UPDATE SUNDAY NIGHT: Let's see how our predictions stacked up against the real winners!
Whoa, wait. Awards season is still going on? Well, not really, but with the glittering galas of the Oscars and the like now an almost-distant memory, there’s one lingerer whose lateness works for marketing: the Billboard Music Awards. This year’s edition, which airs live Sunday May 18 night from Las Vegas (and airs on Fusion's parent company ABC), greets an audience that’s just kinda gotten over award-show fatigue. And it comes right at the very tail end of when it feels appropriate to even be talking about 2013 entertainment any more.
Sooooo, how do the Billboard Music Awards distinguish themselves from, say, the Grammys, the VMAs, the AMAs, and so on? Unlike all those others, which use various voting schemes, the Billboards come the closest (arguably) to a transparent method for choosing winners. From Billboard itself:
“Billboard Music Awards finalists are based on key fan interactions with music, including album and digital singles sales, radio airplay, touring, streaming and social interactions on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, VEVO, Spotify and other popular online destinations for music. These measurements are tracked year-round by Billboard and its data partners, including Nielsen Entertainment and Next Big Sound. The awards are based on the reporting period of March 11, 2013 through March 9, 2014.”
Of course, Billboard’s chart calculations are not totally transparent, and have been rejiggered for the digital era. But hey, if you’re an enough of an obsessive fan or nerd, you could figure out all the award winners ahead of time.
The real fun of the Billboard Music Awards, though, comes from the performances. This year, they feature almost everyone who was relevant on Top 40 radio in 2013—from Miley to Luke Bryan—including a couple on the mainstream come-up in 2014, like Iggy Azalea and 5 Seconds of Summer.
So we’re taking educated-ish guesses at the winners for some of the top categories for you. If we’re wrong, well, feel free to come back and tell us to eat it.
UPDATE, POST-AWARDS: We predicted, and compared our guesses against the actual wins. Check it all out below.
Category: Top Artist
Nominees: Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake
Predicted Win: Bruno Mars. Here’s a bummer thing about Billboard awards—you can just, you know, open the 2013 year-end chart tabulations on the web site and see who did the best. Here’s the 2013 year-end list of top pop artists (meaning the top artists on the overall, “regular” Billboard charts, as opposed to “genre” charts like rock, country, and hip-hop). Bruno Mars topped it. (It seems weird that Taylor Swift isn’t nominated in this category, but even though she enjoyed monster success after Red, it started to taper off during this year’s awards time cutoff.)
Actual Winner: Justin Timberlake. Bruno had a monster 2013, but Justin's banner first quarter of 2014 must have been enough to edge him out. Regardless, it's a well-deserved win for an amazing artist.
Category: Top New Artist
Nominees: Bastille, Capital Cities, Ariana Grande, Lorde, Passenger
Predicted Win: Going by the same, not-super-scientific method of checking out Billboard’s 2013 year-end tabulations, we’re gonna go with Lorde, who made it to number 24 on their list of top pop artists. The closest runner-up after that was Ariana Grande at a fairly distant 44th slot. Bastille and the others only started to peek through with serious chart action in 2014, and Ariana Grande’s mostly hung out on genre charts like R&B.
Actual Winner: Lorde! We were right on the money.
Category: Top Male Artist
Nominees: Luke Bryan, Drake, Eminem, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake
Predicted Win: Bruno Mars. No matter how big the other guys were, Mars topped Billboard’s year-end 2013 chart as top pop artist overall. The pop charts still show an artist’s global, uber-mainstream reach. (Sell enough records, or score enough radio or online airplay, and you’ll get bumped onto the pop charts even if you’re a “genre artist.”) The first three on this list didn’t crack the top 10 of the year-end top pop artists, while Mars bested Timberlake on that list.
Actual Winner: Justin took this one too, for the same reason he took top artist overall.
Category: Top Female Artist
Nominees: Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Lorde, Katy Perry, Rihanna
Predicted Win: Despite the seeming ubiquity of Beyonce’s singles, and Miley’s constant media rumination, Rihanna edged out all the other nominees in Billboard’s year-end tabulation of top pop artists in 2013. Still, Bey had a banner early 2014—remember “Drunk In Love” every five minutes?—so that’s a possibility, too.
Actual Winner: Katy Perry. We won't hate—Katy's great. And though Rihanna may have achieved more pure chart action in 2013, the Billboard Music Awards also measure social media. We know Katy's KatyCats are fierce online!
Category: Top Hot 100 Song
Nominees: “Wrecking Ball” – Miley Cyrus; “Radioactive” – Imagine Dragons; “Royals” – Lorde; “Roar” – Katy Perry; “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke feat. T.I. & Pharrell Williams
Predicted Win: Hopefully they don’t waste too much precious broadcast time on this because you can figure it out by punching in the songs on Billboard’s web site. “Blurred Lines” hit number two on the year-end tabulation for Top Hot 100 songs in 2013. None of the other contenders really stand out as having rocketed back into the consciousness in early 2014.
Actual Winner: Yep, it was "Blurred Lines!"
Category: Top Latin Artist
Nominees: Marc Anthony, Gerardo Ortiz, Jenni Rivera, Prince Royce, Romeo Santos
Predicted Win: Again, sad trombone for people who like surprises—we can just go to Billboard’s 2013 year-end tabulation of top Latin artists. It’s no surprise that Jenni Rivera landed at the number-one slot there (http://www.billboard.com/charts/year-end/2013/top-latin-artists) since her untimely 2012 passing led to a boost in sales, radio airplay, and streaming.
Actual Winner: Marc Anthony. Interesting—that means the strength of "Vivir Mi Vida" and his latest album was enough to best all of the Rivera reminiscence of the beginning of 2013.
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.