The Weeknd and Pop Smoke among early Billboard Music Awards winners

The ceremony took place in Los Angeles.

The Weeknd and Pop Smoke were among the early winners at the Billboard Music Awards.

The ceremony, which celebrates chart success, took place at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles and was hosted by Nick Jonas.

Canadian R&B star The Weeknd led the way in nominations with 16 and picked up the first televised award – for top hot 100 artist – and in his acceptance speech said “it’s been a dark year”.

He also joked about not having to wear the red suit that has become synonymous with his chart-topping album After Hours.

Jonas described the last 12 months as “an insane rollercoaster ride” before explaining the masked, in-person audience was possible due to following pandemic safety guidelines.

Producer DJ Khaled opened the show with singer-songwriter H.E.R. and rap group Migos, performing their collaboration We Going Crazy.

Doja Cat and SZA were also among the early performers with their song Kiss Me More.

Some of the industry’s biggest names, including Alicia Keys, Bad Bunny and BTS, are scheduled to perform.

Pop star P!nk is due to perform on an evening she will receive Billboard’s icon award while Drake, the most-awarded artist in the show’s history, will be named artist of the decade.

Many winners were announced off-air before the TV broadcast.

The Weeknd won seven awards, including top male artist, while Swift won the female equivalent.

Drake won top streaming songs artist.

Late rapper Pop Smoke, who was shot dead aged 20 in Los Angeles last year, was named top new artist.

Country music star Morgan Wallen won three prizes – top country album, top country artist and top country male artist – but did not attend the ceremony after being filmed using a racial slur.

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