The Billboard Music Awards was a special night. Not only did the late Michael Jackson make an appearance via hologram, but Latina superstar Jennifer Lopez made history when she became the first woman to receive the Icon Award.
“Music has always been my first love,” said Lopez, 44, during an emotional speech where she thanked her family and friends.
The singer, who opened the three-hour show Sunday with a performance with Pitbull and Claudia Laeitte introducing the FIFA World Cup anthem, had a message to “her Latin people” and “all the little ones sitting in the living room floor watching the TV right now, just like I used to do when I was back in the Bronx.”
“Have faith. Dream big. Think big, and know that anything is possible,” the teary-eyed Lopez said. “You never know where you might end up.”
The Icon Award is a lifetime achievement award for an artist’s contribution to popular music. Previous recipients include Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder and most recently Prince.
While Justin Timberlake ruled the award show with a leading seven wins – he accepted the award from overseas where he is on tour – the night itself has a lot of Latin flavor.
Lopez’s ex-husband, Salsa crooner Marc Anthony took home the awards for best Latin star, best Latin album and best Latin song for “Vivir Mi Vida.”
Ricky Martin sang his World Cup song “Vida” composed by Elijah King, winner of the SuperSong contest while Colombian beauty Shakira took the stage to perform her most recent single “Empire.”
The talk of the night though, came from a holographic performance of the late King of Pop, which mirrored his signature slick dance moves.
Jackson’s hologram form performed “Slave to the Rhythm,” a song from his new posthumous album “Xscape,” along with a plethora of background dancers, beaming lights and fire blasts. It was easily the biggest moment at the awards show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“We tried to do as best we could what we thought Michael would have loved, and those of us who knew Michael really well, we had a good perspective on it,” Epic Records CEO L.A. Reid said backstage. Reid worked on the album and released it. “But the truth is, you can’t ever really know because he wasn’t there.”
Robin Thicke, who won four awards including top Hot 100 song for “Blurred Lines,” debuted a new song called “Get Her Back,” aiming to win over his actress-wife Paula Patton after they announced in February they were separating. He sang on bended knee and ended with the line: “I gotta get her back tonight.”
The night featured a number of collaborative performances, including an explosive duet from Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, while double winner Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line were crowd favorites when they performed “This Is How We Roll.” Even Underwood and her hockey player-husband Mike Fisher sang along.
Miley Cyrus performed The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips remotely from the United Kingdom, where she was on tour.
Katy Perry, who won top female artist, also performed remotely. Imagine Dragons, however, was present in Las Vegas, where the Billboard Music Awards marked a homecoming for the band. The Las Vegas-based rockers won five honors, including top duo/group and rock artist.
Lorde, who performed her new hit “Tennis Court,” was a double winner, taking home trophies for best new artist and rock song for the ubiquitous hit “Royals.”
Other performers included John Legend, who sang his current No. 1 hit “All of Me” on piano and a semi-racy Ariana Grande.