Nicki Minaj opened the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday night with a flamboyantly produced, dexterous medley of “No Frauds,” “Light My Body Up,” “Swalla” and “Regret in Your Tears” with Lil Wayne, David Guetta and Jason Derulo in Las Vegas
Minaj began with a fierce rendition of “No Frauds,” taking the stage on a throne above dancers toting both night sticks and riot shields. Soon more dancers joined the fray – wearing leather, armor and gas masks, they looked like extras from the next Mad Max movie. Lil Wayne strolled onstage, shirt unbuttoned, and delivered his lines with casual authority. Though Drake is featured on the recording, he stayed in the audience in Las Vegas as a mere cheerleader.
After Lil Wayne’s cameo, Minaj joined French producer David Guetta for “Light My Body Up.” As she moved between rapping and singing, Guetta pumped his arms in time to the rhythm, flames erupting on the screen behind him. The rhythm suddenly slowed and morphed, moving into a space somewhere between dancehall and Usher’s old hit “Good Kisser,” which signaled the arrival of Jason Derulo. Derulo danced fluidly – echoing the moves from the “Swalla” video – and showcased his piercing falsetto register.
Minaj brought the medley to a close by performing her solo single “Regret in Your Tears.” As the music ended, the emcee was on a pedestal, once again elevated above her dancers, who gazed upon her as if she was a goddess.
Minaj was relatively quiet last year. She released remixes of Yo Gotti’s “Down in the DM” and Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles;” she also contributed vocals to singles from Ariana Grande, DJ Mustard, DJ Khaled and Bebe Rexha. In contrast, she has erupted in 2017, releasing a flurry of singles already this year. “Regret in Your Tears” was a solo release, while the rest were collaborations: with Gucci Mane on “Make Love,” Lil Wayne on “Changed It,” and both Wayne and Drake on “No Frauds” (Minaj’s first collaboration with Drake since 2014’s “Only” off her Pinkprint album).
For good measure, she has also contributed guest verses to Guetta’s “Light My Body Up,” Derulo’s “Swalla,” Major Lazer’s “Run Up,” Nick Jonas’ “Bom Bidi Bom,” DNCE’s “Kissing Strangers,” and most recently, Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish.”
If Minaj’s goal is chart domination, it’s working: in March, Billboard announced that she had passed Aretha Franklin and now holds the record for the most Hot 100 hits by a female artist. Minaj has cracked the chart a whopping 76 different times.
“I now hold the title of most Hot 100 entries in the HISTORY of BILLBOARD among women of EVERY genre,” she wrote at the time on Instagram. “To my fans: I fkn love u guys more than I’ll ever be able to put in words.”