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October 1, 2014

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Live from the Billboard Music Awards: Swift wins Top Artist; Bieber wins Milestone Award; Prince burns in finale

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Taylor Swift backstage at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Swift won eight awards.

2013 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand

Prince performs during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Sunday, May 19, 2013. Launch slideshow »
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Prince's band, 3rd Eye Girl, stops on the blue carpet during the 2013 BIllboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

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Luxor headliners Jabbawockeez hit the arrivals carpet at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

What's great about the 2013 Billboard Music Awards is the crossing of cultures. Just now, at MGM Grand Garden Arena, host Tracy Morgan said, "My biological father is here!" Then he paused and said, "Wayne Newton!"

And The Wayner stood from his seat, pointed to Morgan onstage, and the crowd roared.

I really had no idea of this familial relationship between the two. Never known Tracy to spend the holidays with the Newtons — or extended time at Casa de Shenandoah. Ever.

Regardless, the party is on at MGM Grand Garden Arena. This is an awards show that does not lean too heavily on the importance of the awards. Instead, we are treated to some dynamite live performances. Live, and with tracks, but live just the same. (The show airs on tape delay at 8 p.m. on ABC.)

In introducing the award for Top Rap Artist, Shania Twain says, "I know, when you think rap, you think Shania Twain," then announces Nikki Minaj, whose hair should be up for some sort of lifetime achievement award, as the winner.

One of Morgan's jokes: "What happens in Vegas winds up on YouTube or Instagram!" reminds of a similar joke uncorked last weekend by Mick Jagger in this very same arena. But "What Happens Here, Stays Here" remains one of the enduring slogans of all time. It refuses to die.

Check back soon, music fans.

Updated at 5:20 p.m.: Selena Gomez just performed "Come and Get It." Justin Bieber, or Biebs, as I call him, and she were at Cirque du Soleil's "Love" at The Mirage on Saturday night. They ate junk food and sat close enough to each other to verify that they are dating. Up now, The Band Perry — a personal favorite — rocks it with "Better Dig Two," and I dig all three. The trio ends the song thunderously, each playing a single drum. This is a rising, arena-quality live act.

Updated at 5:40 p.m.: Psy, on minute 14 of his minutes-of-fame arc, performs a dance-off with Morgan. I give the edge to Morgan. Chris Brown just stopped trying to even give the impression that he is singing live on "Fine China." Just halted the moving of his lips to continue dancing in a song that sounds as if it was pulled right off Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" album. The performance is saved by Orianthi, former guitarist on the ill-fated Jackson "This Is It" world tour. She scorches through the song. Great player. Earlier, on the red carpet, which was actually sky blue, I asked Orianthi if she had plans to see the new Jackson show "One" at Mandalay Bay. She said, "Maybe, someday."

Updated at 5:50 p.m.: Alyssa Milano and Avril Lavigne announce Carly Rae Jepsen as winner of Top Digital Song with "Call Me Maybe." Downloaded more than 7 million times.

A cut-away to Tryst at Wynn Las Vegas for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with "Thrift Shop." Great exposure for Wynn and the club. I wonder why Hakkasan, which just opened in this very hotel, isn't being used for this cut-away.

In the media room, Milano remembers being called onstage by Prince at Staples Center when she was eight months pregnant and being given a tambourine, which is in her son Milo's hope chest. Her upcoming ABC drama is "Mistresses," or, as Morgan says, "'Mistresses,' or as we used to call them in the 'hood, 'spare tires.' "

Updated at 6:05 p.m.: Quote of the night, and I mean by a lot, is from Kid Rock: "Let's give it up for people lip synching to pre-recorded music!" Then he hands out the Top Rap Song award to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for "Thrift Shop." Rock also wins the Billie Joe Armstrong mic-drop award for ... dropping the mic. Clunk! That was a great appearance by The Rockster.

Updated at 6:18 p.m.: Will.i.am introduces Madonna as the Top Touring Artist. "MDNA" is the second-best-selling world tour ever, topped only by ... Madonna, with her own "Sticky & Sweet" tour. Highlights are of the many production numbers in "MDNA," which played MGM Grand in October, including the moment where she shows her butt. Crowd rises for Madonna, who is looking lethal tonight, folks. Looks like she forgot to wear the lower part of this black-lace number. "It took longer to determine whether I could show my ass in that video than it did to rehearse for the tour. There were a lot of ass negotiations." Midway through the speech, she takes off her shades and hands them to will.i.am. She name-checks Kevin Antunes, music designer for "Michael Jackson One" at Mandalay Bay, as one of those to thank for the success of "MDNA."

