Billboard Music Awards: The Weeknd wins big, Duran Duran returns to the stage

Billboard Music Awards: The Weeknd wins big, Duran Duran returns to the stage
The Weeknd was the big winner at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, taking home Top Artist. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- The Weeknd was the big winner at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, taking home the night's biggest prize, Top Artist.

Drake, Juice WRLD, Pop Smoke and Taylor Swift were also nominated for Top Artist.


"I do not take this for granted," The Weeknd said onstage.

The Jonas Brothers, which includes host Nick Jonas, closed out the night with a performance of "Leave Before You Love Me," alongside Marshmello. The band also launched into "Sucker" and "Only Human" before announcing their tour, with tickets going on sale Monday.

Duran Duran made a return to the stage ahead of their new album, titled Future Past, which is coming in October. The band performed virtually "Notorious," "Invisible" and "Hungry Like the Wolf."

The late Pop Smoke won Top Billboard 200 album for his project Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. Pop Smoke's mother accepted the award on his behalf and paid homage to her son.


The Weeknd performed his song "Save Your Tears" from an empty parking lot as he rode inside of a red muscle car. The singer's car was followed by a group of red and white cars and later semi trucks. The cars then circled him as the performance ended.

Machine Gun Kelly won Top Rock Artist and kissed his girlfriend, actress Megan Fox, before taking the stage to accept the award.

Drake was honored with the Artist of the Decade Award. The hip-hop superstar was introduced by a collection of his friends and family.

Drake and NBA star LeBron James narrated a video about his career accomplishments and noted how an actor from Canada was never meant to become one the most successful rappers of all time.

Drake came to the stage with his 3-year-old son, Adonis Graham, who started crying towards the end of his father's speech.

"I didn't really write a grandiose speech about how to make it work or what it took because to be really honest with you, I don't quite understand it myself," Drake said, after noting he is self-conscious about his music but he must have done something right to earn the award.


Before Drake's award, BTS gave a cinematic performance of their new English-language track "Butter" from South Korea.

The boy band danced and sang from a stage that was made to look like the red carpet at the Billboard Music Awards.

Trae Tha Truth received the Change Maker Award for his philanthropic work throughout Houston. The rapper was presented the award by Tina Knowles-Lawson who highlighted how Trae Tha Truth has become a hero and legend in Houston.

"When it comes to change it's important. That's why this award is so important to me. It's import to change people's lives. It's important to change the thoughts of those who give up at times. And it's important to change things that weren't designed for our best interest," Trae Tha Truth said.

Producer Swizz Beatz introduced the award for Top Rap Song and paid homage to the late DMX in the process. Beatz said DMX performed with raw passion and had the live audience throw up X signs before presenting the award to DaBaby for his song "Rockstar" featuring Roddy Ricch.

Karol G made her Billboard Music Awards debut by performing her songs "Bichota" and "El Makinón." Karol G sported aqua-colored hair and sang on top of a Hummer.


Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis performed with the Sounds of Blackness from Prince's Paisley Park studio in Minnesota. The performance was highlighted by images of Black Lives Matter protests that took place in the state.

Jon Bon Jovi presented Pink with the Icon Award. The honor recognizes artists who have achieved excellence on the Billboard charts and have made a mark on music.

"She told me she had a crush on me when she was just 7-years-old and when she heard I was married, it broke her heart. I felt bad and tried to make it up for it by sending her a life-size flower arrangement and a pair of my leather pants with a note that said, "Now you can finally get in my pants." Well, ever since then we've been friends," Bon Jovi said.

Pink took the stage and performed a number of her hit songs, including "Cover Me in Sunshine" alongside her 9-year-old daughter Willow Sage Hart. The mother and daughter duo hung from ropes and twirled in the air.

Pink also sang "All I know So Far," "So What," and "Who Knew."

"Dream big because what if it comes true?" Pink said as she accepted the award, after joking about how Bon Jovi broke her heart when he got married.


Bad Bunny won Top Latin Artist and received a loud ovation from the live audience.

Gabby Barrett won Top Country Female Artist and cried onstage as she accepted the award, stating that it meant so much to her. Barrett then learned she also won Top Country Song for "I Hope."

Former first lady Michelle Obama introduced Alicia Keys after a video retrospective on Keys' first album Songs in A Minor played.

"Alicia, you are such a shining light, such a singular force. You inspire me and my daughters and millions of fans all around the world," Obama said.

Keys, while on piano, played a melody of tracks from her first album, including "How Come You Don't Call Me" and "Fallin."

DJ Khaled was up first with H.E.R. and Migos as they performed their track "We Going Crazy" in front of an outdoor audience live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The trio were joined by numerous trumpet players.

Jonas then welcomed viewers and remarked on how better times are coming following the COVID-19 pandemic. Jonas said that the show would be taking place both indoors and out.


Doja Cat and SZA then took the indoor stage for a performance of their song "Kiss Me More." Dancers wearing giant orange balls on their heads danced alongside the singers.

The first award of the show --Top Hot 100 Artist went to The Weeknd. Comedian Lil Rel Howery presented the award.

"I would like to thank god that I don't have to wear that red suit anymore," The Weeknd joked about his look from his latest album, After Hours.

The Weeknd led all artists with 16 nominations, followed by DaBaby with 11 and Pop Smoke with 10.

The annual awards show announced a handful of winners before the live event, including The Weeknd winning Top Male Artist and Swift winning Top Female Artist and Top Billboard 200 Artist.

BTS took home Top Duo/Group, Top Song Sales Artist and Top Social Artist. Pop Smoke won Top New Artist and Drake won Top Streaming Songs Artist.

Nominees and winners are based on fan interactions with music, streaming, radio airplay, touring and social engagement, as tracked by Billboard.


A full list of winners can be found on Billboard's official website.

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