Kelly Clarkson opened the 2018 Billboard Music Awards with a powerful tribute to her home state.
The show’s host shed tears as she honored the 10 victims of Friday’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. “I’m a Texas girl and my home state has had so much heartbreak over this past year. Once again, y’all, we’re grieving more kids that have died for absolutely no reason at all,” Clarkson said as the MGM Grand venue was lit black.
“Tonight they wanted me to say that obviously, we want to pray for all the victims and families. They also wanted me to do a moment of silence and I’m so sick of moments of silence. It’s not working, obviously.”
“Why don’t we stop moments of silence and do a moment of action? Why don’t we do a moment of change? Change what’s happening, because it’s horrible. Mommies and daddies should be able to send their kids to school, to church, to movie theaters, to clubs. You should be able to live your life without that fear,” the mother of four said.
“So people need to do better. We are failing our children, we’re failing our communities. We’re failing their families. I have four children. I can’t imagine getting that phone call or knock on the door. So instead of a moment of silence, I want to respect them and honor them with tonight y’all in your community, where you live, your friends, everybody. Let’s have a moment of action, let’s have a moment of change.”
Also in her opening monologue, Clarkson reemphasized her call to action.
“I’m not going to try and cry anymore. I hate talking about it but you have to talk about it or no change is going to happen,” she said.
“What am I doing here you’re asking, me too. I don’t know but someone’s getting fired y’all but it ain’t me because I’m under contract,” Clarkson quipped as she began her opening jokes.
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“I get it hosts, people who generally host, they’re comedians like Amy Schumer, she’s awesome, Chris Rock, he’s awesome. Tonight you’re just getting me. And I’m a singer and this is obviously new for me so be nice and if you’re gonna be mean at least be funny,” she continued.
“I’ve decided that tonight I’m just going to be who I really am at these shows and I’m a big fan y’all, I love all these artists,” Clarkson said as she waved to Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato.
After her tearful call to action, Clarkson celebrated some of her favorite artists from different music genres, most of whom were nominated for multiple trophies. In a medley performance, The Voice coach took samples from Maren Morris’ “My Church,” Sam Smith’s “Too Good at Goodbyes” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” to make her own remixed version.
Other song snippets included Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder,” Khalid’s “Young Dumb and Broke,” Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s “Finesse,” Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” and Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.”
Lamar, Sheeran and Mars lead the nominations with 15 nods apiece, followed by Post Malone with 13 nominations in 12 categories, and Imagine Dragons with 11 nods in 10 categories.
Justin Bieber and Cardi B are tied with eight nominations, and “Despacito” singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee have seven each.
Drake, Lamar, Mars, Sheeran and Swift received nods in the top artist category for having this year’s most popular songs and albums, and 21 Savage, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, Khalid and Kodak Black are nominated for top new artist for their rapidly rising careers.
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Later in the night, more nominees and artists are set to take the BBMA stage including Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, BTS, Kesha and Macklemore and Janet Jackson, who will be receiving this year’s Icon Award.
PEOPLE confirmed exclusively that Demi Lovato will perform with her idol Christina Aguilera to debut the TV premiere of their duet “Fall in Line” which is a single off of Aguilera’s upcoming album Liberation.
The 2018 Billboard Music Awards will broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 20 on NBC.