Updated at 6:30 p.m.: Biebs — my man! — is up to perform fan favorite "Take You," meaning this is the song that won an open online vote among his fans as the one they wanted him to perform tonight. He's wearing a sleeveless leather jacket exposing a tattoo on his right arm and shouts, "Everybody!" over the vocal track. Many of these numbers are just not being sung live. But there are lasers, strobes, smoke and some kind of time-machine effect being used. Earlier on the blue carpet, those awaiting Bieber shouted, "We want Justin!" They got him. He is worth a lot of money and spends a lot of it on staging.

Updated at 6:33 p.m.: For Top Album, One Direction is nominated twice for their first two releases. But it's "Red" by Swift. It debuted at No. 1 with 1.2 million in sales in its first week. "Magical," she says of her fans' support. Blake Shelton is not available for rebuttal ...

2013 Billboard Music Awards: Ladies Night

Madonna backstage at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Updated at 6:37 p.m.: Pitbull and Christina Aguilera swap vocals on "Feel This Moment." The dude from A-ha is the special guest! We'd joked that the guy from A-ha would be the special guest in this song, and THERE HE IS! Wow is all I can say. Oh, and he's Morten Harket. That's the name.

Updated at 6:50 p.m.: Speaking live for maybe the second time tonight, Bieber thanks his "Beliebers" after winning the Top Male Artist award. This apples-and-oranges-and-even-a-pear category includes Flo Rida, Drake, Jason Aldean and Mars. Justin's getting to be a grown-up, and a quite confident one, with his opened vest and sneer. He looks like he's about to start a nightclub rhubarb.

Updated at 7:01 p.m.: Harket just dropped by the media room. Is it still difficult to hit that high note in "Take on Me?" "No. It's natural," he says. Can he do it now? "I could." Will he? "I think I just did." A-ha, as you know, formally ended its collective career in 2010.

Updated at 7:05 p.m.: J.Lo and Pitbull has the crowd up and dancing for "Live It Up." Everyone's dancing. Nobody is singing, but everyone's dancing, including Swift.

Updated at 7:08 p.m.: Morgan has a new hashtag, #ODIV, which stands for "One Day in Vegas." The requisite videomontage is of LMFAO enjoying his #ODIV on the links.

Updated 7:14 p.m.: Top EDM Artist, an oxymoron to many fans, is won by David Guietta. "Um .. I grew up in Paris and at the time there was no Internet, and my only connection to American music was Billboard Magazine." A great, and heartfelt, plug from one of the giants in EDM. I feel the same as MGM Grand President Scott Sibella in that EDM will one day have its own awards show, same as country music. That day is fast approaching, fans.

Updated at 7:16 p.m.: Will.i.am and Biebs are dancing to "That Power." I've given up professing there is live singing being executed, especially when one of the artists (will.i.am) isn't even wearing a mic. But lordy, the choreography is terrific, and the number explodes. Playing to tracks is the price of admission, folks.

Updated at 7:20 p.m.: Off-topic, my father in Pocatello, Idaho, just texted and asked, "Are you at the Billboard Music Awards?" He's a fan of Biebs, I belieb.

Updated at 7:30 p.m.: CeeLo — back in Vegas! — says "I'm Loberace, but you can call me CeeLo!" and announces the Milestone Award for ingenuity and innovation. Goes to Bieber. Who is, as if by magic, in the audience. He's wearing his sunglasses. Milking the audience, a few of whom actually start to boo. Standing. Standing. Standing. "I'm 19 years old! I think I'm doing a pretty good job." Expect some Bieber backlash, given all of this early success and an attitude a lot of fans find snarky.

Updated at 7:41 p.m.: Swift, looking dazzling in a thigh-high, sequined blue number, wins the Billboard Artist of the Year award. Of her fans, she says, "You are the longest and best relationship I have ever had." Meantime, Morgan insists that Newton is his father. "Wayne Newton is my daddy!"

Updated at 7:46 p.m.: Minaj just performed a heavy-duty lap dance on Lil Wayne during "High School."

Updated at 7:50 p.m.: From early in the show, we're starting to see references to a performance by Miguel, who appeared to kick a fan when he jumped over the crowd during “Adorn.” It looked like he landed on one female fan and kick another. Neither seemed hurt, though.

Updated at 7:56 p.m.: Music royalty is represented as Prince closes the show with a medley, topped by "Let's Go Crazy." He was presented with the Billboard Icon Award. But in a confluence of superstars, Celine Dion was brought in to meet the media just as Prince began his set. He was backed by 3rd Eye Girl, and there were some real pyrotechnics unleashed.

Updated at 8:15: Dion's advice for Britney Spears as Spears preps for a residency in Vegas: "Enjoy. Enjoy."

Swift is later asked about Bieber winning the Milestone Award at 19 and says, "Can we have another question?" She notes that her lavish number, filled with Cirque performers, was made possible by all the talent available in Las Vegas. Of Jabbawockeez, she says, "They are incredible."

Swift is the night's big winner, eight trophies in all, and they were set up in front of her on the stage in the media center. Lest we forget ...

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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