For a spectacle that billed itself as "the greatest musical party of the year," Sunday's Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas on Sunday felt more like a popularity contest -- and not a very exciting one at that.
Celebrating the most high-profile acts in the country, the show's winners are determined by sales, radio airplay, streams and social-media interactions. In other words, the three-hour ceremony wasn't about suspense or surprises.
So the night's biggest winner, of course, was Taylor Swift, who landed eight trophies.
A small handful of Swift's wins were aired last night, as were her reactions to the rest of the awards given. In what's become a tradition for Swift at these ceremonies, she looked Surprised!, dancing in approval to predictable wins by other artists and their performances. She even flexed her star power by premiering her cameo-filled music video "Bad Blood," in lieu of a performance to open the show. A bevy of her famous girlfriends occupied seats and got face time, courtesy of their proximity to Swift.
And because this is Vegas, there were numerous nods toward the high-profile pop offerings on the Strip (call it the price of admission).
Britney Spears was beamed in from her Planet Hollywood residency for a mimed performance of her "Fancy" remake, "Pretty Girls" featuring Iggy Azalea, as they both looked on from the crowd -- which was laughably strange.
Celine Dion presented a trophy. Faith Hill was a surprise guest with Little Big Town. Mariah Carey teased her new show with a medley to mark the 25th anniversary of her debut "Vision of Love" (and prove she's gotten over bronchitis).
Mostly passable moments, by award show standards.
But if this is supposed to be a parade of popularity, the soundtrack felt awfully "meh."
We didn't really need to see Nick Jonas or Hozier perform their biggest smashes for what seemed like the millionth time. Both should have instead used the moment to launch new singles.
John Legend did an awful duet with Meghan Trainor, who has yet to prove her hype. But seriously, couldn't producers have tapped him for the Ben E. King tribute? Imagine Dragons singing "Stand By Me" was borderline offensive, even though the crowd could care less as they hoisted cameraphones up to snap pictures and videos.
The crowd at the Billboard awards was a combination of bored industry professionals, Swift and One Direction admirers, overdressed tourists and loudmouthed drunks.
It's a scene that's become familiar at awards shows, where fans buy tickets to hopefully gain access to their favorite stars, or at least see them live along with a dozen other major artists.
Most frustrating about second-tier award shows such as Billboard, the American Music Awards, iHeart Radio, etc. is that producers refuse to wisen up to who's actually watching their productions.
It's a coveted demographic that certainly would go crazy for other artists besides Swift and One Direction, but clearly risk-taking is the biggest loser at all of these awards shows. Ellie Goulding, the Weeknd, Natalie La Rose, Walk the Moon and Major Lazer have monster smashes right now; where were they?
Bruno Mars was in Vegas literally the night before to headline Rock in Rio; why wasn't he onstage tearing up "Uptown Funk," which ruled radio for the bulk of this year?
Heck, even I despise everything about Flo Rida, but his latest record, "GDFR," is undeniable. Instead, we were subjected to yet another Pitbull collaboration we've already forgotten about.
Fifth Harmony has been the only girl group to make any noise worth caring about since the Pussycat Dolls, and Sunday they were relegated to presenting.
Go ask 10 rap fans what their favorite record is right now and most of them would pinpoint Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen." He's having a major moment and even the MTV Movie Awards -- which no music fan cares about -- was smart enough to book him.
Kendrick Lamar got some shine, even if it was as Swift's sidekick in her new video, while there was two appearances from Wiz Khalifa. Pass.
And Van Halen deserved way more than being carted out by Swift after her big moment as if they were part of her package deal.
Sure, the echoes of boos that came at the end of the show were meant for Kanye West's pyrotechnic-filled closer, but my jeers are aimed at this predictable mess.