Janet Jackson doesn’t make many TV appearances – so when the reclusive pop legend strutted out of the blue in her top hat and tuxedo dress at Sunday’s 2022 Billboard Music Awards to hand her friend Mary J. Blige the Icon Award, she was greeted with a standing ovation from her. Doja Cat, seated in the BBMA audience at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, looked particularly amazed, and her reaction instantly became a meme.
It was a women’s night of fandom and mutual appreciation at the BBMAs when Jackson, who received the Icon award at the 2018 Billboard Awards, paid tribute to Blige this year. “What makes an icon? ” she began. “Is it the ability to create, explore and practically pioneer an entire musical genre? Is it the gathering of millions of dedicated fans who breathe in your art daily, the same fans you constantly show love to? Is it a decades-long career full of not only hits, but also those songs that give you a certain feeling when you hear them and get a certain look on your face? You know, the look that says, ‘Daughter, yes! I understand! Yes!’ The answer is all of the above. The answer is tonight’s recipient of the 2022 Billboard Icon Award, Mary J. Blige.
Jackson went on to quote some of Blige’s most iconic songs: “Mary J. Blige represents truth. Her work has always comforted us because she sings to me, she sings to you. I remember, but I’m not going to cry, because even though sometimes it feels like it’s raining every day, I don’t have any drama anymore. I’m fine with my life, my life, my life, my life. In the Sun, Mary pledged to her fans to always be authentic now – that’s true love. When Blige then came out to give her own speech, she returned the love, telling Jackson, “Speaking of icons, you were always one of our biggest inspirations growing up.”
While Blige joked at the start of her speech, “I’ve got a lot to say, so please don’t roll the music ‘end it’ on my thing,” she seemed humbled in the presence of the greatness of Jackson and the honor of the Icon. himself. “The way the world is now, I think people think that icons are born that way, that they become legends overnight. But that’s definitely not the case,” she pointed out. “It takes a lot of time, hard work and a lot of survival, trial and error, to achieve greatness. What an icon means to me is overcoming obstacles to accomplish the unthinkable and be wildly admired for having an influence on a multitude of people, and that’s what I’ve always stood for.I’ve been on this journey for a long time – a journey that hasn’t always looked like what you see me now, a journey filled with a lot of heartbreak and pain. But God helped me channel those experiences and emotions into my music.
A little less humbly, Blige continued, moments after BBMA host Puff Daddy (aka Diddy) walked her onto the catwalk: “When Uptown Records’ Andre Harrell and Puff Daddy introduced the queen of hip-hop soul in the world, it was the start of a movement. Every girl downtown recognized hers and could relate to anything I said. And every female artist that entered the game wanted to do everything I did, and still does to this day. I was ghetto-fabulous, and I still am. So ghetto, so fabulous – and people were threatens by that. And now everyone wants to be ghetto-fabulous.
Blige triumphantly concluded, “The message of my music has always been that we are not alone in our struggles, and I am not alone now. For so long I searched for true love, but I finally found my true love, and that true love is me. Who runs Mary J. Blige now? MeHowever, she humbly added that “there is no me on the team” and thanked friends, family and industry influencers who have supported her throughout her career. long journey – including the late Harrell “for coming to these Schlobohm projects and giving us hope and retirement”, his “big brother” Diddy, and Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine “for inviting me to play the Super Bowl, because I am more than grateful.
Jackson and Blige may have stolen the show at this year’s Billboard Music Awards without even singing, but the three-hour telecast featured plenty of top artists, including Silk Sonic, Megan Thee Stallion, Ed Sheeran, Dan + Shay, Machine Gun Kelly, Miranda Lambert and Elle King, Florence + the Machine, Latto, Becky G, Maxwell (covering the unusual choice of “Lady in My Life” to commemorate Michael’s 40th birthday, mentioned Janet Jackson’s brother above Polar album)…and, controversially, Morgan Wallen and Travis Scott, in their first TV performances since their respective scandals. The night’s top winners in the regular categories were Olivia Rodrigo, who took home seven awards, and Drake, who won five.
For a full list of 2022 Billboard Music Awards winners, click here.
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