So, the Billboard Music Awards. I did this last year, and I have to tell you: there are so many categories, guys. There are so many categories in the Billboard Music Awards, and they are mathematically derived! The winner is then chosen based on who sold the most! That is, as I mentioned last year when i finally got around to writing about them1, a fine thing in terms of actually awarding something concrete – an achievement award isn’t the most exciting thing ever, but it’s better than a Grammy, which is an award for being well-liked among a subset of people who might like anything, in the same sense that being, say, student council president is a separate and less-dumb award than being, like, the teachers’ official favorite2. It’s also much harder to argue about “rightfulness” when there’s a methodology that’s pretty clear-cut: you can’t argue that more people bought one song than another when the numbers actually exist3.
1 I almost didn’t again this year, actually. They’re really boring, and there’s a bunch of them. That’s why this is taking a different approach than they usually do.
2 actually, now I kind of wish schools had official elections among faculty members and that someone was declared the One True Favorite.
3 also, their period of eligibility, since they aren’t actually a promotional tool, but rather the televised wing of what amounts to a trade magazine, is the goddamned calendar year, which makes me endlessly happy.
So this year, with the Billboard Music Awards, as with the Oscars earlier in the year, I’m going to break with the form. Because the Billboard Music Awards aren’t really an awards show – they’re actually a showcase for pop music production numbers, and they’re also highly entertaining as visual entertainment. I genuinely like pop music, such as it is, and this is a pretty good way to get an idea of how the folks involved comport themselves as performers4. So let’s talk about the reason to watch it in the first place: the performances. So, without further ado, the likelihood of something being entertaining at the Billboard Music Awards. Thank you and goodnight.
4 especially since the likelihood that I’m going to make the time or financial investment of actually going somewhere to see them play in person is vanishingly low.
NB: When this piece was started, it had yet to go down that Ke$ha would not be performing at the ceremony. Since then, Dr. Luke’s company has put the smackdown on that, so she has had to pull out because of the draconian contract that has kept her from working in general. Obviously Dr. Luke is still a shithead, and that sucks. Not the least because Ke$ha is a generally-better television performer than a bunch of these people. I guess she was doing a Bob Dylan thing? I dunno.
FURTHER EDIT: Ke$ha will be performing as part of a Bob Dylan tribute, so what follows is her entry (I don’t know where in the show it will be):
Ke$ha, Something To Do With Bob Dylan
THE DEAL: After being jerked around by her ubermanage, notorious shithead Dr Luke, Ke$ha will sing a Bob Dylan song. She did “It Ain’t Me Babe” with Ben Folds a couple of days ago, and has in the past covered “The Times They Are a-Changin'”, so it’s probably going to be a song you already know.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Oh, probably. I mean, I’m inclined to be kind to Ke$ha after all this, so I guess there’s no harm in thinking it’ll probably be fine.
Celine Dion, “The Show Must Go On”
THE DEAL: They’re giving some sort of achievement to Celine Dion this year. I’m sure they have their reasons4. Wikipedia suggests this is the Queen song, which means that hands-down my least favorite voice in pop music is covering a song by a band that generally fails to move me entirely when they’re not actively annoying.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: God no. It’ll be operatic and showy, and will also feature Celine Dion singing a song, which, y’know, is generally something I try to avoid pretty stridently.
4 I mean, her chart performance has undeniably been a big thing, I’m just not clear on why 2016 is the year to make a thing out of it. So the reasons in question are the reasons for doing it now, not the reasons for doing it in general.
Pink, “Just Like Fire”
THE DEAL: Pink is going to perform a song on which she raps. It appears originally on the soundtrack to what is most-assuredly going to be the worst Tim Burton movie.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Pink is pretty unfailingly an entertaining television performer, certainly. The song is probably godawful, but maybe she’ll do something neat with the staging? So a qualified yes.
DNCE, Song Unknown
THE DEAL: This is the band that Joe Jonas5 is in now. They were in Fox’s Grease: Live being a Crickets-style rock band. They’re fine, I guess? I am probably going to be disappointed that the band’s name is meant to be pronounced like “dance” and not like “dunce,” which would be a much better band name.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Oh, probably. Again, they’ve been pretty good on television before, and I see no reason why they wouldn’t manage to do so again. Consistency is an important part of the whole thing, after all.
5 who at least one member of this website’s readership thinks is “the hot one”
The Go-Go’s, “We Got the Beat”
THE DEAL: The Go-Go’s are riding the reunion train again, provided that everyone can manage not to injure themselves or sue each other6. This victory lap includes a stop at the Billboard Music Awards.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: I mean, I don’t know much about what the Go-Go’s do onstage anymore, but “We Got the Beat” is pretty much a slam-dunk, so yeah, probably. Or maybe they’ll just decide to start suing each other onstage. That’d be pretty fun.
6 this is part of their “farewell tour” which was announced in 2010, and postponed because of Jane Wiedlin’s knee. Also at least one of them (Cathy Valentine, who was in the underrated Brian Brain) just sued the rest of them, but last I heard, that was over.
