The Billboard Music Awards is probably the silliest, least urgent awards show on TV. Nominees and winners are determined by sales, airplay, and social media metrics instead of votes, making the actual results a literal popularity contest. It's the Super Bowl for data junkies, but pointless to most people. So, what is it good for? Show-stopping performances, like the clinic in pop professionalism Britney Spears put on last night.
Contrary to what Bruno Mars might think, the show wasn't a total snooze. Rihanna sang a moving, heart-wrenching rendition of the ANTI standout "Love on the Brain," Kesha delivered a stirring performance of to Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe," and Celine Dion paid tribute to her late husband with a cover of Queen's "The Show Must Go On." But Britney's opening performance was the main attraction, a sublime combination of Las Vegas glitz and '00s pop excess.
Taking a break from wowing audiences at her Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino residency, the 34-year-old star danced with Mortal Kombat extras, pole danced, and rode a giant guitar like a mechanical bull, all while performing tracks like "Work," "Toxic," "Slave 4 U," and more. It was the perfect pop flashback, a reminder of just how far she's come since "...Baby One More Time." Watch it below:
It's a performance that comes at an interesting moment in Britney's career. As a revelatory New York Times piece examined earlier this month, Spears still lives under the court-approved conservatorship of her father and an attorney, who control all of her financial decisions and many other aspects of her life. It's an unusual arrangement, and she's talked about it less and less in public over the years.
Even as she readies a new album, posts charming Instagram pics about her family life, and delivers big TV performances, there's still a closed-off, unknowable quality to Britney. Her performance last night didn't exactly provide a peek behind that curtain. It wasn't vulnerable. Instead, it placed her in the middle of a circus-like spectacle, showing her talent and tenacity while letting her remain the alluring pop enigma she's been for over a decade. Maybe that's what makes it so powerful -- but also so puzzling.
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