Beyoncé cements solo stardom with four Billboard awards

Beyonce Knowles, the R&B superstar confirmed her runaway success as a solo artist after picking up four accolades at the Billboard Music Awards. Based on sales of her album Dangerously in Love and airplay of the numerous hits culled from it, Beyoncé was named best new female artist, best new R&B artist and best Hot 100 female artist at the ceremony in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.

She also won an award for most weeks in the number one slot on the Billboard chart.

"This is amazing. This has been an incredible year," the 22-year-old singer with Destiny's Child told the crowd. She performed her latest single, "Me Myself & I", by way of thanks.

The other big winner of the night was R Kelly, another R&B star whose commercial success has been overshadowed by a criminal prosecution on child pornography charges. Thanks to his album, Chocolate Factory, which sold more than two million copies, he was named best Hot 100 producer, best R&B producer, best Hot 100 songwriter and best R&B songwriter. He closed the show with a flamboyant performance that had him riding down the aisle on a horse-drawn chariot.

Although the Billboard Awards are chosen purely on commercial success, not on artistic merit, the dominance of R&B reflected the latest direction of the mainstream music industry, and echoed the list of nominations for the Grammys announced last week.

Rap also loomed large in the Billboard Awards, as it has in the Grammys, with 50 Cent - who was not present in Las Vegas - picking up three awards including top rapper and top artist. Shania Twain swept the board in the country category, winning top country artist, top country album artist and top country album for her release, Up.

Clay Aiken, who was runner-up in the TV hit series American Idol, based on the British talent show Pop Idol,was recognised for his best-selling single "This is the Night"/"Bridge Over Troubled Water".

The only dissenting voice in what was otherwise a shamelessly commercial event belonged to Sting, who received the Century Award for creative achievement because his album and single sales from his time with the Police and since have now topped 100 million. Receiving the award from Stevie Wonder, he said selling records was not really the point. "You can sing for millions of people in your career or maybe just one," he said. "You can sell millions of records or none at all. It doesn't really matter. If you play music with passion and love and honesty, then it will nourish your soul, heal your wounds and make your life worth living."

Beyoncé seemed less concerned with nourishing her soul than she did with keeping it together under the media spotlight. She told the audience she was nervous about her acceptance speech, saying: "I completely blank out."

THE WINNERS

Artist of the year: 50 Cent

New female artist of the year: Beyoncé

Duo/group of the year: 3 Doors Down

New group artist of the year: Evanescence

Hot 100 female artist of the year: Beyoncé

Hot 100 group of the year: 3 Doors Down

Hot 100 producer of the year: R Kelly

Hot 100 songwriter of the year: R Kelly

Hot 100 award for most weeks at No1: Beyoncé (17 weeks with "Crazy in Love")

Country artist of the year: Shania Twain

Country albums artist of the year: Shania Twain

Country album of the year: Up by Shania Twain (Mercury)

R&B artist of the year: 50 Cent

R&B/hip-hop group of the year: Lil Jon & East Side Boyz

R&B producer of the year: R Kelly

R&B songwriter of the year: R Kelly

New R&B artist of the year: Beyoncé

New male R&B artist of the year: Chingy

Rap artist of the year: 50 Cent

Modern rock artist of the year: Audioslave

Modern rock track of the year: "Headstrong", Trapt

Rock artist of the year: Audioslave

Rock track of the year: "Headstrong," Trapt

No1 Classical crossover artist of the year: Josh Groban

No1 Classical crossover album of the year: Closer, Josh Groban (Warner Bros)

Century Award: Sting

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