(AP) – An emotional Kelly Clarkson opened the 2018 Billboard Music Awards in tribute to the recent school children and teachers who died in Texas, barely able to speak as she urged the audience and the world to do more to prevent deadly shootings from happening.
Clarkson, who is hosting the show, said she was asked to hold a moment of silence for the 10 victims who died Friday, but chose instead to call for “a moment of action.”
“Once again we’re grieving for more kids that have died … I’m so sick of moment of silences … it’s not working,” she said Sunday, almost in tears. “Mommies and daddies should be able to send their kids to school.”
The Texan and mother of four added, “I can’t imagine getting that phone call or knock on the door.”
Friday’s attack at Santa Fe High School outside Houston left eight students and two teachers dead.
The mood eventually changed at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas as performers like Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes hit the stage, while Taylor Swift and Khalid won awards.
Swift, who is currently on a sold-out tour, won top female artist. She thanked “all the female artists who paved the way” and also dedicated the award “to the future female artists who just picked up a guitar.”
Luis Fonsi was passionate when he picked up top Hot 100 song for “Despacito,” the biggest hit of the last year which also included Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber.
“Thank you, guys, so much for embracing a mostly Spanish song,” he said. “This goes out to my Latino brothers, the immigrants … to all of those when they say ‘Speak English,’ this goes out to you.”
Before presenting the award to Fonsi, the Chainsmokers and Halsey remembered Avicii, the DJ-producer who died last month at age 28. The Chainsmokers also paid tribute to Avicii when the duo won top dance/electronic artist.
“We want to dedicate this award to Avicii,” said Andrew Taggart, adding that the Swedish musician “inspired all of us, influenced our music.”
“He will be missed,” Taggart said. “I hope you found peace.”
Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran tied for the most nominations with 15 each. They are up for the night’s biggest award — top artist — along with Swift and Drake. Lamar won six awards early Sunday, including top rap artist and top 200 Billboard album for “DAMN,” which won him the Pulitzer Prize for music earlier this year.
Despite all of the contemporary star power in the room, the night belongs to Janet Jackson.
After celebrating her 52nd birthday and the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking “janet.” album, Jackson will be capping off an epic week with her first televised performance in nine years at the show, where she will also receive the Icon Award.
Others set to take the stage include Jennifer Lopez, Camila Cabello, Macklemore, Kesha, Salt-N-Pepa, En Vogue, Zedd, Maren Morris and K-pop group BTS, who earned a rousing and screeching applause from fans each time the camera panned to them.
Swift and Cabello stood up to sing along as Mendes sang and strummed his guitar to “In My Blood”; Normani of Fifth Harmony was fierce as she performed “Love Lies” alongside Khalid; Grande followed Clarkson’s emotional words with an energetic performance of “No Tears Left to Cry”; and John Legend’s performance ended with a photo of his new baby boy displayed on the large screens at the arena.
Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato showcased a sense of sisterhood when they sang a duet onstage, ending the performance with foreheads touching.
Clarkson, who has become a fan favorite as a judge on “The Voice,” told jokes that won over the audience and sang a medley of hit songs, including Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder” and Lamar’s “Humble.”
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