Billboard Music Awards: Britney Spears joins Rihanna, Beyonce runs the world, Cee Lo spins in space


Image Credit: Ethan Miller/

Duets in the air, do you care—do you love the smell of it?  (This post is written in real time; refresh for updates.)

Rihanna’s show-opening performance of her recent no. 1 single “S&M” became an R&B—yes, Rihanna and Britney: wordplay!—production when Spears joined a white-vinyl-clad RiRi onstage in her own black vinyl naughty-bunny gear for panting, pole-dancing, and a (semi)climactic pillow fight. Also, an endearingly un-vixenish song-closing collapse into giggles.

Host and Hangover star Ken Jeong kept his bits relatively covered in a sequin-lapeled tux for his own song-and-dance opener, with assists from Nicki Minaj and Train frontman Pat Monahan. The demurely suited, platinum-bobbed Minaj, working a sort of lady-executive “I just got my MBA in fabu” look, first teased Jeong before becoming his piano-writhing muse on a riffy runthrough of … Coldplay’s “Clocks?” Why not. Welcome to the 2011 Billboard Awards.

Two prizes later (Taylor, Biebs, the uzhe), we’re back to performances—and look! Fergie brought her best Tron dress. LEDs for everyone! And a group running man., Fergs, and the Our Time Other Two jump and party-pump as Peas do to “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “I Gotta Feeling.”

Time then, to dial down the party for a little Zen-garden reflection with Pitbull and Ne-Yo. Just kidding! Time for showgirls and lazers and “Give Me Everything.” It’s like the Cuban Copacabana up there.

A stately black-and-white video tribute to Beyoncé (Michele Obama, Babs, and Bono—all in the fan club) leads to the real thing: Queen B, in a Beyond Thunderdome spiderweb thread of a dress, is first her own army of backup dancers on “Run the World (Girls),” via fractal magic, and then the leader of a real-life tribe of silver-and-black clad fembot warriors.

I’m not totally sure what the Millenium Award is (you survived Y2k?), but it gives Beyoncé the chance to give one of the classiest acceptance speeches in recent memory—she thanks Destiny’s Child, yes, though not just Michelle and Kelly; a sincere shout-out to original members LaToya and LaTavia, too. And a sweet nod to her notoriously private husband: “I don’t want to put you on the spot because I know they’re probably putting the camera in your face right now, but I love me some Jay-Z.” He tries to keep Jigga-cool; then he just gives up and grins.

Is Cee-Lo the new, has-sex-with-ladies Liberace? Not since the latter went on to the Great Spangle in the Sky has Las Vegas seen a man and a piano simultaneously that sequinned. Cee runs through Gnarls Barkley oldie “Crazy” and his own recent solo single “Bright Lights, Big City” in normal-person earthbound gravity, before suddenly becoming a glitterball astronaut, floating up to the rafters on wires and spinning at his piano like a bedazzled rotisserie bird for “Forget You.”

Lady Antebellum follow Ken Jeong and Keith Urban’s dueling-banjo showdown (spoiler alert: Keith wins). What to say about Lady A? They sing “Just a Kiss” like they mean it; it is classy and very sincere and nobody humps a pole or has a pillow fight.

Does it break your heart that Taio Cruz keeps his clothes on for “Break Your Heart” and “Dynamite,” too? Well, throw your hands up in the air anyway. But you know, only sometimes.

After Justin Bieber says the word “amazing” an amazing number of times while accepting his Top Newmazing Artist Amazeward, it is time for OneRepublic to do “Good Life” solo (Ryan Tedder: having a pitchy night, dawg) before being joined by Far East Movement and then Snoop on a “Rockateer/Like a G-6″ twofer. With, like, Slutty Marie Antoinette backup dancers? Thematically confusing.

Apparently nobody told Mary J. Blige that this evening is not really about singing, because she’s kind of killing it on the a cappella intro to her snaky, soulful “Somebody to Love Me (Naked).” Somebody sure got the memo (and their trigger finger) on the blasphemy button though, because half of Lil Wayne’s words are not even making it to air.

Am I the only one who thinks Ke$ha is sounding unusually Lilith fairy tonight? She’s throwing some serious Sarah McLachlan/Alanis warble-growl vibes into “Animal.” Oh wait—now she’s doing “Blow,” and she sounds like a yelling Fraggle in a garbage bag again. Welcome back!

High-concept ahoy—it’s the S.S. Minaj, with some kind of furry mascot thing and stripey-leotarded sailor girls and tied-up slave guys and a boat and I don’t know if I get it, but “Super Bass” sounds super good.

