The 15 Greatest Billboard Music Awards Performances Ever


This weekend, the Billboard Music Awards will return to Las Vegas for another star-studded event that is not to be missed. Over the years, viewers have been dazzled by legends and newcomers alike baring their souls and giving iconic performances during the telecast, whose 2018 ceremonies will air live on NBC at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m PT this Sunday (May 20). 

This year's three-hour event commemorates 60 years of the Billboard Hot 100 chart — and many current chart-toppers are expected to deliver performances that will be discussed for years to come. Ahead of the show, Billboard is recapping the 15 greatest performances to ever grace the BBMAs stage.

15. Rihanna and Britney Spears, “S&M” (2011)

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Decked out in a white leather ensemble with her hands chained together, Rihanna took to the Billboard stage to perform her unabashedly sex-positive single “S&M” in 2011. About halfway through, Britney Spears — who was featured on the single's much-hyped remix — appeared in a coordinating black bodysuit and mask. The “I’m A Slave 4 U” singer dropped her own verse, before the pair harmonized on the song’s chorus and matched each other’s choreography move for move. They concluded their bedroom-ready performance in the most fitting way: a playful pillow fight.

14. Hole, “Malibu” (1998)

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With an introduction from friend Drew Barrymore, the Courtney Love-fronted band gave us grunge and confetti for their performance of “Malibu.” Love's raspy voice melded perfectly with that of her bandmate Melissa Auf der Maur and the performance's multi-axe attack proved there's no such thing as too much guitar.

13. Shania Twain, “(If You're Not In It for Love) I'm Outta Here” (1995)

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Shania Twain rocked the house with her performance of “(If You’re Not In It for Love) I’m Outta Here” at the '95 Billboard Music Awards. The track — which peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 1996 — truly showed off Twain’s powerful vocals. Her performance at the awards show also shined with its simplicity; just Twain twirling and singing center stage with a band backing her up.

12. Alicia Keys, Angie Stone & Eve, “A Woman's Worth / Brotha” (2001)

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Keys delighted the audience with her signature piano and sang “A Woman’s Worth” with the accompaniment of a full band and backup singers. About two minutes in, she introduced soulstress Angie Stone to perform a funked-up remix of Stone's hit single “Brotha,” as photos of prolific black men flashed on the screen. The already spectacular show was further enhanced when the pair was joined by E-V-E, who dedicated her rap verse to “all the strong brothas.”

11. Janet Jackson, “The Pleasure Principle” / “So Excited” (2006)

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Janet demonstrated that 20 years after her debut, she was in “Control” as she performed a mashup of her hits “The Pleasure Principle” and “So Excited” during the 2006 BBMAs. Following a montage of her career-spanning visuals, Ms. Jackson emerged solo from a cloud of smoke to deliver her timeless choreography. From there, the energy of the moment went into full effect when she was joined by dancers during “So Excited” for a performance that was full of spins, flips and floor slides. 

10. *NSYNC, “Just Got Paid” (2000)

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*NSYNC covered Johnny Kemp’s new jack swing classic for their 2000 album No Strings Attached. That same year, the boy band took their rendition to the Billboard Music Awards and brought the song to life while wearing vibrant fur coats. The dynamic quartet emerged from an oversized book and delivered an entertaining walk through the song’s lyrics with all the necessary props. The performance descended into a party with “booty shaking all around” and it wouldn’t have been complete without the a capella break (beatboxing included).

9. Beyoncé, “Me, Myself and I” (2003)

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Beyoncé appeared to be her “own best friend” on stage while performing the 2003 ballad “Me, Myself, and I,” only accompanied by replicas of her likeness through a multi-paneled mirror. Bey’s performances are often limitless, and she took the song into the crowd to croon directly to OutKast, among other members of the audience. Upon returning to the stage, it was revealed that the reflections in the mirror were actually dancers made to look like the singer — and she was then joined by rows of blonde-fringed clones who helped her close out the show. 

