Blige dominates Billboard awards


LAS VEGAS -- An R&B veteran and a young upstart won big Monday night at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards.

A 17-year-old lothario, Chris Brown, took home new artist of the year, male of artist of the year and artist of the year awards.

Newcomers Rihanna and "American Idol"-turned-country star Carrie Underwood also walked away with high honors at the two-hour show aired live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

But it was a seasoned artist that took home the most honors. R&B diva Mary J. Blige's comeback album, "The Breakthrough," delivered nine awards to the singer, including R&B/hip-hop artist of the year, female R&B artist of the year and R&B/hip-hop album of the year.

The album debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 in December 2005 and has sold 2.6 million copies since.

Blige, in white go-go boots and a sparkly minidress, rocked the full house by belting out a medley of her "Enough Crying" and "Take Me as I Am."

It was an 18-year-old from Barbados that edged out Blige and Beyonce for the top songstress honor.

"I really can't feel my legs, this is phenomenal," said Rihanna as she accepted the award for best female artist of the year award. "That was a really tough category."

Janet Jackson opened the show with a nod to the old and the new. Sporting a short bob haircut and a belly-baring white turtleneck sweater that offered no chance of wardrobe malfunction, Jackson performed her 1987 hit "The Pleasure Principle" mixed into "So Excited," a single from her 2006 album, "20 Y.O."

The telecast did not, however, feature Tinseltown's duo du jour: Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. After their recent binge of late-night partying, it was reported that the new best friends would be co-hosting the show. But neither appeared, and the show went on without a host, using a lineup of presenters to move things along.

Country crossover Underwood's "Some Hearts" won both country album and album of the year and Underwood was named female country artist of the year.

Atlanta rapper T.I. took home rap artist of the year and rap album of the year for his fourth solo album, "King," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in March.

Canadian rockers Nickelback's "All the Right Reasons" won rock album of the year and duo/group of the year. The band closed the show jamming on "Tush" with Kid Rock and ZZ Top.

Gwen Stefani and Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie, both with solo efforts this year, also performed.

Crooner Tony Bennett was honored with the Billboard Century Award, a lifetime achievement award.

Bennett timed his release of "Duets: An American Classic" -- featuring Bono, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand and other musical big-timers -- to his 80th birthday. The September release has become the best-selling album of his 50-plus-year recording career.

But it was largely a night ruled by the young and restless.

"It feels great," Brown said on the red carpet before his win. "I certainly don't feel my age."

The Billboard Awards are given to the year's chart-topping artists. Winners are determined by the magazine's year-end chart listings, which are based on record sales and airplay.
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