A hologram of Jackson made its debut Sunday, mirroring the late icon's signature slick dance moves as some members of the audience became emotional, while Timberlake won seven prizes, including top artist and Billboard 200 album, and accepted the honors outside of the country where he was on tour.
"All the other finalists, Miley, Imagine Dragons, Bruno, Katy, I love you guys, it's not a competition, but if it is, I won!" Timberlake exclaimed, dancing with his band. "I want to thank everybody on Earth, everybody on Earth, except, except Donald Sterling."
Timberlake's idol was featured in hologram form, and it performed "Slave to the Rhythm," a song from Jackson's 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."
"And most importantly I'd like to thank my wife for her love and support and for putting up with me all these years," Thicke said onstage when he accepted top R&B song.
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.
Ariana Grande, who turns 21 next month, was semi-racy when she sang her hit "Problem" in a mini black and white dress alongside rapper Iggy Azalea. Grande was nominated for best new art, but she lost to breakthrough New Zealander Lorde.
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.
"I have to of course thank all of my amazing fans. ... Thank you everybody for making this (expletive) possible - oops. I'm on ABC, sorry," she said when accepting top streaming artist, sticking out her tongue at the end.
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.
"We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for people that believed in our band, in our small band that started here in Las Vegas from the very beginning," leader Dan Reynolds told the audience. He then thanked radio, family and management for their support, adding with a yell at the end: "And Billboard!"
Lorde was a double winner, taking home trophies for best new artist and rock song for the ubiquitous hit "Royals."
"This whole thing started for me with a song that was written when I was 15, which I know everyone knows, but what I want to say is I am 17 and a half now and I'm so thankful," she said as some of the crowd laughed. "That wasn't a joke. I'm so thankful that I've had the opportunity to learn and grow as a new artist in the spotlight."
Lorde performed her new hit "Tennis Court" in her signature black - and showcased her signature twitchy dance moves. Other performers included John Legend, who sang his current No. 1 hit "All of Me" on piano, a semi-racy Ariana Grande, a sultry Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, who received the icon award and performed at the beginning and end of the three-hour show.
While musicians dominated the awards show, Kendall Jenner turned some heads when she fumbled over her words - almost pulling a John Travolta - when introducing Australian pop group 5 Seconds of Summer.
"And now we welcome ... One ..." the 18-year-old reality star said, seeming to almost say One Direction, as she put her head down.
"Guys, I'm the worst reader."
Lorde performance, Michael Jackson hologram, Kendall Jenner flub, Robin Thicke plea to Paula Patton steal show
Every awards show producer craves moments, the things they'd love for us to spend our Monday mornings talking about and marveling over. The Billboard Music Awards had a fair number Sunday night - some funny, some weird, some kind of creepy even.
We start with Justin Timberlake ...
- The Man: Top winner JT proved he doesn't even have to be in the building to steal the show. The 33-year-old singer won two on-air awards, including top artist, the show's biggest honor. Timberlake's on tour and couldn't attend, but he sent video acceptance speeches filmed with his band crowded in the frame. They sang a thank you song in their first appearance, then danced with Timberlake in the second as he listed his fellow nominees: "I love you guys. It's not a competition, but if it was, I won!" Timberlake then aimed his sense of humor at the embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner: "I want to thank everybody on earth, everybody on earth ... except Donald Sterling." He then strutted out of the frame.
- Michael 2.0: It took a court order to clear the way for an appearance by the Michael Jackson hologram, but the range of reactions in the crowd was more interesting to watch than the reanimated pop king, truth be told. Some were moved to tears. Some were clearly astonished. Others scowled. The holographic image of a younger Jackson, singing "Slave to the Rhythm" from his second posthumously released album "Xscape," was effective for the most part. It appeared to interact with living dancers on stage after stepping down from a golden throne. The illusion was unexpectedly powerful when the hologram was alone on stage, so lifelike it was a little creepy. How long till these sorts of reconstructions are common place?
- They Said What?: We wonder if Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks will ever sign a player represented by rapper-turned-sports agent Jay Z after Sunday's show. Cuban had the night's biggest zinger, teaming with "Shark Tank" co-star Kevin O'Leary to capitalize on Jay Z's recent elevator escapade with sister-in-law Solange. "We just spent $3.2 billion to buy a hot new company called Beatdowns By Solange," they joked. It was one of the show's most memorable moments. And one Jay Z probably won't soon forget.
