If anything can compete with the Mad Men finale on television, it’s an award show that finds Kanye West, Britney Spears and an absurdly celebrity-filled Taylor Swift video in one place. So here’s our rundown of the best moments of Sunday night’s Billboard Music Awards.
Taylor Swift debuts the “Bad Blood” video
Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video generated more pre-release hype than most artists’ full-length albums, so you could have reasonably gotten sick of it before you even got to see it. But the video, which Swift finally premiered at the beginning of the Billboard Music Awards, lives up to its two promises: It’s high on concept and high on celebrities. Taking cues from Michael Jackson’s Thriller-era videos, the revenge-themed fantasy stars an uncharacteristically combative Swift as the boxing, war-declaring “Catastrophe” alongside fellow stars Selena Gomez, Jessica Alba, Cindy Crawford, Lena Dunham and Kendrick Lamar, who contributes rap verses to this new mix of the 1989 track.
Kanye West performs “All Day” and “Black Skinhead,” gets censored
Viewers couldn’t see much of Kanye West’s show-closing performance at the Billboard Music Awards—the rapper’s figure was surrounded by bright sparks and pyrotechnics. It was hard to hear him, too. West’s show was heavily censored, with notable periods of silence interrupting the verses. (By Rolling Stone’s count, more than a minute was cut off from the performance in sum.) But you could still catch the intensity in West’s (literally) fiery performance of new track “All Day” and the breathless Yeezus highlight “Black Skinhead.”
Van Halen’s weird Nicki Minaj shout-out
Van Halen took on “Panama” for the night’s first performance, shredding about as hard as any 60-year-old guys playing a 30-year-old song ever can. But what drew more conversation than the performance was singer David Lee Roth’s strange call-out to Nicki Minaj. As the solos wound down, Roth muttered: “I’m gonna reach down between my legs and I’m gonna get Nicki Minaj to help me ease my seat back!” Maybe he wants to book Minaj for a relative’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah?
Hozier takes everyone to church. Again.
So you only know that one Hozier song and you’ve already made up your mind about it. This “Take Me to Church” performance won’t change your opinion! It’s just another self-assured take on the now-ubiquitous spiritual anthem with a rich, full-throated choir accompaniment.