Billboard Music Awards sneak peek: Madonna, Britney and more major moments to expect

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Artists planning to wear eyeliner to the 24th annual Billboard Music Awards on May 22 are best advised to invest in a tear-proof brand. "The show is going to be filled with a lot of emotion," says Mark Bracco, an executive producer of the telecast, which, for the first time, will air live coast to coast from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

In addition to the choked sobs that often accompany an acceptance speech -- award finalists are based on album and digital song sales, radio airplay, streaming, touring and social engagement measured by Billboard and its data partners -- this year's BBMAs will include performances by Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Fifth Harmony with Ty Dolla Sign, Troye Sivan, Meghan Trainor, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Nick Jonas featuring Tove Lo, Rihanna and Demi Lovato, as well as the debut of Adele's music video for "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" and special showcases featuring Britney Spears, Pink, Celine Dion and Madonna, designed to evoke thrills, tears or both.


Photo cred: Getty

Britney's Big Opener

Bracco tells Billboard that Spears, who will receive the Billboard Millennium Award, is slated to open the telecast with a "kick-ass medley" of her greatest hits. "It's going to be her with a couple dozen dancers, plus costume changes, and she's going to walk through her catalog," he says. Don't expect any star cameos, though. "When you have Britney, you don't need anyone else," says Bracco.


Photo cred: Wireimage

Madonna Celebrates Prince

After the death of Prince in April, the BBMA producers began discussing a tribute to the multitalented artist, which led to conversations with Madonna's team. Although the details of Madge's performance are under wraps, Bracco says it will be "intimate." "She has been very involved in how it will be presented," he says. "It will be one of the emotional highlights of the show."

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Celine Dion Returns

Icon Award recipient Dion will perform on TV for the first time since the deaths of her husband of 21 years, René Angélil, and her brother, Daniel Dion, both to cancer and within two days of each other in January -- and she has chosen a particularly poignant song for the occasion. Dion will sing Queen's "The Show Must Go On." The 1991 tune primarily was written by the band's guitarist Brian May as an elegiac tribute to frontman Freddie Mercury, who struggled to perform while suffering from the final stages of HIV/AIDS. (He died later that year.)

"We've always had a close relationship with Celine," says Bracco, and in the wake of her personal tragedies, he says the show's producers approached her camp about receiving the Icon Award (previous honorees include Neil Diamond and Stevie Wonder). Dion, he says, "seemed to feel that this was the right moment for her to return to the spotlight. And we created a really special moment."

Photo cred: Wireimage

Pink Tops Herself

"You don't want to miss Pink," says Bracco, who tells Billboard that the singer's top-secret performance of "Just Like Fire" is so ambitious that she's rehearsing it off-site for five days. "She has done incredible award performances -- she has flown through the air, there have been acrobatics and fire -- but it's all going to come together in this performance."

Billboard Music Awards 2016

This article was originally featured in the May 28 issue of Billboard.

