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Toronto rapper Drake became the Billboard Music Awards’ biggest winner ever, but it was Quebec chanteuse Céline Dion who stole the show Sunday night with her 20th-anniversary performance of her signature song, My Heart Will Go On.
Dion stunned the Las Vegas crowd while performing the iconic theme tune for the blockbuster film Titanic. It also won her an Academy Award for best original song.
Fresh from her Met Gala appearance, Dion sang under a giant sparkling chandelier and was resplendent in white with giant puffy sleeves; her voice was praised as being as strong as ever.
“It was not supposed to be part of the movie, period,” she told Billboard backstage about My Heart Will Go On. “James Cameron didn’t want to have any song in his movie.” She said being a part of a classic was a “very big, big honour.”
For his part, Drake set the record for most Billboard wins with 13, surpassing the 12 by Adele in 2012. He was nominated for a total of 22 awards. He also performed outside, in the middle of the Bellagio’s famed fountain, alongside fireworks and flames.
Some of Drake’s wins were:
Drake and Dion met for the first time, backstage. The rapper called Dion “iconic” and joked about getting a tattoo of her on his rib cage.
Drake and Beyoncé were among the early winners. He had earned 10 awards in early winners announced Sunday morning and picked up an 11th for top male artist in the first minutes of the show. Beyoncé? earned five in the early winners.
Nicki Minaj opened the Billboard Music Awards with an explosive nine-minute set of her top songs — including No Frauds, a response to a diss track from Remy Ma.
At various points, she was joined by Lil Wayne, DJ David Guetta and Jason Derulo.
As one of the most dominant figures in music & entertainment for over SIX DECADES, @cher is SO deserving of the #BBMAs Icon Award! #IconCher pic.twitter.com/4Of5sjZDG4
Vanessa Hudgens, host of the show on ABC with Ludacris, imitated Minaj’s rap onstage and earned applause from the crowd. Hudgens also sang some of Dion’s I’m Your Lady.
Another veteran diva, Cher, was feted with the Icon Award. The 71-year-old strutted the stage while performing her hit If I Could Turn Back Time, wearing a black leather get-up with sheer panels, and a matching black curly wig — an outfit reminiscent of the one she wore in her original 1989 music video.
Miley Cyrus introduced a new version of her persona, the low-key, in love Miley, when she performed her new song Malibu.
The new Miley is a far cry from the Disney child star who later consistently shocked audiences for years with her twerking and singing nude atop a giant wrecking ball.
Her sister, Noah Cyrus, noted in the intro that her sister, who is engaged to Liam Hemsworth, was “the happiest she had ever been.” The singer didn’t dance, but performed the acoustic driven slow-burning song in front of giant images of the beach and ocean and ended the song with teary eyes.
A moment of silence was observed for Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who was found dead Thursday in his hotel room in Detroit.
Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons said in the tribute that Cornell, who also sang lead in the band Audioslave, had “a voice for the ages.”
A leader of the grunge movement spreading out of Seattle, the 52-year-old will be buried Friday in Los Angeles.
Fire… fountains.. @drake… going to be hard to top that performance. #DRAKExBBMAs pic.twitter.com/r1dIHhI0A5