Madonna, joined by surprise guest Stevie Wonder, closed out the 2016 Billboard Music Awards ceremony with a heartfelt and moving tribute to the pair’s mutual friend and collaborator Prince, who died unexpectedly at the age of 57 at his home studio in Minnesota last month.
Purple lights filled the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as The Material Girl, clad in an amazingly over-the-top shimmering lavender suit, began her performance while seated on a lush purple throne. After she belted out a stripped-down cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Wonder (who sported a more understated purple scarf) joined her on stage to sing “Purple Rain.”
Several members of the audience could be seen singing along, including The Weeknd, who dedicated his Top Hot 100 Artist award to Prince earlier in the evening.
Before the performance, Questlove of the Roots gave a short, but very sweet speech. “All of us live in the land of music, and his departure from it was an earthquake … His departure leaves behind so much work still to do, and we can follow the trails he blazed.” He added that Prince can remind us all to be “fierce, uncompromising and experimental.”
Madonna, whose own prolific career launched in 1982, just four years after Prince burst onto the scene, had expressed sadness over her friend’s death on social media over the past several weeks. After the news broke, she tweeted that she was “devastated” and expressed her belief that Prince was a “true visionary” who “changed the world.”