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Billboard Music Awards 2013 Not-So-Highlights (Commentary)

Let’s begin by saying at the heart of it, acknowledging and honoring an artist’s success on the charts should be no laughing matter. However, sometimes the drama that accompanies an awards show like last night’s Billboard Music Awards telecast makes it difficult to take the ceremonies seriously.

Perhaps it was the fans booing Justin Bieber as the first-ever recipient of the Milestone Award (ironically, the only fan-voted award of the night), prompting him to use his acceptance speech to defend himself as an artist. Perhaps it was Miguel’s ill-advised live performance leap that landed him on two female fans (fortunately no one was injured). Or perhaps it was the fact that Kid Rock’s tongue-in-cheek calling out of various live lip-synched performances on the show was actually one of the most honest moments of the night. More likely, it was the combination of moments like these that caused the BBMA to carry a tone of caricature rather than a serious music industry moment—so much so that not even a dynamic performance by Prince could save it.

Indeed, there are some who would question whether the Billboard Music Awards should even be a show (it did, in fact, go on hiatus for a number of years, only being revived in 2011). Unlike other awards shows, the BBMA are almost exclusively based on tabulating pre-determined chart and sales activity, not on voting (save for the Milestone Award mentioned earlier). The awards that are given are based solely on number crunching, so the fact that there are “nominees” and “winners” is really a matter of contrived drama to begin with. In reality, then, the only purpose this type of awards show serves is to give various musical artists a chance to get on television and promote their music and/or themselves. (Otherwise, it would simply being a matter of reading off who had the best numbers.) Is this enough to warrant putting on a full-blown, star-studded ceremony, complete with “blue carpet” festivities? That’s a matter of debate; there are plenty of other awards shows throughout the year that offer this kind of opportunity.

That being said, the numbers themselves don’t lie, and this year’s chart activity proved to create moments of vindication for several artists. Taylor Swift, who got very little attention this year at the Grammys or ACMs, walked away with no less than eight awards for her sales successes with her album Red—including Artist of the Year—her awards this year equaling more than her total accumulated BBMAs so far. Likewise, Justin Bieber, despite being completely snubbed by the Grammys and receiving boos from the audience, has to feel some sense of vindication by taking away three awards, including the fan-voted Milestone Award. Rihanna and Gotye were the other big winners of the night, taking home four awards each. (Rihanna effectively swept the R&B category this year.)

All told, congratulations are definitely in order for the winners, because as I said, the numbers don’t lie. Regardless of the hype or the ebb/flow of popularity surrounding each artist, the Billboard Music Awards do show which artists are actually getting airplay and selling records. It just seems there ought to be a better way of acknowledging these accomplishments without creating an environment that lends itself more to satire and gossip than actual artist achievement.


Click here to see Billboard’s official list of winners.

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About the Author


David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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