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Billboard Music Awards sneak peek: Madonna, Britney and more major moments to expect
President's award winner Pink arrives at the 63rd annual BMI Pop Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 11: Singer Pink and Carey Hart arrive at the 30th Annual John Wayne Odyssey Ball at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on April 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Unique Nicole/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 11: Singer Pink arrives at the 30th Annual John Wayne Odyssey Ball at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on April 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Unique Nicole/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Singer Pink arrives at the 2nd Annual Unite4:humanity Event at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 19, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Singer Pink (L) and guitarist Justin Derrico perform onstage at the 2nd Annual unite4:humanity presented by ALCATEL ONETOUCH at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 19, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Variety)
Carey Hart, left, and Pink arrive at the 56th annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Pink and Carey Hart at Fertile Action Visionary Lunch for Alecia "P!nk" Moore and Christina Applegate on Saturday, June 7, 2014 in Malibu, CA. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/Invision/AP)
ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 29: P!nk performs on stage at Honda Center on January 29, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 29: P!nk performs on stage at Honda Center on January 29, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 25: Singer P!nk attends the No Kid Hungry campaign fundraising dinner at Ron Burkle's Green Acres Estate on October 25, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 29: Pink performs part of her Truth About Love Tour at Honda Center on January 29, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 29: P!nk performs on stage at Honda Center on January 29, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 29: Pink performs part of her Truth About Love Tour at Honda Center on January 29, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 07: P!nk performs at Target Center on January 7, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: (L-R) Singer-songwriter P!nk and motorcycle racer Carey Hart attend the 2013 Billboard Annual Women in Music Event at Capitale on December 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: Singer-songwriter P!nk attends the 2013 Billboard Annual Women in Music Event at Capitale on December 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 07: P!nk attends the 2013 Cyndi Lauper And Friends: Home For The Holidays Concert 2013 at Beacon Theatre on December 7, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 13: Singer P!nk performs at the Staples Center on October 13, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 13: (Exclusive Coverage) P!nk performs during 'The Truth About Love' tour opener at US Airways Center on February 13, 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 14: Pink performs on stage at Circus Krone on September 14, 2012 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Stefan M. Prager/Redferns via Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - AUGUST 06: P!nk a.k.a Alecia Moore makes special Announcement for her newest project with Covergirl Cosmetics at Shutters On The Beach on August 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
SANTA MONICA, CA - AUGUST 06: P!nk a.k.a Alecia Moore makes special Announcement for her newest project with Covergirl Cosmetics at Shutters On The Beach on August 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
LONDON - MAY 01: Pink performs at the O2 Arena on May 1, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Neil Lupin/Redferns)
LEIPZIG, GERMANY - MARCH 17: Singer Pink performs on stage at the Arena Leipzig on March 17, 2009 in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo by Marco Prosch/Getty Images)
BERLIN - AUGUST 30: US singer P!ink (Pink) performs live during the opening concert of the IFA consumer electronics fair at the ICC Sommergarten Open Air Festival August 30, 2007 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Christian Jakubaszek/Getty Images)
Pink and Carey Hart at Fertile Action Visionary Lunch for Alecia "P!nk" Moore and Christina Applegate on Saturday, June 7, 2014 in Malibu, CA. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/Invision/AP)
Carey Hart, left, and Pink arrive at the 56th annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Pink, left, and Carey Hart arrive at the 40th Anniversary American Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Pink arrives at the 40th Anniversary American Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)
Pink and Carey Hart arrive at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Alecia Moore aka Pink arrives at the premiere of "Thanks for Sharing" at the ArcLight Hollywood on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Alecia Moore arrives at the premiere of "Happy Feet Two" at Grauman's Chinese Theater, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Los Angeles. "Happy Feet Two" will be released in 3D and 2D in select theaters Nov. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Katy Winn)
U.S. pop star, Pink, promotes the launch of her third album, Try This, in London, Tuesday Nov. 4, 2003. Pink was just 18 when her first album, which went platinum, was released in 2000, but it was her second, Missundaztood, which shot her to fame, selling over 12 million copies worldwide following its release in November 2002. (AP Photo/John D McHugh)
US-singer Pink alias Alecia Beth Moore performs on the main stage during the Paleo music open air Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, late Thursday, July 26, 2007. (KEYSTONE/Laurent Gillieron)
U.S. singer Alecia Moore alias Pink performs on stage during the 10th Open Air in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, late Saturday, June 26, 2004. (AP Photo/Keystone, Dorothea Mueller)
This publicity image released by Roadside Attractions shows Josh Gad and Alecia Moore in a scene from "Thanks For Sharing." (AP Photo/Roadside Attractions, Anne Joyce)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 01: Singer Alecia Beth Moore aka Pink attends the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's 'An Evening With Women' at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 1, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 08: Pink (aka Alecia Moore) and her daughter, Willow Sage Hart, as seen on June 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by SMXRF/Star Max/FilmMagic)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 7: Pink (Alecia Moore) performs on stage at the Rod Laver Arena on 7th of July 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Martin Philbey/Redferns)
TODAY -- Pictured: Alecia Beth Moore (Pink) appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 13: Singer/actress Alecia Beth Moore aka Pink and Actor Robin Williams attend the 'Happy Feet Two' Los Angeles Premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on November 13, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
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