Top 20 Best Billboard Music Awards Performances
Top 20 Best Billboard Music Awards Performances

Top 20 Best Billboard Music Awards Performances

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Tal Fox
Why isn't there an award for Best Billboard Music Award performance? For this list, we'll be looking at the award show's most memorable musical acts that we're still talking about today. Our countdown includes Prince, Kesha, Pink, and more!

Top 20 Best Billboard Music Awards Performances

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Best Billboard Music Awards Performances.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the award show’s most memorable musical acts that we’re still talking about today.

Who would you love to see perform at the Billboard Music Awards? Let us know in the comments!

#20: Michael Jackson
“21st Billboard Music Awards” (2014)

It had been about five years since the world lost this icon, but the undisputed “King of Pop” was back on stage thanks to the latest technology. Although it was a five-month-long work in progress, it was unclear whether Billboard would be allowed to use the hologram until just days before the show. But it was worth every second. Performing “Slave to the Rhythm,” Jackson’s smooth vocals and signature dance moves, including his famous moonwalk, took us back to his legendary live shows. Even in hologram form, Jackson’s performance was powerful and affecting. The way he turned back into a painting to be admired at the end also left us with major goosebumps.

#19: Kelly Clarkson
“25th Billboard Music Awards” (2018) & “26th Billboard Music Awards” (2019)

The multi-talented artist had the honor of hosting the awards three years in a row, slaying each time. In 2018, Clarkson sang a medley of hits, proving that there’s no genre she can’t master. Just as you thought nothing could top that, she returned the following year to flex her rap skills and sing in Spanish, among other things. She’s one of the greatest vocalists of the modern era, and has a phenomenally compelling stage presence. Just look at the audience’s reactions the entire time! Plenty of us were on our feet dancing at home, too. Now that’s how you host a music award show.

#18: Prince
“20th Billboard Music Awards” (2013)

As the recipient of the prestigious “Icon Award,” Prince decided to put his trophy where his mouth is — not that we really needed any convincing. He rocked our hearts and minds with a medley of "Let's Go Crazy," "Fixurlifeup,” and the instrumental “Frankenstein.” It’s an extraordinary and rousing jam session that proves why the late Prince is one of the most influential musicians of all time. Tens of decades into his illustrious career, he could still energetically outperform most with his stage presence alone. We can only imagine how amazing it must have been to be in the room as this artist extraordinaire did his thing.

#17: Justin Bieber
“19th Billboard Music Awards” (2012)

Bieber Fever was all the rage in 2012, and moments like this only prove why. Energetic, upbeat, and fun, the Biebs went all out for this performance. It included fog machines, glow-in-the-dark outfits, and insanely talented dancers — some of whom were dressed as mimes. And his awesome moves were particularly thrilling to watch, as per usual. The singer’s youthful energy has often made him seem like the life of the party, and this was especially true during his “Boyfriend” era. Whether he’s dancing or interacting with the audience, you can tell that the stage is his home. Say what you will about the Canadian pop star, but there’s no denying that he’s quite the showman.

#16: Nicki Minaj
“24th Billboard Music Awards” (2017)

Minaj didn’t have to go THAT hard when opening the 2017 award show, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from the “Queen of Rap”. Performing an almost 10-minute long medley that included “No Frauds,” “Light My Body Up,” “Swalla,” and “Regret in Your Tears,” the star wasn’t messing around. Her stage presence alone made this extravaganza iconic, so the pyrotechnics, dancing, and impressive staging were just welcomed extras. Of course, the addition of guest stars Lil Wayne, David Guetta, and Jason Derulo was just the cherry on top. The performance was such a masterpiece that it was hard to believe anyone was brave enough to follow it.

#15: Taylor Swift & Brendon Urie
“26th Billboard Music Awards” (2019)

Swift is famous for her innovative performances, but she really pulled out all the stops for this one. Sparkling, bubbly, and utterly joyous, she presented audiences with a pastel-clad euphoric display for the first live televised performance of “ME!”. She was introduced by a drum fanfare, while Urie flew in later, Mary Poppins style. Everything from the incredible aerial performers to the duo’s excellent chemistry made this an unforgettable showing. It’s one of those moments that instantly puts a huge smile on your face. Plus, we totally want a ride in that floating umbrella. Taylor Swift never ceases to surprise us, and we couldn’t be more glad.

