Welcome to the latest TGJ Roundtable!
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Though comprised of seasoned writers who share a similar outlook on Urban Pop culture, the idiosyncrasies of the TGJ team members often lend for quite heated debates “behind the scenes” about the hottest topics.
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Today’s roundtable topic asks each anchor their thoughts on the…
2018 Billboard Music Awards
The 2018 Billboard Music Awards read like a dream on paper; and while the reality didn’t deliver as hoped, it packed enough memorable moments to earn its spot as “the” award show to top this year.
It would be remiss of me to not begin with the night’s MVP – Icon recipient Janet Jackson.
Beyond being elated to see her receiving her dues on such a grandiose scale, I have been daydreaming for more months than I’m willing to admit about the stage slay she’d give upon her return to such a platform. Hence, my expectations were not only sky-high, but dangerously detailed.
As for the performance we received, I’m pleased but somewhat torn.
On the one hand, the setup was exquisite, big, and befitting (Bruno Mars!) What’s more, Janet hit all of her marks and served up the sass, drama, and trademark isms that have made her an Icon long before last night’s coronation. However, I was a little puzzled by the song choice.
The BBMAs are rooted in chart trajectories and Janet – with her 10 #1 singles and 100 million +records sold – is as impressive as impressive gets. So it would have been apt to see her salute some of those songs more head-on (see: ‘Rhythm Nation,’ ‘All For You,’ ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ and…even ‘Feedback’ – which is her most recent top 20).
Leaving those out in favor of lesser known numbers like ‘Throb’ and ‘When We Ooo’ confused me a lil. On tour? Great. On TV to a much more casual crowd? Not so sure.
Still, there’s no denying her ability to slay a stage each and every time. Hoping this births the beginning of more of such showings from her in the immediate future.
Now, from “mutha” to daughter.
Because if there’s any act ready, willing and able to draw on the potency of her musical ancestors it was Normani.
With Fifth Harmony in relative rearview, the 21-year-old showed up and showed OUT with her solo showing of ‘Love Lies’ with Khalid. The choreography (courtesy of the incredible Sean Bankhead and Aisha Francis) left me with whiplash – and I love it! I felt like I was watching the breakout moment of a budding superstar. Fingers crossed she books BET or something equally yoked so as to keep this mainstream momentum going.
Another showing I was anticipating almost as much as Janet’s was Christina Aguilera‘s. She’s been parked on The Voice for a such a grating amount of time that it’s easy to forget she used to be omnipresent on the charts and award show circuit.
As for how she and Demi Lovato did with ‘Fall In Line,’ I was impressed. She followed through a coherent theme, look, and vocal display. Demi Lovato, maybe nervous or so, saw her voice train veer off-track a few times but nothing enough to stop this from being a solid showing holistically. I am, however, eager to see Xtina tackle the song in different forms on her promo trail (see: solo, acoustic, stripped back).
Elsewhere, Jennifer Lopez delivered with ‘Dinero.’ That said, she has the odd predicament of slaying so well with similar formations, that it’s all a bit “auto-pilot” at this point. Perhaps it’s the generic nature of the song, but her performance didn’t immediately jump to mind when recalling last night’s activity. Though a slay is a slay, which must count for something…right?!
Other touch-points include Kelly Clarkson (who proved she can sing anything with that spectacular opening), Camila Cabello (who has yet to deliver a legitimate “wow” moment yet), and Ariana Grande (who was vocally on-point but a bit forgetful).
Last night was brilliant!
After a dry spell, the industry has finally churned out a new batch of promising performers who joined their establish peers to make the ceremony one of its strongest yet.
The highlights for me? Normani and Khalid’s brilliantly choreographed delivery of ‘Love Lies’, Kelly Clarkson’s use of the platform to call out for gun control and-of course- Janet Jackson’s performance and the powerful speech she delivered in support of the #MeToo movement. Though I wasn’t as impressed by some of the camera angles used to capture her moves, Janet’s delivery will undoubtedly go a long way to remind the world of her gift and her unshakeable place in Pop culture after efforts made by some to erase it.
Any low points? Only a few. The first being that a number of Kelly Clarkson’s jokes fell flat; all of which weren’t helped by the reactions they garnered from members of the audience. Another? Jennifer Lopez’ performance. Though exciting, it didn’t offer anything fans haven’t seen from the stage-blazing siren before. That being said, I may not have appreciated it because I’m not a fan of ‘Dinero’ itself.
As a whole I will say this was one of the more enjoyable Billboard Music Awards in recent years. With the likes of Janet, J.Lo, Salt-N-Pepa & En Vogue, and Xtina all on one bill, it not only felt like some serious ‘girl power’ but it also felt like a great mix of acts from a historical standpoint. There were performers who represented the 90s, 2000s, and today. And, while overall the performances rendered were nod-worthy, the clear standouts were Janet, Xtina, and Normani/Khalid.
Yes, Khalid served his usual Ambien-flavored vocals, but Normani…Normani…Normani! That girl took those few seconds on stage and milked them like her rent money depended on it. If her showing doesn’t whet appetites for her solo ventures, what will?
Xtina and Demi were also noteworthy, albeit not exactly for all the right reasons. Just days after fans applauded the two – known for their propensity to be ‘Scream Queens’ – for their respective restraint on the recorded version of the tune ‘Fall In Line,’ they took to the #BBMAs to unveil a performance that sounded like they were auditioning for horror films. Xtina, admittedly not as much as Demi (who at times literally sounded like Mortal Kombat’s “Sindel”), but the showing unfortunately proved so many naysayers right who argued the two couldn’t get through a performance without hooting and howling for dear life.
On the opposite end of the screaming spectrum (*hehe*), Janet reminded everybody why she is truly The Queen! Granted, her actual performance was disappointingly short (as I was expecting something a la Britney Spears‘ 2016 #BBMAs) and the setlist could’ve included a few more classics, I appreciated its overall look and feel. It was a celebration befitting a legend of her caliber.
Can we say best overall award show in months and most exciting Billboard Awards in years?
Yesterday’s extravaganza was a celebration of the youth but also a great reminder of the talent that debuted and dazzled decades ago.
Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello and Dua Lipa all did their thing repping the “newbies” – in their respective lanes – but they were all positively out-staged by the fiery Normani in her award show solo debut with Khalid for their budding hit ‘Love Lies.’
Watching the ceremony felt like not only was she ready to elevate to the next level – but the industry at large is prepping and propping her up to do so too. And judging from what she is already serving, things are looking extremely enticing.
Onto Christina and Demi… let’s just say that Xtina slayed her part, Demi not so much. Hopefully that was enough to carry this song onto higher heights on the charts. Because Christina is oh so deserving of a solid comeback single and ‘Fall In Line’ couldn’t be a more perfect fit.
Whenever there’s a Janet Jackson performance, you already know that you are in for a treat. While I’m sure the general public would say that’s exactly what they got, I can’t say it was the case for me. As a die-hard (proud) Ms. Jackson stan, I was expecting more songs and more theatrics. Still, what she served was top-notch and she looked incredible. Let’s hope this was only the first of many more high-profile appearances.
Salt-n-Peppa and En Vogue brought the heat, Kelly Clarkson served very well as a host – her J.Lo-inspired retrospective performance was fantastic- and the winners list was quite reflective of what you can witness on the Billboard charts..
Salute to the BBMAs for a great evening !
Do you agree with our picks? Who was spot on? Let us know your thoughts on the latest TGJ Roundtable and your thoughts on the 2018 BBMAs.