It's becoming an increasingly familiar sight this season: Usher at the podium, picking up a trophy. He grabbed 11 of them on Wednesday at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, including Artist of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year (for Confessions, and Hot 100 Single of the Year (for the ubiquitous ''Yeah!''). His domination of the trade magazine's chart-driven awards gala came one day after he was nominated for eight Grammys, meaning he's likely to pick up yet another armload of trophies to match the Billboard prizes and the four American Music Awards he won last month.
After Usher, Wednesday's big winner was his close personal friend and duet partner Alicia Keys, who won seven prizes, including Female Artist of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year (''If I Ain't Got You'') and Hot 100 Songwriter of the Year. (She's also up for eight Grammys.) OutKast earned five awards, including yet another honor for ''Hey Ya!'', which was named Digital Track of the Year. (Besides downloads, Billboard also is unique in recognizing the most popular cellphone ringtone, which this year was 50 Cent's ''In Da Club.'') Four Billboard trophies, including Rap Artist of the Year, went to Grammy frontrunner Kanye West, who's up for 10 prizes at the Recording Academy's awards show in February.
Other prizes included the Artist Achievement Award for Destiny's Child, the Century Award (a lifetime achievement honor) for Stevie Wonder, and Female New Artist of the Year, whose winner, Ashlee Simpson, was greeted with a mixed chorus of cheers and boos.
The evening also marked the first public appearance by Britney Spears since her September wedding. Spears, who won Hot Dance Single of the Year for ''Me Against the Music,'' wore a sheer, tight dress that seemed designed to quash those pregnancy rumors. Ryan Seacrest hosted the show, which aired live on Fox.