"I'm my own hype girl," the BBMAs host said after performing

By Eric Todisco and Tomás Mier
Updated October 14, 2020 08:25 PM
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Kelly Clarkson
| Credit: Kevin Winter/BBMA2020/Getty

Kelly Clarkson kicked off the 2020 Billboard Music Awards with a bang.

Clarkson, who is hosting the star-studded event for the third consecutive year, opened Wednesday's broadcast with a remarkable performance of Whitney Houston's "Higher Love."

The 38-year-old host was joined by group Pentatonix, percussionist Sheila E. and — virtually — by a choir of female singers.

Kelly Clarkson and Pentatonix
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/BBMA2020/Getty

Rocking straight hair, Clarkson hit the stage wearing an elegant, ruffled tan dress and white hoops.

"Tonight is about the way music touches us all because music connects with us in so many ways, no matter who you are, it moves us sometimes literally," she said in her opening monologue. "We dance. We sing. We cry, like I do often. It brings back those good memories, and it also helps us make new ones. Music also connects us to each other, from virtual living room dance parties to neighborhood balcony concerts, music has united us."

Check out PEOPLE's full Billboard Music Awards coverage to get the latest news on one of country music's biggest nights.

Then, Clarkson addressed the lack of an audience after clapping for herself: "There's no audience," she said, laughing. "Just me. Yeah, my own hype girl."

Kelly Clarkson
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/BBMA2020/Getty

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In September, the BBMA revealed the 2020 crop of nominees, led by Post Malone with 16 nominations, Lil Nas X with 13 nominations, and Billie Eilish and Khalid tied with 12 each. Lizzo follows with 11.

The show was originally scheduled for April 29 in Las Vegas but was postponed due to the pandemic.

"I'm thrilled to be back with my Billboard family," Clarkson said in a statement when she was first announced as host in February, according to Billboard. "I love being part of an event that celebrates our greatest artists and entertains our fans. This is a night of music that you won't want to miss!"

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Last year, Drake ended the night setting a new record with 27 total BBMA wins, besting Taylor Swift for the title of all-time most awarded artist. Cardi B had a big night, as well, winning six of her 21 nominations.

During the show, Brooks, 58, will be honored with the award show's Icon Award. The country star will be only the ninth artist to receive the honor, following: Neil Diamond (2011), Stevie Wonder (2012), Prince (2013), Jennifer Lopez (2014), Céline Dion (2016), Cher (2017), Janet Jackson (2018) and Mariah Carey (2019).

Kelly Clarkson
| Credit: Kevin Winter/BBMA2020/Getty

The 2020 Billboard Music Awards are broadcasting live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.