Canadian singer The Weeknd dedicated the first trophy of the 2016 Billboard Music Awards to Prince on Sunday and Kesha earned a standing ovation for her stirring rendition of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe” on a night of tributes.
Prince, the innovative, Grammy-winning pop superstar best known for his electric stage presence and such hits as “Purple Rain,” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” died at his home in Minnesota last month at the age of 57.
“I want to dedicate this award to the late great Prince. Rest in peace,” The Weeknd, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, said in accepting the award for Top Hot 100 Artist.
Madonna was scheduled to perform a tribute to Prince later during the awards ceremony, which was broadcast live on ABC from the T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip and also featured well-received performances by Celine Dion and Ariana Grande.
Kesha delivered an emotional rendition of Dylan’s classic in a much-anticipated moment that was nearly canceled by her record-label amid a bitter legal fight.
Kemosabe Records on Thursday reversed a decision to bar Kesha from singing, saying it had obtained assurances from the pop star that she would not use the performance as a platform to address her failed legal bid against Sony Corp’s Sony Music and producer Dr. Luke.
Kemosabe Records, which was founded by Dr. Luke, is a unit of Sony Music. Kesha filed a lawsuit against Dr. Luke in 2014 accusing him of sexual assault and earlier this year sought unsuccessfully to scrap her six-album recording contract.
Celebrity news outlet TMZ.com, citing unnamed sources, reported this month that Kesha was planning a “statement performance” at the awards show that would be focused on “her ongoing legal battle with Dr. Luke” and “might even include images of him.”
The singer’s legal case sparked the #FreeKesha campaign on social media and earned support from artists such as Taylor Swift, Adele and Lady Gaga.
During the show, Celine Dion also delivered her first televised singing performance since the death of her husband, Rene Angelil, and her brother in January, before tearfully accepting the so-called Billboard Icon Award for lifetime achievement.