8. P!nk, “God Is a DJ” (2003)

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Years before she incorporated circus-worthy acrobatics into her live shows, P!nk flipped and defied gravity at the 2003 Billboard Music Awards. During her performance of the inspirational Try This hit “God Is A DJ,” the stage was fittingly set to look like a turntable and the dancers busted moves all around. P!nk also cemented her badass reputation when she fell into the backup dancers' arms through a trust fall, and later sang upside down — prompting cheers all around.

7. Bruno Mars, “Treasure” (2013)

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The spirit of the 1970s was alive and well with Bruno Mars’ 2013 performance of “Treasure.” For starters, the stage was essentially a disco ball brought to life as many of the mirrored light fixtures lit up the set. Mars and his band, The Hooligans, also gave off Soul Train vibes as they coordinated dance moves in matching red suits. They even delivered an iconic dance break during the bridge, which truly rocked the house and turned into a party as confetti fell from the ceiling to their flawless harmonies.

6. Mariah Carey, “I Still Believe” (1998)

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In 1998, Mariah Carey accepted a historic Billboard Hot 100 award for having the most No. 1s on the chart of any female artist, with a total of 13 chart-topping singles — an honor she still holds, now clocking in at 18 No. 1s. Following an introduction from Stevie Wonder and Queen Latifah, Carey gave a chill-inducing performance of her “I Still Believe” ballad, a Brenda K. Starr cover. Fans could not contain their screams during the set, especially when MC's backing choir joined in for some untouchable harmonies.

5. Kesha, “It Ain't Me Babe” (2016)

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All eyes were on Kesha as she took to the Billboard Music Awards stage in 2016 for her first televised performance since undergoing a very public legal battle with her former mentor Dr. Luke. A vision in white, the star covered Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” and the emotional, stripped-down performance featured only her, a pianist and a violinist on stage with the lights down low. Kesha’s sentimental delivery showcased a new side of the pop star, and prompted applause with every verse.

4. Miguel, “Adorn” (2013)

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L.A. singer Miguel brought his seductive blend of alt-R&B to the BBMAs to perform his single “Adorn,” from 2012's Kaleidoscope Dream. Clad in a crisp white suit, Miguel delivered dreamy harmonies and showed off his moves — splits and all. The set design was equally captivating with its trippy screen projections of phrases and mood-setting colors. Although one of Miguel's stage jumps will forever live in infamy, the overall performance confirmed his star power. 

3. Celine Dion, “The Show Must Go On” (2016)

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In January 2016, Celine Dion tragically lost both her brother and husband to cancer in the same week. Months later, the veteran singer earned the Icon Award at the BBMAs and delivered a performance that further cemented her iconic status. Dion's flawless rendition of Queen's cinematic 1990 ballad was backed by a full orchestra, and she proved that indeed, “the show must go on” in honor of her loved ones.

2. Whitney Houston, “I Have Nothing” (1993)

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Whitney Houston swept the 1993 Billboard Music Awards, taking home a total of 11 awards. During the show, the powerhouse singer brought down the house with a performance of “I Have Nothing,” from the soundtrack of The Bodyguard. The track — which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year — showed off Houston's expansive vocal range, and her peerless performance at the awards ceremony can still induce goosebumps 25 years later.

1. Prince, “Let's Go Crazy / Frankenstein / Fix Ur Life Up” (2013)

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A true rock star, Prince gave the crowd ammunition to “live out loud” and more with his fiery 2013 performance at the BBMAs. After receiving the Icon Award, the Purple One presented a rousing mashup of his 1984 classic “Let's Go Crazy” with the newer jam “Fix Ur Life Up.” The legendary performer, who died in 2016, also shredded on stage with an epic cover of The Edgar Winter Group's instrumental track “Frankenstein” in between his own songs, sounding just as vital at age 54 as he had at any point in the prior three and a half decades. 

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