Music’s biggest hit-makers will gather at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena May 21 for the annual Billboard Music Awards, which covers all genres from country and pop to Latin and R&B and everything in between. Winners are determined based not only on chart performance and radio popularity, but also online streaming data, social media engagement, touring, and sales numbers, assuring their total musical dominance. Check out our predictions for the winners of the show’s biggest award categories.
Likely winner: Adele
Vying for the Top Artist prize are ten talented acts who defined music over the past year across various genres. Twenty One Pilots, Rihanna, Shawn Mendes, The Weeknd and Ariana Grande seem to be longshots, as they are up against The Chainsmokers and Drake, both of whom hold the night’s most nominations with 22. We wouldn’t be surprised to see either one of them win here, but that requires edging Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and Adele (who won this category last year), all of whom made outstanding contributions with their latest music and tours. If we had to choose one from the bunch, we’d say Adele will continue her reign as Billboard’s Top Artist.
Top New Artist
Likely winner: Zayn
The five Top New Artist hopefuls are truly a diverse bunch. Nominees include the pop-influenced Alessia Cara and Lukas Graham, hip-hop artists Desiigner and Lil Uzi Vert, and former One Direction member Zayn, who ditched the boy band’s pop/rock sound to record sulty R&B material as a solo artist. In terms of chart performance, Cara had a strong debut, landing singles like “Here,” “Wild Things,” “Scars to Your Beautiful,” and “How Far I’ll Go” on the Hot 100 chart. Zayn scored a no. 1 hit with his debut single “Pillowtalk,” and teamed up with 23-time BBMA winner Taylor Swift for the wildly successful “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” which could drive him to victory along with his constant social media trends run by his avid fan base.
Top Male Artist
Likely winner: Drake
Justin Bieber has history on his side, having been named Top Male Artist in both 2013 and 2016, though Drake is right on track to earn his first win in this category. He not only broke a Spotify streaming record with “One Dance,” but had successful collaborations with Rihanna (“Work,” “Too Good”), and has a continued presence on music charts thanks to his latest album More Life, making him a shoo-in. Other nominated artists include Bieber, The Weeknd, Future, and Shawn Mendes.
Top Female Artist
Likely winner: Adele OR Beyonce
Much like this year’s Grammy Awards, the BBMA for Top Female Artist has all eyes on Adele and Beyonce. Fellow nominees Sia, Rihanna, and Ariana Grande are all enormously talented and can no doubt produce a hit song, but they would be hard-pressed to beat the two ladies who have dominated radio waves since bursting onto the scene. Bolstered by her continued success of latest album 25, Adele may have the edge, as she swept the major categories at this year’s Grammy Awards over Beyonce and earned this very award last year. However, the soon-to-be mother of three is finding herself worthy of awards and recognition now more than ever following the acclaim of her monumental visual album Lemonade.
Likely winner: The Chainsmokers
Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart (a.k.a The Chainsmokers) have come a long way in the three years since releasing their breakthrough single “#SELFIE.” Their subsequent hit songs like “Roses,” “Closer,” “Paris,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and “Something Just Like This” have sealed their dominance both in EDM and pop genres. After releasing their first full-length studio album Memories…Do Not Open last month, The Chainsmokers have remained an unstoppable force and are on track to be the likely winner here. They are up against Twenty One Pilots, Florida Georgia Line, Coldplay and Guns n’ Roses.
Top Touring Artist
Likely winner: Beyonce
Since the minute she announced her Formation World Tour after appearing in the 2016 Super Bowl Halftime Show, Beyonce had sparked one of the most popular tours of the year, selling out some of the world’s largest stadiums. Her artistry and reputation as an all-around performer will no doubt earn her a win here over fellow nominees Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Guns n’ Roses, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Top Hot 100 Artist
Likely winner: Drake
Despite earning this honor last year, The Weeknd will find it difficult to be a repeat winner, going up against Rihanna, Twenty One Pilots, The Chainsmokers and Drake. The rapper has the best shot at snagging the award given his dominance on the chart from his past two albums, Views and More Life.
Top Rap Artist
Likely winner: Drake OR J. Cole
Drake has serious leverage in this category, there’s no question, but J. Cole could also snag a much-deserved victory. His latest album 4 Your Eyez Only not only debuted at the top of the Hot 200 when it was released in December, but all ten tracks on the album also charted on the Hot 100, which could result in Billboard honoring him as the year’s Top Rap Artist. Other nominees include Desiigner, Rae Sremmurd and Future.
Top Country Artist
Likely winner: Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line has become one of few country artists to find success both in their genre and on mainstream radio. Following the release of their latest album Dig Your Roots, the duo topped the Country Airplay chart and scored two Top 40 hits on the Hot 100 chart, including the double-Platinum single “H.O.L.Y.” Their dominance on the radio waves (country and mainstream) gives them the distinct edge over fellow nominees Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, and Chris Stapleton.
Top Rock Artist
Likely winner: Twenty One Pilots
Of their 17 BBMA nominations, Twenty One Pilots is sure to lock in at least one win with this category. The duo achieved breakthrough success with the relatable anthem “Stressed Out,” which was the first of three consecutive singles to top both the U.S. Rock and Alternative charts (“Ride” and “Heathens” followed suit). Their musical achievements along with strong social media following will surely get the job done for them to beat out Coldplay, The Lumineers, Metallica and X Ambassadors for the award.
Top Dance/Electronic Artist
Likely winner: The Chainsmokers
Fellow nominees Calvin Harris, Major Lazer, DJ Snake, and Lindsey Stirling are all fine, but there’s a reason The Chainsmokers have 22 BBMA nominations. Expect them to pick up a much-deserved win in their rightful category. Next.
Top Billboard 200 Album
Likely winner: Lemonade – Beyonce
While each of the nominated albums were giant successes for their artists, none made quite the lasting impression like Lemonade, the visionary piece by Beyonce which has widely been hailed her strongest and most important work to date. Fellow nominees Drake (Views), Rihanna (Anti), Twenty One Pilots (Blurryface) and The Weeknd (Starboy) gave great efforts, though there is no denying that this category belongs to Queen Bey.
Top Hot 100 Song
Likely winner: “One Dance” – Drake ft. Wizkid & Kyla OR “Closer” – The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey
The category of Top Hot 100 Song fittingly comes down to the BBMA’s most nominated artists. Both Drake and The Chainsmokers earned their first no. 1 singles with “One Dance” and “Closer,” respectively. The Canadian rapper broke a record with over a billion Spotify streams for the song that Billboard credited as the coveted Song of the Summer for 2016. It’s tremendous success is difficult to match, proving just how huge “Closer” was to do so. Both tunes sat atop the Hot 100 for over ten weeks and were among the year’s best-selling songs. It’s too close to call a winner, but it should be expected that one or the other will be named victorious. Rounding out the category is The Chainsmokers’ collaboration with Daya “Don’t Let Me Down,” Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens,” and Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
The show will also honor Cher as the recipient of this year’s Icon Award for her outstanding contributions to music throughout her lengthy career. The star will perform her hit song “Believe,” marking her first awards show performance in 15 years. Other performers include Florida Georgia Line, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Lorde, and Celine Dion.
The Billboard Music Awards air May 21 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.