”

Perhaps the best indicator that nothing important happened on stage was the only moment that set the Internet a-twitter: Justin Bieber and his girlfriend, actress Selena Gomez, kissed in the audience after the 17-year-old star — who has never confirmed the relationship — won his award for best new artist.

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