Have We Officially Lost All Sense of Time, or Did Halloween Hit Early at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards?

Maiysha Kai
·6 mins read

It’s October, right? Frankly, we’re not entirely sure, at this point; the days are shorter, the darkness both literally and figuratively encroaching, and it’s getting colder—in fact, it’s starting to feel eerily like it did when we first started lockdown—maybe we’re stuck in a time loop?

At any rate, given that our current state of whateverthehellthisis doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, you can’t blame us for sitting through yet another painfully awkward socially distanced awards show (in fact, we should probably get used to them). We’re bored, y’all—and based on some of the lewks that hit the Billboard Awards stage on Wednesday night, a whole lot of celebs and their stylists are, too (c’mon, we can’t live on lounge sets alone). Quarantine has clearly sparked some extra creativity—and, in some cases, has proven that creating in a vacuum ain’t necessarily a good look at all.

Billboard Music Awards 2020: En Vogue Implores You to 'Free Your Mind,' Nearly 30 Years Later

One of the truest quips I’ve heard about fashion is: “there’s a fine line between an outfit and a get-up.” With the combined forces of a pandemic and a contentious presidential election effectively canceling Halloween this year, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of our faves were trying to find a way to preemptively celebrate the lost holiday. We’re well accustomed to entertainers being extra (and in a former life/career, yours truly was a repeat offender), but this year felt a little...dare we say, costumey?

Take perennial BBMA host Kelly Clarkson, who seemed to be paying tribute to Sunset Boulevard throughout the evening, donning a series of old-Hollywood-style gowns that looked borrowed from the closet of fictional silent screen star Norma Desmond (and believe it or not, coming from a classic film buff like me, that’s not a diss). Clarkson was just one of many of the night’s stars who appeared to be channeling someone else, entirely.

For instance: The Root’s Entertainment Writer Tonja Stidhum already chronicled the inexplicable prevalence of “bayangs” at this year’s ceremony, but Lil Nas X’s was, by far, the most dramatic, as he once again seemed to be dressing in homage to ‘80s-era Prince (and the more recently deceased Little Richard before him), wearing a vivid and fitted snakeskin suit by Gucci and giving us a hair look that might truly make doves cry.

That said, others recognized a potentially different influence at play...

Then, there was Alicia Keys, she of all things organic and all-natural, who recently launched a beauty line touting both. But her own beauty was almost unrecognizable at the BBMAs, as she rocked her own blowout and bayang with a spangled skintight look (though Keys has long loved a catsuit). Nicki Minaj may be on maternity leave from the music industry, but the “girl on fire” seemed more than ready to strut in her stead (or live vicariously in Nicki cosplay?) as she performed “Love Looks Good on You”—and clearly, I wasn’t the only one who noticed the resemblance.

Defying the odds of “cancel culture,” Doja Cat remains a controversial presence, even as she continues to rise in popularity—a fact she seemed to heartily embrace on Wednesday night as she took on the role of Chicago anti-heroine Roxie Hart to perform a medley of her nascent hits. If you were a fan of the 2002 film (at which time Doja Cat was only 7), you no doubt instantly recognized the scene, and the homage was actually pretty impressive in comparison, complete with Fosse-like choreography (plus some twerks).

“Vocal Bible” Brandy was hands-down the showstopper of the night, giving us easily one of the show’s best performances (honorable mention to Demi Lovato, who took on the “Commander-in-Chief” with her own powerful vocals), reminding us why we still “Wanna Be Down” with the now all-grown-up singer-songwriter. For the BBMAs, Brandy was outfitted in what I might personally describe as “Reconstruction realness,” rocking bronzed blond Bantu knots that literally put a new spin on her trademark braids. As for the ensemble, there was a lot of look going on: there were sneakers, trousers, a jacket with extended tails, a corsetted cumberbund, a high and ruffled-necked, Victorian-style blouse, and lace fingerless gloves and scarf. It was all very tea-stained and slightly tortured and...I admittedly don’t really know what the message was (or if there was one), so I mainly focused on the tremendous vocals and nostalgia.

However, given our recent immersion into HBO’s Lovecraft Country, a few inevitably had a...different takeaway—and hey, if that was Brandy’s message, we’re down with that, too.

We honestly couldn’t tell if Lizzo was dressed as a couture ballot box or our collective conscience (we hope), but she was clearly feeling good as hell in the all over the one-shouldered minidress Christian Siriano designed for her, touting a message we heartily endorse: VOTE.

In fact, Lizzo’s latest look came just a day after she donned another costume, putting her legendary twerking skills to work as “Auntie Sam” to encourage y’all to “get out and vote,” as the voice of Big Freedia commands. It was the kickoff to the singer’s campaign, LIZZOBEVOTING (which you can text to 26797 to make sure you’re registered to vote, confirm your polling location, and get reminders for all your elections.).

Lastly, there was En Vogue—who came dressed as...En Vogue, albeit three decades later and a couple of members twice removed. But the ladies, still rocking in their 50s, gave us the energy those of us of a certain age knew and loved from “Free Your Mind,” complete with thigh-high boots and leather (we still missed Dawn’s epic train, though—and Dawn and Maxine, come to think of it. No shade to “Miss R&B” Rhona Bennett, who definitely did her thing, but...nostalgia).

It was a fitting end to an otherwise odd ceremony—in keeping with the year—and after all those costumes, kind of killed any urge we had to celebrate Halloween in two weeks. Hell, the world is already scary enough.

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