Whether or not you tuned into the 2014 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, you definitely heard about Michael Jackson’s resurrection. Five years after the King of Pop died, he returned in hologram form to “perform” a tune from his new posthumous album, “Xscape.”
But Jackson’s digital moonwalk wasn’t the only thing worth talking about (folks generally hated it). Nearly 20 performances from across the pop spectrum were stuffed into the three-hour telecast, including ones by Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Pitbull, Imagine Dragons and Luke Bryan.
With so much happening, it’s no surprise there’s more to say. Here are 10 pressing observations from the show.
1. Robin Thicke can do better. Word got out that the pop-R&B crooner would use the Billboard stage to woo his estranged wife Paula Patton by dedicating a new tune to her. “All right, you got to help me try to get her back now,” he told the crowd. Sweet gesture? Absolutely. Except the song, “Get Her Back,” was a saccharine number that could have used far more groveling. Sorry, this isn’t the song you sing to the love of your life, and it did nothing to help us forget those messy headlines about possible infidelity.
2. Milestone Award? The fan-voted honor is about ingenuity and innovation. Last year it went to Justin Bieber. This year Carrie Underwood nabbed the prize. We are confused. Kanye West, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé and Pharrell all had game-changing years full of musical innovation. What exactly is the criteria for this award again?
3. Chris Brown being behind bars is the best thing for Jason Derulo. We never noticed they were essentially the same act until Brown couldn’t be on hand to offer his signature brand of dance-heavy urban pop. Instead the audience got Derulo, who despite having plenty of fancy footwork lacks the charisma and live vocal chops to really win us over. His performance of “Talk Dirty” felt like a cheap imitation of something Brown would have done five years ago.
4. When did John Legend become a boring coffeehouse singer? There’s much to love about his sweet ballad “All of Me,” but watching Legend perform these days has become a chore. His segment, which included a shameless bank promotion, was a complete snore.
5. Ariana Grande is 20. It needs to be stated that the diminutive Grande is an adult. But her swift transition from pageant-ready princess to pin-up vixen has left us uncomfortable. Watching her perform alongside the much taller, and overtly sexual, Iggy Azalea just felt wrong — and the two are only three years apart.
6. Producers shoved the World Cup anthem down our throats. Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez opened the show with a song that is impossible to like (even more so if you’re from the World Cup’s host country Brazil). The whole thing was an overwrought disaster of cheesy lyrics and a by-the-numbers production. And just when we thought it was over, here comes Ricky Martin. His fluffy number felt like it was pulled straight from a Disney movie.
7. Worst pacing ever. Between that terrible World Cup opening, Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan’s bro-country assault and Shakira’s screeching, the first third of the show felt like the sluggish middle section of the show. How long was this thing again?
8. Don’t bother seeing Katy Perry on tour. The problem with beaming in performances from arena tours? Fans can see if it’s worth checking out. Perry’s Prismatic Tour hasn’t yet come to the States but based on the performance pulled in for the telecast there’s no point in dropping cash for it. The show looks flashy, but do you really need to pay $150 to see Perry barely sing?
9. Jennifer Lopez is 44. Lopez continues to be taken for granted. Like Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson before her, Lopez isn’t revered for her vocals. But in a genre where youth is celebrated, the 44-year-old pop diva still dazzles more than the gals half her age. Granted, we hated the World Cup song, but her solo performance (to support her Icon Award) wowed us more than Miley, Katy, Shakira and Ariana — combined.
10. 5 Seconds of Summer is not the Beatles. After reality “star” Kendall Jenner gloriously botched the introduction, a short video compared the Australian boy band’s U.S. debut to the Beatles’ arrival in America. Absolute blasphemy. If you put a gun to our head and asked us to name a single member of the group, let alone what they sounded like, we’d be dead. And, after hearing their song, probably happier.