Shawn Mendes, Song Unknown
THE DEAL: Proof that the power of being Taylor Swift’s opening act can make you famous enough to outlast the social media network that launched you to fame7, Shawn Mendes is almost certainly going to do something chummy, strummy, and utterly unremarkable.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: No. It’ll probably put people to sleep, though. That could be useful on a Sunday evening.
7 Shawn Mendes became famous for being on Vine, which makes him just about the only one.
Justin Bieber, “Company” and “Sorry”
THE DEAL: I probably don’t have to explain Justin Bieber to you people, but, y’know, maybe he heard that Shawn Mendes was cornering the “Loathsome Canadian Butt-Person” market at the Billboard award, and signed up to perform his PR-salvage attempts.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Barring some interesting backup dancers or something, absolutely not.
Nick Jonas and Tove Lo, “Close”
THE DEAL: Another former Jonas brother here, performing with Swedish saddo Tove Lo. This is one of the more obviously-promotional performances, this being the advance single from Nick Jonas’ forthcoming album. I have very little to say about it in and of itself. Obviously.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Aw, jeez. I really like Nick Jonas the public person, and I think Tove Lo is admirably weird for a pop star, but man, this song is pretty hard to get through. So probably not, but I bet they’d be entertaining to, like, meet.
Demi Lovato, Song Uknown
THE DEAL: Demi Lovato still exists, and is still on television. Billboard the entity clearly loves her, because she gets awards and things from them all the time. This stands in stark contrast to any of her actual material, which has universally failed to entertain me for even one damn minute.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Of course it won’t.
Britney Spears, Greatest Hits Medley
THE DEAL: The centerpiece of the whole show, Britney is receiving the Millenium award8. I don’t know if her “greatest hits” are determined mathematically or what, but she’s basically doing her greatest hits every night at her Vegas show these days, and this is a big show-stopping number, so she’ll be fully-staged with an eye toward spectacle.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Man, Britney has high highs and low lows. She seems to have it pretty well together currently and, as mentioned, she’s already doing heavily-staged greatest hits shows every night, so it’s probably related to that, and it’s probably fine. The only real problem is that some of Britney’s “greatest hits” are godawful terrible songs, and it’s unlikely to be a medley of “Toxic,” “Womanizer” and “Crazy,” (although it may include those songs), which means the music is going to flag somewhat as the thing goes on. I’m willing to say it’ll be entertaining, but that parts of it are going to drag and be kind of dull.
8 which is different from the Icon award, which is what Celine Dion is receiving. It is important that we remember the halcyon days when records used to sell, I guess.
Fifth Harmony & Ty Dolla Sign, “Work From Home”
THE DEAL: “Work From Home” is one of the rare pop-music sex metaphors that’s so brain-splatteringly stupid you can’t help but think it’s kind of smart. The song is execrable, no one involved is in any way fun to watch or listen to, but I suppose someone has to perform after Britney, so why not bury this dumb bullshit there?
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: It might be worth something someday as an artifact of “this was somehow a successful pop song in 2016, for whatever value of ‘succesful’ could be applied,” but in the moment it’s unlikely to be any damn good at all.
Troye Sivan, Song Unknown
THE DEAL: Uh…actually, nature of performance unknown? This dude played Wolverine as a kid in the terrible Wolverine movie from a bunch of years ago (the one with the blasphemous Deadpool). But I guess he’s made a bunch of records! Wikipedia tells me so!
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Well, 100% of the things I’ve seen this dude perform on have been terrible to the point of wishing bodily harm upon him, so maybe not?
Ariana Grande, Song Unknown
THE DEAL: Ariana Grande is going to wiggle-dance and scream-sing another of her seemingly endless parade of somehow-successful singles.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Nope.
Blake Shelton & Gwen Stefani, “Go Ahead and Break My Heart”
THE DEAL: America’s most surreal celebrity love story continues apace, and they sing a song about inevitably not being a couple. It will probably continue to be surreal.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Oh, probably. They’re both good on tv. The song is nothing special, although it’s not the worst work either participant has ever done. And after the Fifth Harmony/Troye Sivan/Ariana Grande string before it, just about anything would look good.
Rihanna, Song Unknown
THE DEAL: It’s an awards show. There’s pop music people. Rihanna will be there. This seems, at this point, contractual.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: Oh, probably not. Rihanna is not a particularly dynamic performer. She sometimes does clever things with staging, and maybe there’ll be an exciting feature or something, but generally Rihanna performances aren’t the thing to get excited about.
Meghan Trainor, “No”
THE DEAL: You know, I have no idea what the function of the closing song on these sorts of things is meant to be. The people watching are probably going to bed, the people there are probably leaving to get their cars or the valet or whatever it is these people do. So this is exit music, then. Which I guess I’m willing to say is what Meghan Trainor is suited for, since I literally can’t imagine another circumstance under which this song (or any other Meghan Trainor song I have ever heard) would be any fun to listen to.
WILL IT ENTERTAIN: No, but you’ll be done watching anyway, so I guess it’ll do its job.