Recovery seemed to be the implicit theme of the night for this year’s Billboard Music Awards. Music artists openly spoke and sang about recovery from the effects of substance abuse, gun violence, mental illness, and sexual violence. We witnessed a beautiful display of compassion and understanding by musicians from all walks of life this Sunday night.
Music with a Message
The stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena was graced by stars in recovery this weekend! Some of the most breath-taking performances from the Billboard Music Awards were either by artists in recovery or spreading a message of it. Macklemore and Kesha put on a stunning, live recreation of the music video for their hit song “Good Old Days” in preparation for their North American tour this summer. Macklemore openly speaks about his sobriety and writes music about the dangers of drug abuse and Kesha is in recovery from eating disorders, letting other people know about her struggles with anorexia and bulimia and that there is a way out.
Demi Lovato and Christina Aguilera also teamed up to perform a powerful duet with a message: women are autonomous and have the right to speak up for themselves and against sexism. The piece was extremely fitting with the #MeToo social media movement which has been empowering women to speak out against sexual abuse and encouraging recovery from such traumatic experiences. Demi is very transparent about her recovery, having celebrated 6 years sober this March, and stays active in the empowerment of victims of sexual violence.
In the wake of the Santa Fe, TX high school shooting which occurred just two days before the awards show, recovery from the damaging mental and emotional effects of gun violence was a prevalent topic. R&B vocalist and winner of that night’s Top New Artist award, Khalid, and pop star Shawn Mendes performed their new song titled “Youth” and so poignantly conveyed the pain felt after receiving news of yet another senseless act of violence against young people in our world. Courageously, the back-up vocals were provided by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Show Choir, comprised of students who had been affected by the mass shooting at their school in Parkland, FL this February.
Tributes & Award Winners in Recovery
One of this year’s top winners, taking home six awards, was rapper Kendrick Lamar – an artist who has recently opened up about wanting to be an advocate for living a drug-free life. He has been speaking out against the glorification of drugs in rap music due to his upbringing in a family with substance abuse issues. Bruno Mars was in attendance and racked up six awards as well. He is an R&B artist who was beginning his rise to stardom in 2010 when he was arrested in Las Vegas for cocaine possession who now says he learned that drugs can take everything away from a person and is glad that he moved on from that lifestyle.
Recovery isn’t always positive though – many of us go through potentially fatal relapses when it comes to our drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, and mental health care. This year alone, we have lost two amazing artists to substance abuse and mental illness, Frightened Rabbit front man Scott Hutchinson and Electronic Dance Music superstar Avicii. Popular music group and winners of the Top Dance/Electronic Artist award, The Chainsmokers, were presenting an award and mentioned how Avicii “meant so much to us and everyone in the EDM community.” Electropop singer Halsey also commented on Avicii’s suicide, saying that it was “a reminder to all of us to be there and support and love all of our friends and family members who may be struggling with mental health issues.”
The Power of Music and Recovery
Emotions were running high at this year’s Billboard Music Awards with extremely impactful musical performances, beautiful tributes to those who we’ve lost or are struggling, and host Kelly Clarkson’s tear-stained cheeks as she opened the show with a call to action against gun violence. The courage displayed by the performances of these celebrities in recovery as well as the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School truly show that recovery from anything – trauma, addiction, eating disorders, mental health issues, sexual violence and abuse, etc. – is possible. Music can truly bring us all together and help us heal.
“I’ve got some scars, I’ve been around, I’ve felt some pain, I’ve seen some things, but I’m here now.” – Macklemore, Those Good Old Days.