Just because the Rapture didn’t happen doesn’t mean Nicki can’t sniff sniff cryyyyy Britney back to the stage so they can dance “Till the World Ends”; or at least till the next commercial break, which comes in approximately 35 seconds. You cameo like the wind, Brit.

Soon enough: hands, touching hands; touching me, touching you. Neil Diamond is giving Caroline and America their due, and frankly the kids should take a lesson: He’s sincerely entertaining in the most charming, get-the-whole-crowd-on-its-feet, thrill-the-elastic-waist-pants-off-your-Aunt-Gilda kind of way. No props, no porny costumes; just classic crazy, shining Diamond.

And with that—a good night. What did you think readers? Leave your comments below.

Read more:
Billboard Music Awards 2011: See what they wore

Comments (180 total) Add your comment
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  • LOL

    People watch this crap?

    • people are dumb, my friend


      • Pete

        Why are you surprised? The same people who watch this crap tune into Two And A Half Men.

    • Chris

      This should have been live blogged.

    • Sachie


    • coachbags

      You know, very popular this summer clothes? ” styshops “. AF, t-shirts, as long as the $12, still not quick action.

    • wakeforce

      I get the feeling L never gets laid, does she? I’m assuming your a woman who is constantly on the rag! You must be really fun at parties. Oh, you never get invited to any! Then, STFU!

      • wakeforce

        I know, it’s “you’re”, not “your”. Get a life.

    • MultiPass

      HILARIOUS recap. Thank you!

  • Classy!

    Loved Brit and Rih:-)

    • jen


  • T

    Looooved them both

  • Sachie


    • amber

      Britney and Rhianna were AWFUL! That was the lamest thing I have seen on an awards show in a while. They both barely tried.

      • Yeahhh

        Agreed. Rhianna started out okay, but she just didn’t have a great energy. At least she sang live. It’s embarrassing watching Britney lip synch time after time. I honestly get annoyed when people sing live with a back track (i.e. Lady Gaga… love the woman, you don’t need that darn back track) but that is at least better than lip synching… If you can’t sing don’t do live performances.

      • japer

        WHAT!!!! dont to live performances if you cant sing!!!! do you really think that dancing for over an hour at any event (granted this was five mins)and to dance/ perform as much as gaga, madonna,rhi,rhi, or brit. and you want them to sing live? it’s not going to happen. no one does over the top performances for a 2 hours show and sounds good. try singing for five mins while running and tell me if you sound out of breath.

      • Mike

        @japer – I have seen Gaga live multiple times … she does she has a couple back up singers on stage with her, but she does not use a backing track. She sings her heart out live for two hours. Awards shows are different due to smaller venues, acoustics, having to rework your song to fit a certain time frame, etc.

  • Justin

    Ugh Britney is so flawless. I’m glad I knew she was the “surprise” guest or I may have had a heart attack haha. I can’t wait to see her again performing with Nicki!!

    • Classy!

      Britney was super hot. Rihanna was gorgeous. Kinda felt bad for Rih bc the crowd went bonkers when Brit came out! They looked so good together on stage. Wish THEY were touring together.

      • xx100

        Wow, those two cameo’s by Britney was suppose to be performances? That was god awful.

      • fancypants

        Rihanna sang live and Britney lip synched which was an embarrassment. And don’t feel bad for Rihanna, she outshined Britney on every level during that performance and I’m saying that as someone who isn’t a Rihanna fan. Why was Brit lip synching while Rihanna sang live????

      • Limber

        Miles Walker December 28, 2010 at 12:02 pm Thanks Toby-Wilson. I’m excited for you to check out your duet I think you are going to love it for any mnebur of reasons. Thinking about your set up and recording goals, software compression might not be that bad .and there’s even ways of using it, to tape so it will still feel like how you record. If you are using Protools HD, you can set up you mic to input on and Aux track that has a software compressor on it. Then route that aux to a fresh audio track and arm it. That way, the compression will be recorded onto the signal, giving you your compression to tape feel you’ve done before. I’ve actually recorded this way when I’m been on the road and in a studio that didn’t have a compressor. It’s not my favorite way to work, but there are some tasty software compressor emulations that really do a great job .like TC Electronic’s CL-1B TDM emulation. Wow. Now..if you are using an all native based DAW, like logic or cubase, then you could do the same thing, however, you are introducing some latency into the signal which might end up being more trouble than it’s worth. For that instance, I’d say just record off your pre amp a little quieter than usual, and make up for it afterward, so you don’t accidently distort to tape. If you are looking for a better hardware solution for the a low budget, I’ve actually been really impressed with the RNC (really nice compressor) line. They are great half space solid state units that sound smooth if you are looking for a mild tracking compression. Super portable and really inexpensive for their function. When used subtly for tracking purposes, you can make something nice and even on the way in. I hope that gets you going. Take care

    • Amy

      Flawless? Come on, be real. I love the girl, but she was the only one during the whole show who didn’t sing live, and she barely even moved during her performances. The only compliment I can give is that she looked good.

