Drake, The Weeknd poised for big night at Billboard Awards

Entertainment

Drake performs onstage in Toronto on Oct. 8, 2016, left, and The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game on Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Drake, the most decorated winner in the history of the Billboard Music Awards, will be named artist of the decade and The Weeknd, who has 16 nominations, will perform on Sunday’s show. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK (AP) — Some of the Grammys’ biggest critics, who felt they’ve been overlooked at the famed awards show, will take center stage at another event: the 2021 Billboard Music Awards.

The Weeknd called out the Grammys last year when he didn’t earn a single nomination for its 2021 show, despite having the year’s biggest song with “Blinding Lights” and a multi-platinum, multi-hit album with “After Hours.” But at Sunday’s Billboard Awards, he’s the top nominee competing for an impressive 16 awards.

With 27 wins, Drake is the most decorated artist in the history of the Billboard Awards. He’s up for seven honors this year and will receive the Artist of the Decade Award.

Drake has won four Grammys and The Weeknd has earned three — though they’ve been restricted to wins in the rap and R&B categories, instead of winning prizes like album, song or record of the year.

But the Canadian performers will battle for the top prize at the Billboard Awards — top artist — where competition includes Taylor Swift and late rappers Juice WRLD and Pop Smoke.

Despite dominating the charts and streaming services, Juice WRLD was also snubbed at the Grammys, held in March. Pop Smoke was restricted to a single nomination — best rap performance for the hit “Dior.” However, Swift won album of the year for a third time with “evermore.”

The Weeknd, Swift, Juice WRLD and Pop Smoke will compete for top Billboard 200 album, along with Lil Baby.

For top Hot 100 song, nominees include The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s “Rockstar,” Chris Brown and Young Thug’s “Go Crazy,” Gabby Barrett and Charlie Puth’s “I Hope,” and 24kGoldn and iann dior’s “Mood.”

Unlike other awards shows where committees determine nominees, the Billboard Awards’ finalists are based on album and digital sales, streaming, radio airplay and social engagement. The nominees for the 51 categories are based on the chart period of March 21, 2020, through April 3, 2021.

It’s the reason why controversial country singer Morgan Wallen is nominated for six awards. Because Wallen was caught on camera using a racial slur earlier this year, he wasn’t allowed to compete at the Academy of Country Music Awards or CMT Music Awards. But despite the fallout, he’s had major success on the country and pop charts with multiple songs from his sophomore album, “Dangerous: The Double Album.”

Billboard Awards producer dick clark productions did ban Wallen from participating in the show.

But Sunday will be jam-packed with other A-listers: Performers include The Weeknd, BTS, Bad Bunny, Doja Cat and SZA, twenty one pilots, DJ Khaled with H.E.R. and Migos, Karol G, Alicia Keys, Duran Duran, Jonas Brothers with Marshmello, and Pink, who will earn the ICON Award.

Presenters include Cynthia Erivo, Chelsea Handler, Swizz Beatz, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Gabrielle Union, Henry Golding, Leslie Odom Jr., Lil Rel Howery, Padma Lakshmi, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Lena Waithe and Dixie D’Amelio.

Following The Weeknd, DaBaby is the second most nominated act with 11. Pop Smoke earned 10 posthumous nominations, while Barrett is the leading female nominee with nine.

Others who scored multiple nominations include Bad Bunny, BTS, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat and Justin Bieber.

AJR, Glass Animals, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis with Sounds of Blackness and Ann Nesby will also perform Sunday, where rapper-activist Trae Tha Truth will receive the Change Maker Award.

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