For the first time since 2019, the Billboard Music Awards returned to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday night (May 15), marking the 18th time the BBMAs were held at the storied Vegas venue — making it by far the most common host site for the 33-year-old awards show.
Memorable performances were delivered by the starry likes of Megan Thee Stallion, Silk Sonic, Ed Sheeran, Machine Gun Kelly and many more, while big winners on the evening included Doja Cat, Glass Animals and Icon Award recipient Mary J. Blige. But while you saw all that on TV and/or Peacock on Sunday night, there’s still plenty that went down inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena that you missed if you only watched remotely. Here’s some of the most memorable:
Pre-Show: Singer-songwriter Elle King entered the venue in a wheelchair and using a crutch, apparently at less than 100% physically in advance of her appearance alongside “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” co-star Miranda Lambert at the BBMAs. (You’d never have known it from her high-energy and seemingly unhindered performance later that night, however.) As she limped up to her interview with Billboard News’ Tetris Kelly on the red carpet (alongside Lambert), she explained that she had recently sprained her ankle — though that didn’t stop her from rocking bedazzled high heels.
8:03 p.m. ET: After introducing his “special surprise guest” Jack Harlow for a rendition of the rapper’s recent Billboard Hot 100-topping smash “First Class,” host and opening performer Diddy darted offstage — but took a moment to quickly greet some friendly faces in the first rows of the crowd (including his mother, Janice Combs) and then darted to a side stage for a performance of ’90s Bad Boy classic “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” alongside son King Combs and R&B star Teyana Taylor.
8:05: During the opening performance, Fat Joe, Shenseea and a lollipop-snacking Kali Uchis were all seen still waiting outside the MGM venue, unable to get to their seats until the next commercial break.
8:33: Diddy warns that he’s “gonna do something [awards show producers] hate” and demands that his teleprompter be turned off, before bellowing, “WE ARE FREE!” In case you were wondering: Yes, they actually did turn off the teleprompter in the venue at his command.
8:34: As the host calls his butler Frank onto the stage to announce the performance of one of his favorite artists, Rauw Alejandro, the Combs family stands and cheers in the audience for Diddy’s evidently beloved employee. As Alejandro performs, Ty Dolla $ign stands in the crowd, and Becky G dances to his rendition of “Cúrame.”
8:43: After talking to Becky G during a commercial break, Diplo goes to take his seat — but is interrupted by security checking his credentials, likely not aware of his superstar-producer status.
8:54: Fat Joe, Doja Cat and DJ Khaled are seated together and talking with one another during a commercial break, with Fat Joe’s arm around Khaled, his longtime collaborator. Later, the three take a photo together, captured by model/actress Cara Delevingne.
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9:01: A stage hand comes rushing out at the end of Lambert and King’s “Drunk” performance to make sure they don’t get bonked on the head by a rapidly descending stage covering while they’re frozen in end-song pose. He succeeds in getting them outside of the danger zone just in time.
9:10: A drum set (with an “MW” logo on the bass drum) that had been parked at the back of the venue floor is brought out to the side stage during a break, with Morgan Wallen’s band taking the stage and the drummer quietly warming up on his set. Sporadic spare chants of “Mor-gan Wal-len!” can be heard emanating throughout the crowd.
9:17: As Illenium ends his acceptance speech for best dance/electronic album (won by his Fallen Embers set) with the promise “See you soon,” a voice apparently very ready to hold him to it emerges from the audience: “See you next weekend! I’ll see you next weekend!! I’ll see you Sunday!!” (Indeed, Illenium is playing at Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival the following weekend.)
9:29: As Megan Thee Stallion takes the stage, the entire crowd jumps to their feet, and most whip out their cell phones to record the rap superstar’s performance. In the audience, Doja Cat can be seen rapping along to Megan’s new single “Plan B,” while DJ Khaled shimmies to the beat.
9:44: Introducing Icon Award recipient Mary J. Blige is the award’s 2018 winner, Janet Jackson. The reception to Jackson’s appearance inside the venue is somewhat overwhelming, with the loud standing ovation and shouts of “I LOVE YOU, JANET!” coming from all over the crowd, drowning out a good amount of her early remarks.
9:58: For the second time in the show’s second hour, practice flames unexpectedly shoot out from the stage in advance of an upcoming performance. The first time, it was for Megan Thee Stallion; this time it’s for Machine Gun Kelly — appropriate enough for the song he would ultimately play, “Twin Flame.”
10:29: After introducing a group of kids from Capital Prep Harden, one of the charter schools he’s launched in the northeast, Diddy dances excitedly as the show moves to a commercial break. Before leaving the venue’s floor, though, the mogul and all his students present come together for one big, awww-worthy group hug.
10:44: Following their twin podium visits for top rock artist and the special Pepsi Mic Drop Award (won for the historic journey of their Hot 100-topping hit “Heat Waves”), the members of Glass Animals can be seen outside the venue floor, waiting in line at a concession stand for drinks.
10:55: As Mary J. Blige exits the venue following the performance of her former co-headliner Maxwell (covering Michael Jackson’s “The Lady in My Life”), she gets big applause from the fans she passes. But those fans are quickly drowned out by the ones in the back of the arena who realize that the video being shown as commercial-break entertainment is one of K-pop superstars BTS, performing their Hot 100 top 10 hit “Boy With Luv” alongside Halsey at the 2019 BBMAs. From the volume of the screams, you’d never believe the group wasn’t even in the building.
–Additional reporting by Lucy Blonstein and Dan Rys
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