    • Vicki

      Flawless? She looked tired and confused out there.

      • Julie

        She did look confused and off-balanced to me. I feel sad for her because I really think she’s ‘off’ now due to medication she has to be on. I miss the old Britney. The one who used to rock the stage.

      • Jenny Groves

        Agreed…Britney looked drugged, tired or both.

    • Justin

      Britney was a joke to herself! Rihanna sang, that britney didn’t even dance hard plus she lip synched. It was such a bad performance for a pop star who has been in the game for THIS long. She still looks like she has no clue. LOL

  • matt quest

    There is not one appealing “artist” in this show’s line up. Rihanna, Britney Spears these people are nothing more than glorified exotic dancers. There is no music in any of their music.

    • anonymous

      Agree 100%.

    • MT

      Rihanna and Britney’s performance was just…let’s say akward. Why was Britney there anyway if she had only two lines to sing? And don’t bring me “the guest singer” argument. I’m not buying it.
      I’m a proud fan of Beyonce because obviously she still the only one who wants to work up a sweat on stage. I feel fortunate to be part of the generation who watched Beyonce/Destiny’s Child, Pink, Alicia Keys, Usher, Justin T., Christina Aguilera. I think those people are the last generation of showstoppers. After ‘4’, she will start her family and we’ll all have to stick to stiff performances. Are we sure the world is not coming to an end afterall?

      • Sizzle sid

        I def agree..britney wad super odd performing with nicki too….she killed her career why is she still trying?…but s/o to queen be..a real artist who keeps it on point n gives you a real show

      • Classy!

        Britney killed her career?? You DO realize her last tour was better selling than Beyonce’s and Gaga’s? And her single is leagues ahead of Bey’s? It even went up a couple slots since the show:)

      • Classy!

        I mean on iTunes.

      • TO CLASSY

        Britney’s last tour did NOT outsell Gaga’s tour, not by far. Look it up before you start spouting nonsense.

      • Classy!

        I know it for a fact.

      • MT

        Then go check your fact again.
        Beyonce had the highest grossing tour for a solo artist in 2009 and Lady Gaga topped the Forbes most powerful list this year. Keep in mind that when Britney was on her last tour, Lady Gaga was new to the scene.

      • Classy!

        Beyonce’s tour grossed 104 million with 130 shows. Britney’s grossed 96 million with 75 shows. This is why Britney had the “best-selling” tour of 09 ( for a female). The 5th best-selling of all time (for females). Not to mention she toured and sold out TWO north America tours during a recession. So I’m just saying, for whoever said it, it’s quite an overstatement to say Brit killed her career.

      • Berry

        @ MT I’m a fan of everyone you mentioned except Justin Timberlake…he’s terrible. His songs are more superficial than Britney, Rihanna or Kesha. All those artists are great, but keep in mind that they are commerical pop artists, and they have had their share of raunchiness and overexposure as well.

  • batonrouge

    Britney spears looks awkard as she was walking away from rihanna. Britney spears has been rebrainwashed by the illuminati…Blackout was her cry for help…or cry for fun…

    • anonymous

      YES!!! Oh my god. Thank you for this comment. More people need to know about this. Research britney spears and mind control, people.

      • teehee

        Britney was the only person who lip-synced and she missed her cue when walking down the setp to the pole in addition to walking away from Rhianna at the end of the song. And what is up with Jason literally holding her in her seat. Bizarre.

      • Classy!

        Whatev. I thought it was dope. They were great together. I’m proud of Brit. It seemed like she sang live to me bc she sounded better than the song version. Brit and Rih worked it out!!

      • @Classy

        Your comments about Britney Spears are completely irrelevant because you lack objectivity. It doesn’t matter how lazily she performs or how blatantly she lip syncs you will lap it up like a mindless fanatic. She did not sing live her part live while Rihanna DID. How clueless can you be. Smh.

    • Jeff

      Couldn’t agree more…too many MK Ultra electric shock therapy treatments! :0

  • lee

    Beyonce!!! was awesome! She starting a revolution! loved it!

  • Newsflash

    Rihanna is a soft porn pig. That performance should not have aired at such an early hour.

