2023 Billboard Music Awards' new digital-only format is a disastrous #FAIL: 'Whoever's in charge... is getting fired'

Fans blasted this year's experimental BBMAs — which was not a full-scale ceremony or even a live-stream — as "tragic," "terrible," "embarrassing," "weird as hell" and "the dumbest excuse for an awards show."

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Taylor Swift accepts her 2023 Billboard Music Award for Top Artist during one of the awkward night's pre-taped speeches. (YouTube)
Taylor Swift accepts her 2023 Billboard Music Award for Top Artist during one of the awkward night's pre-taped speeches. (YouTube)

There was a great deal of hype surrounding the long-running Billboard Music Awards’ bold shift this year from a traditional network television event to an experimental digital format — which was billed as a “reimagined award show concept” that would “entertain fans with music and exclusive content” from several unique locations worldwide.

But when the 2023 BBMAs actually took place Sunday via Billboard’s website and social media handles, fans who’d excitedly logged on to watch performances by K-pop groups NewJeans and Stray Kids, Colombian superstar Karol G, and Christmas queen Mariah Carey were dismayed that the host-free “ceremony” was not a full-scale awards show production or even an actual live-stream.

Instead, every 20 to 30 minutes, the BBMAs.watch site uploaded a pre-taped performance (Carey was playing a holiday concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday); during the between-performance downtime, the site ran artists’ pre-recorded acceptance speeches, most of which looked like they had been shot on Zoom or iPhones. But the same queued-up speech clips kept playing over and over in a loop, and to make matters worse, all of these videos were frequently interrupted — mid-song or mid-speech — by jarring 10-second ads for Lexus and Capital One.

Fans took to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, to vent about the “REALLY embarrassing” and “odd and frustrating format,” or about how the buggy Billboard site repeatedly crashed, stalled, or failed to load at all.

“This year’s BBMAs format is weird as hell. There’s no actual award show, they just posting the winners and performances,” tweeted one angry fan. “This has got to be the dumbest excuse for an awards show format. Just say you don’t have the money for a real show and cancel it. Your links even go to sites Microsoft AV blocks for phishing lol,” another posted while trying to watch Top Electronic/Dance Song winners Bebe Rexha and David Guetta’s performance. “Do not EVER use this format again. It's an absolute mess unless your intention is for no one to actually see the show #FAIL,” tweeted another.

Other outraged, or just plain confused, fan reactions can be read below.

As for the sporadic performances, Karol G, who won Top Latin Female Artist and Top Latin Touring Artist, opened the show (or was the first performer to have her clip uploaded), doing a watery medley of “QLONA,” “Ojos Ferrari,” and “Labios Mordidos.” Rexha and Guetta did orchestral versions of “I'm Good (Blue)” and “One in a Million”; Tate McRae performed “Greedy” from the Moxy Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles; Top Latin Song winner Peso Pluma did a boxing-themed “Rubicon” number featuring a Mike Tyson cameo; Carey belted an Aspen-inspired rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” accompanied by ice-skaters; 11-time 2023 BBMAs winner Morgan Wallen sang “98 Braves” for an audience of former ‘98 Braves MLB players on their home field in Atlanta; and Top Global K-Pop Artist winners NewJeans and Top K-Pop Album winners Stray Kids dazzled with their choreography.

These clips were all slick and well-produced, but they lacked the visceral excitement of a truly live awards-show presentation and were strangely reminiscent of the sort of 20-second locked-down, closed-set pandemic performances that awards ceremonies had to resort to in 2020 and 2021.

Along with Wallen’s 11 trophies, Taylor Swift was the night’s other big winner, earning 10 awards and accepting the year’s biggest honor, Top Artist, in — of course — a pre-taped clip. A full list of 2023 BBMAs winners can be found here, while frustrated fans who experienced technical difficulties when trying to load Billboard’s website will probably have better luck watching all of Sunday’s acceptance speeches, and some of the performances, on Billboard’s YouTube channel.

As for next year, hopefully the Billboard powers-that-be will realize that this was an experiment gone wrong, and the 2024 awards will return to a more traditional format… or at least Billboard’s webmaster will have ironed out the kinks on the awards’ website by then.

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