TGJ Roundtable: 2018 Billboard Music Awards Review [#BBMAs]

Published: Monday 21st May 2018 by Sam

Welcome to the latest TGJ Roundtable!

Over the years, That Grape Juice has established a distinguished voice that – whether loved or loathed – sparks discussion, debate, and on occasion drama!

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.

Now, we give you a front row seat to the show. In a format similar to ‘The View’ or ‘The Real’, TGJ editors – Sam, David, Rashad, and Joe – get real in a very candid way.

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.

Your thoughts?

[Photo credit: Getty]

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  1. Abel Minaj May 21, 2018

    “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.”- Sam

    Ok Beyonce fan ?

  2. pat May 21, 2018

    janet’s obviously saving the big slay for her tours ..she’s always done things her way which is what i love about her…..she’s refusing to be a greatest hits act because she has so much artistry still left…..can’t wait for the new music

    • Luke May 21, 2018

      What’s the point of saving for the tour when you have a GLOBAL audience in a big awaand show and you are about to release new music. This was her chance to SLAY like a beast. She did. But not like a beast. I’ve seen her on tour. She is unreal. She should have brought that to a global tv audience who wouldn’t necessarily realise how incredible she is. Most of them still don’t know unfortunately. Nice performance. But ‘nice’ isn’t enough. Still love her.

      • Jasmine Da Bi Asian NOT Trashmine or TROLLmine??‍♀️??‍♀️ May 21, 2018

        Honestly I think it was just the camera ppl. The performance was a slay but they showed too many crowd shots and wide shots and not enough Janet- period. At least a third of the video if of the damn crowd/

      • Luke May 21, 2018

        Even though the director was awful as you say, I’ve seen various camera phone uploads which are focused purely on JJ and in all fairness it doesn’t improve her performance a whole great deal. She was in sassy sophisticated mode. She wasn’t in I’m gonna sweat my ass off and dance like you guys have never seen before mode. I seriously think she needs to consider getting additional creative directorial help. Her main man did her no favours here. He f***** it

      • Jasmine Da Bi Asian NOT Trashmine or TROLLmine??‍♀️??‍♀️ May 21, 2018

        I don’t agree. If we saw Janet dancing the whole time it would have been amazing

  3. Jasmine Da Bi Asian NOT Trashmine or TROLLmine??‍♀️??‍♀️ May 21, 2018

    Y’all are disappointed in Janet but praising Xtina when she was yelling, flat, oversubg and out screamed by Demi Lovato. Lmfao.

  4. Luke May 21, 2018

    To the writers of Thatgrapejuice. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and opinions. This was a cool considered article. I’ve only started really getting into this blog. (Is it a blog? Not sure..) and I enjoy your articles. You guys rock. I’m a fan of your work.

  5. Jermany May 21, 2018

    Normani lip synched and you can see this “fierceness” at any gay club. Nothing new in gay culture. Nothing too impressive. NEXT

  6. Well now May 21, 2018

    Yall kill me with this talk about Janet doing more songs. On the bbma the icon performance has only been 4 min max(see cher jlo and other icon performances) Yes she could have done different songs, but whats great is that she did do something different rather than do what she did at the AMAs in 2009

    • Bam May 21, 2018

      Thank You! She’s done that run through of greatest hits enough. Here she took two songs and remixed them with other songs in her catalogue then added what is the best dance break ever from if. I feared she was gonna just do ama ‘09 and I’m so glad she didnt

  7. Joelle May 21, 2018

    I’ll say this, given that Janet has performed many of her hits over and over, especially on big platforms like award shows… Im so happy she performed throb!!! I wish she’d had scrapped the beginning part and just focused on throb, that song alone couldve been the performance with an even better routine and that being the main focus. We all know Janet has hits but our favorite thing about janet is our girl can get down.

  8. StarXavi May 21, 2018

    I thought Shawn Mendes and Khalid’s performance of Youth was really well done and their harmonies gave me chills.

  9. Ropeburn May 21, 2018

    I only watched it for the Janet’s performance and she killed it. But I will say it was a little too short for my taste and it left me wanting more. Which is why I’m planning on seeing her this summer at one of her live shows.

  10. Jason Lyric May 22, 2018

    At first I was also thrown off by the song choice HOWEVER I now get it.
    Her speech was laced with the #metoo movement and so were the songs she chose.
    The song Nasty was pretty much a declaration against the men who have been the violators. It was a message to men who take advantage of women. If you noticed right before she went into Throb she was standing at the top of the pyramid surrounded by all women in solidarity. The song Throb was a celebration of women of women taking control of their sexuality. Having the freedom to be in control and “not controlled”. Pretty awesome but subtle statements Ms. Janet.

  11. Rohit May 28, 2018

    Awards were really amazing..

  12. kAI June 11, 2018

    This is the amazing blog.. I really love it.

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