    • Jennifer

      I totally agree…i have two girls ages 4 and 8 and were looking forward to this show, then Rihanna starts singing that song and i immediatly changed the channel. There is no way i am letting them watch that…

      • Paul

        Oh my god… I totally know. My boyfriend and I were horrified and covered our adorable yellow lab puppy’s eyes immediately. He ain’t learning that crap from a couple of slutty girls. A Hell no! (Seriously… they really weren’t that bad ladies. It’s a music awards show… Make a note for next time… they usually dress and dance skanky like that all the time… It shouldn’t be a surprise.)

      • a parent

        Yes, Paul, that makes it all OK for kids to watch..after all, it’s JUST a music awards show. Good for you Jennifer for being a good parent and caring about what your kids watch. I hope Paul sticks to caring for puppies.

      • Lee

        Your children had absolutely no idea what was happening on that stage at the moment. EVERYTHING was implied but not really shown. I tell you that your child will not become a stripper because two popstars performed on an awards show when your kid was 4 give it a rest.

  • Amazed

    Beyonce was AWESOME!! I loved those holograms and the dancing! The camera man shot too much in long shot,but overall it was fantastic! Esp when you saw what passed as a performance by Britney and Rihanna…that was nothing!

  • Liz Lemon

    Beyonce just brought the freaking HOUSE down. Amazing performance!

  • L

    Actually I thought it was bad judgement to open the show like that. AFV (family show) had just gone off, and it was 8 o’clock on the east coast. Geez. I can understand opening with a bang, but there could’ve been kids still in the room.

  • Dude

    Hate Beyonces song but damn that was a classy speech & awesome dancing!

    Lady A is still my favorite LOVE THEM!

    Anyone else think Ken Jeoung is a really bad host?

    Also what’s with the “Nicki Minaj performs with special guest Britney Spears”? Isn’t it Britneys song so shouldn’t Nicki be the “guest”?

    • Phil

      Classy speech? HAHAHA Why do people always wanna kiss B’s ass? Not only did she thank her mom, two timing father, Kelly & Michelle AND the other two original members of DC, and then her husband Jay whom she rarely talks about in public, but COMPLETELY ignored thanking her sister Solange while having her kid ham it up on camera for B!!! Anything but classy.

      • MT

        Is the fact that she lost 4 pounds in 5 minutes and she was out of breath doesn’t count? Give the woman a break.
        Bey and Jay take Juelz everywhere they go. Even Rihanna treats him like her nephew. Solo has no issue with that.
        She thanks and expresses her love to Jay-Z everytime she gets an award since they’re married.
        People are not kissing Bey’s a%s. Even if they should. She saves the show. Once again.

      • Liz Lemon

        Why does she have to talk about her husband? That’s no one’s business. Both of them are very private.
        Her speech was fantastic. HATER!

      • 3ph

        She thanked her family first, which usually includes the sister as I understand the word family.



    • Jen

      Apparently she won’t sing live for even 30 seconds. Watching her perform is depressing.

      • Sizzle sid

        Lol def agree

    • Amy

      Yeah, it was kind of jarring to hear Rihanna and Nicki Minaj sing live, and Britney comes out obviously lip-syncing. It seemed like Britney was the only person who lip-synced at the entire show.
      I like Britney Spears. Her new album is a fun pop/dance record. But I can’t really defend her at all when it comes to her live performances nowadays. Aside from walking, she barely even moved during the performance with Minaj. She’s not even trying anymore. It’s really disappointing. I would have considered going to her concert this summer, but I’m not going to pay to watch her drag herself around a stage for 2 hours. I wsh I had the chance to go to one of her concerts almost 10 years ago when she was in her prime and used to put on a show like nobody’s business.

      • Justin

        She lip synced 10 yrs ago.

      • Lee

        @justin she lip synched ten years ago but she was an amazing performer. The reason you went to a Britney show was to watch Britney. If your thing is watching an artist sit on a stool all night singing then be my guest.

      • Vaishali

        to me the people i like and eseprct and have that real talent are the people who got well-known from the start without having to be half naked on live TV such as celion dion, whitney houston, mariah carey these singers got the real voice and can sing and sound incredible on live performances! i know there are a lot of well-known singers but the way they got well-known is not right and sad because they didnt ge well-known cause how talented they are, they got well-known cause of showing off their body

    • lip sync police

      Erica, didn’t you know? BRITNEY CAN’T SING. She’s a studio product and nothing more.

  • Amazed

    Britney and Rihanna were SAD,no singing at all! RIhanna is very pretty,but the two of them were weak versus the energy of Beyonce!! She brought it!!

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