- I'm Sorry, So Sorry: While most celebrities fight to keep their relationship problems private, Robin Thicke enlisted the public during the show to help him convince estranged wife Paula Patton to give him a second chance. The two are separated and Thicke used his appearance to gain Patton's attention. After winning top R&B song, he thanked Patton "for her love and support and for putting up with me all these years." A little later he debuted "Get Her Back," a new song aimed at Patton's heart. "I never should have raised my voice or made you feel so small," Thicke sang. "I never should have asked you do to anything at all. ... I'll wait forever for you to love me again." He finished the song on his knees.
- Boy Band Bungle: To be honest, there are so many boy bands it can be hard to keep them straight. So it would be easy to forgive television personality and Kardashian satellite Kendall Jenner for getting confused when she appeared to nearly introduce British Boy Band One Direction in error. Except for one thing: It's hard to explain the mistake when the 5 Seconds of Summer's name was written down for her to read. Jenner had a simple excuse: "Guys, I'm the worst reader."
- Miley in the Sky: You can say one thing for Miley Cyrus: She's not repeating herself. Cyrus managed to pull off another oddly affecting awards show performance, joining with The Flaming Lips on a version of The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Cyrus and Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne, performing from the United Kingdom where Cyrus is on tour, were dressed in shiny coats that appeared to be made of Christmas tree tinsel. They slowed the song down, making it even more trippy than the original - if that's even possible.
- Dark Pop Angel: Lorde sure looked like a rebel, dressed in a black suit with feathered angel wings attached, and flashing devil's horns at one point while winning two on-air awards. Yet her speeches, including one devoted to the apparently tireless workers at her record label, couldn't have been more forthright and earnest. She actually read her first from her phone, something she called "kind of embarrassing ... I really don't want to screw it up."
Billboard Music Awards 2014 Winners
A list of winners at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday night:
TOP ARTIST: Justin Timberlake
TOP 100 HOT SONG: "Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. & Pharrell)
TOP BILLBOARD 200 ALBUM: "The 20/20 Experience," Justin Timberlake
TOP DUO/GROUP: Imagine Dragons
TOP NEW ARTIST: Lorde
TOP TOURING ARTIST: Bon Jovi
TOP MALE ARTIST: Justin Timberlake
TOP FEMALE ARTIST: Katy Perry
TOP HOT 100 ARTIST: Imagine Dragons
TOP BILLBOARD 200 ARTIST: Justin Timberlake
TOP DIGITAL SONGS ARTIST: Katy Perry
TOP RADIO SONGS ARTIST: Justin Timberlake
TOP SOCIAL ARTIST: Justin Bieber
TOP STREAMING ARTIST: Miley Cyrus
TOP R&B ARTIST: Justin Timberlake
TOP RAP ARTIST: Eminem
TOP COUNTRY ARTIST: Luke Bryan
TOP ROCK ARTIST: Imagine Dragons
TOP LATIN ARTIST: Marc Anthony
TOP DANCE/ELECTRONIC ARTIST: Daft Punk
TOP CHRISTIAN ARTIST: Chris Tomlin
TOP R&B ALBUM: "The 20/20 Experience," Justin Timberlake
TOP RAP ALBUM: "The Marshall Mathers LP2," Eminem
TOP COUNTRY ALBUM: "Crash My Party," Luke Bryan
TOP ROCK ALBUM: "Night Visions," Imagine Dragons
TOP LATIN ALBUM: "3.0," Marc Anthony
TOP DANCE/ELECTRONIC ALBUM: "Random Access Memories," Daft Punk
TOP CHRISTIAN ALBUM: "Precious Memories: Volume II," Alan Jackson
TOP DIGITAL SONG : "Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. & Pharrell)
TOP RADIO SONG: "Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. & Pharrell)
TOP STREAMING SONG (AUDIO): "Radioactive," Imagine Dragons
TOP STREAMING SONG (VIDEO): "Wrecking Ball," Miley Cyrus
TOP R&B SONG: "Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. & Pharrell)
TOP RAP SONG: "Can't Hold Us," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (featuring Ray Dalton)
TOP COUNTRY SONG: "Cruise," Florida Georgia Line (featuring Nelly)
TOP ROCK SONG: "Royals," Lorde
TOP LATIN SONG: "Vivir Mi Vida," Marc Anthony
TOP DANCE/ELECTRONIC SONG: "Wake Me Up," Avicii
TOP CHRISTIAN SONG: "Hello, My Name is," Matthew West
ICON AWARD: Jennifer Lopez