#14: Britney Spears
“23rd Billboard Music Awards” (2016)

Britney Spears’ award show performances have always been legendary. Indeed, her 1999 mash-up of “...Baby One More Time” and “Crazy” was unforgettable. But in 2016, Spears came back with an even bigger bang. Kicking off the show, she treated us to a megamix of hits. It was a confident and dynamic performance with mind-blowing choreography that showed everyone exactly why she was being honored with the Millennium Award that night. And when she threw it back to the iconic “I’m a Slave 4 U” choreography? Well, we’re not ashamed to admit that we were glued to our screens trying to replicate her moves. The entire performance was fun, energetic, sultry, and a powerful reminder that Britney always owns the stage.

#13: Rihanna & Britney Spears
“18th Billboard Music Awards” (2011)

We’re not done celebrating Britney Spears quite yet. She and Rihanna were the duo we didn’t know we needed, creating one of the sultriest acts in Billboard Music Awards history. RiRi dominated the stage singing her hit “S&M,” and it didn’t seem like it could get much better than that. But then she was joined by Britney, and we thought we might just lose our collective minds. Based on the audience’s reaction, we weren’t alone. It was a provocative performance complete with sexy outfits, seductive moves, great chain-ography, and stellar vocals. If either star ever decides to put out a new record, another collaboration — and performance — would be most welcome.

#12: *NSYNC
“11th Billboard Music Awards” (2000)

Let us take you back to the year 2000. *NSYNC was thriving, and set to deliver a momentous performance of “Just Got Paid.” Everything from their sound, to their moves, to their outfits was quintessentially 2000s, and watching it back still fills us with nostalgia. Wearing bright fur coats and hats, the band came out of a storybook, presenting audiences with a narrative that included props, dancing, and a choreographed bar fight. And of course, the best part was the beatboxing, because that never failed to take an early aughts performance to the next level! You could always rely on *NSYNC to deliver the vocals and give an epic show, and this was no exception.

#11: Janet Jackson
​​“17th Billboard Music Awards” (2006)

We don’t need to tell you that Janet Jackson’s the ultimate show woman. Indeed, this timeless performance speaks for itself. Before she even graced the stage, audiences got hyped with a montage showcasing her illustrious spanning career, narrated by the singer herself. Even so, nothing could have prepared us for the amazing number we were about to see. It was classic Janet: impressive, lively, and utterly mind-blowing. Her choreography was in a class of its own, and her style was totally mesmerizing. Of course, this wouldn’t be Jackson’s only Billboard show, but it stands out for its simplicity. We didn’t need anything more than Miss Jackson and her dancers tearing up the dance floor.

#10: John Legend & Jordin Sparks
“19th Billboard Music Awards” (2012)

In 2012, news of Whitney Houston’s passing shook the world, and naturally, everyone wanted to honor the singer’s legacy. And this stunning and stirring tribute still stands out among the best. It began with Legend’s heart-wrenching rendition of “Greatest Love of All,” before transitioning to Sparks, who beautifully sang “I Will Always Love You.” Houston’s music is notoriously challenging, even for the most accomplished singers. Yet both nailed the vocals without compromising on the emotion. It was a touching recognition of the late legend’s influence on the musical world and beyond. There’s no doubt they had the entire room gripped, and we can only imagine that Houston would’ve been beaming with pride too.

#9: Kesha
“23rd Billboard Music Awards” (2016)

Kesha stripped away much of the flashiness often seen in Billboard performances, instead giving us a raw and honest cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe.” And it was simply sensational. It’s not just that her voice is stunning; it’s also that you can tell the significance and care she puts into singing every single word and note. Her proximity to the audience adds a unique sense of intimacy too. This was among her first performances amid legal battles with her former producer, and you could feel every ounce of emotion being poured out into the song. It was just beautiful, and earned her a much-deserved standing ovation.

#8: Mariah Carey
“9th Billboard Music Awards” (1998)

When you have Carey’s powerhouse vocals, there’s little else you need to create a breathtaking performance. Indeed, she proved that here with her striking rendition of Brenda K. Starr’s “I Still Believe.” The ballad perfectly showcased her extraordinary range and gorgeous voice. Carey went for it from start to finish, and made hitting all those notes look easy, as she does. The simple yet strong showing still stands out as one of the finest in Billboard’s history. It was a big night for the singer, who was also being honored for being the female artist who had achieved the most Billboard No. 1s. This performance was the perfect way to commemorate such a special occasion.

#7: BTS
“27th Billboard Music Awards” (2020)

Everyone has their favorite BTS BBMAs appearance, but 2020’s “Dynamite” stands out, because it was exactly what we needed that year. The guys lit up the ceremony all the way from South Korea, garnering just as big of a reaction as if they were there in the room. The group put on a spectacular show highlighting their smooth vocals and killer dance moves, all to an incredibly catchy tune. BTS is as captivating, engaging, and exciting as always, especially when we’re watching them move with such impeccable synchronization. As some of the finest entertainers in the modern music biz, it’s no wonder they’ve recruited such a loving and dedicated ARMY.

#6: Pink
“23rd Billboard Music Awards” (2016)

Pink’s famous aerial performances are always a sight to behold, but she outdid herself this time. Appearing on stage looking fierce, she treated us to a daring show that saw her fly above the audience in an exhilarating moment, before landing back while still thrilling us. Naturally, her singing, dancing, and rapping were flawless the whole way through. Is there anything she can’t do? The number’s finale was especially fire, both literally and figuratively. Pink sat suspended in midair on clock hands in front of a flaming clock face. Meanwhile, her ensemble looked like something out of the world’s greatest circus act. Like her song says, Pink’s totally one of a kind, and there’s really no one like her.

#5: Taylor Swift
“20th Billboard Music Awards” (2013)

“22” is all about being carefree and having a good time, which is exactly what we got from Swift here. Starting backstage, she went all out to put on a show that was happy, free, exciting, and lively at the same time. She entered the main room on a bicycle, taking time to engage with the crowd as she made her way to the stage. We then got a colorful and thrilling dance segment, topped off with a downpour of balloons straight into the audience, giving us real party vibes. And we love that she did it all in a unicorn t-shirt. Needless to say, Swift’s performances are always refreshing, enjoyable, and full of surprises.

#4: Bruno Mars
“20th Billboard Music Awards” (2013)

Bruno and The Hooligans became disco to open the show. Dressed in matching red suits and exhibiting their signature dance moves, the artists dazzled on stage. And not just because they were surrounded by flashing lights and endless glitter balls. It was all very jazzy and joyful, giving us major throwback nostalgia. Audiences could likely picture themselves traveling back in time to the ‘70s and grooving out to this song in a club. It was the perfect choice to kick off the event, and got everyone hyped for the night ahead. Bruno Mars always delivers, but he definitely shines the brightest when he’s keeping it old-school.

#3: Whitney Houston
“4th Billboard Music Awards” (1993)

With her powerhouse vocals, Houston showed that you don’t need anything extravagant or theatrical to put on a showstopper. She demonstrated her vocal range and unrivaled talent simply by standing in front of the microphone in a gorgeous dress and singing her heart out. Her elegantly effortless sound packed a strong punch and left us hanging onto her every note. Houston’s one-of-a-kind voice never fails to entrance and amaze, and the song is guaranteed to leave you with chills no matter how many times you hear it. Moments like this remind us of what a phenomenal singer and performer she was. There’ll never be anyone quite like her.

#2: Beyoncé
“18th Billboard Music Awards” (2011)

There’s nobody quite like Beyoncé, as evidenced by this iconic appearance. It began with a video of her family and multiple famous faces celebrating the singer’s achievements. And with this performance, she confirmed everything they said and more. It was artistic, dynamic, empowering, and a real visual marvel. There was a lot to take in, but Bey was in full control of it all. Whether it was interacting with her impressive backdrop, hitting every move, or letting her voice’s power soar, the amazing performer exuded perfection. It’s practically impossible to compete with Beyoncé’s showmanship, as she’s in a league of her own. They don’t call her Queen Bey for nothing!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Khalid & Normani, “25th Billboard Music Awards” (2018)
The Pair Absolutely Dazzled Us

Paula Abdul, “26th Billboard Music Awards” (2019)
She Has Countless Memorable Performances, but This One’s High up There

Rihanna, “23rd Billboard Music Awards” (2016)
A Beautiful Stripped Back Performance of “Love on the Brain”

Cher, “24th Billboard Music Awards” (2017)
A Phenomenal Show From 2017’s “Icon Award” Recipient

Ariana Grande, “25th Billboard Music Awards” (2018)
A Brilliantly Staged Number & Strong Start to the Show’s Performances

#1: Céline Dion
“24th Billboard Music Awards” (2017)

A true icon, Céline gave one of the most powerful and stirring renditions of “My Heart Will Go On” to celebrate its 20th anniversary. She simply stood on stage, veiled at first by a magnificent chandelier, and poured her heart out with every word. Having recently experienced loss herself, it felt like she was connecting with the number like never before, leaving us with chills. The endurance and vitality of her voice were as spellbinding as ever, especially when she hit the money note. It was a mesmerizing and beautiful showing that no doubt left audiences blurry-eyed. Performances like this are why our love for Céline Dion is still alive in our hearts, and…