XXXTentacion was nominated for 10 Billboard Music Awards, and people are split over whether he deserves to be honored

Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty ImagesXXXTentacion is the stage name of Jahseh Onfroy.

As the finalists for the 2019 Billboard Music Awards were announced Thursday morning, one name in particular elicited many reactions.

XXXTentacion, whose real name is Jahseh Onfroy, posthumously secured 10 nominations, including top male artist and top streaming songs artist.

While this news was a cause for celebration for many, it was the source of major disappointment and anger for others, given the late rapper’s disturbing reputation.

When he was shot and killed in June, XXXTentacion was awaiting trial for a long list of criminal charges, including domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and aggravated battery of a pregnant woman – accusations the alleged victim detailed in a January 2017 deposition. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and maintained his innocence until his death.

In recordings recently uncovered by Pitchfork, XXXTentacion can be heard talking about assaulting an ex-girlfriend (“I will kill that bitch if she play with me”) and stabbing nine people.

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In a 2016 podcast interview, he bragged about strangling and beating a prison inmate nearly to death because he was “a faggot” who was “staring” at him.

Since XXXTentacion’s death, following his fraught rise to fame, the music industry has set a precedent of restraint when it comes to his legacy. The Grammys declined to include him in its “In Memoriam” segment, and Spotify has tentatively ceased promoting his music.

So how and why did the BBMAs decide to honour him?

Finalists and winners at the BBMAs are determined by hard numbers and rankings

Of course, XXXTentacion’s nominations weren’t the only source of debate. As the finalists were announced, incrementally on Twitter, fans of all stripes were quick to respond with both rage and delight.

Ariana Grande’s army of supporters, for example, werelivid that neither “Thank U, Next” nor “7 Rings” were named as top streaming songs. Others were insisting that “Taki Taki” deserved a nod for top streaming song (video), or celebrating Normani’s recognition for “Love Lies” as a top radio song.

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Many of these reactions seem to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Billboard’s unique nominations.

Cardi b drake post maloneKevin Mazur/Ross Gilmore/Santiago Bluguermann/Getty ImagesCardi B, Drake, and Post Malone lead the nominees at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards.

The BBMAs are quite unlike other award shows, many of which are run by anonymous Academy members (like the Grammys) or rely on fans who vote for their favourites (like the MTV Video Music Awards).

Finalists in each category are determined using objective formulas, “based on key interactions with music fans, as well as album and digital songs sales, radio airplay, streaming, touring and social engagement,” according to the website.

In other words, awards go to the artists who are measurably popular and successful in each category. While XXXTentacion may not have been role model material, his album and singles were some of the most-streamed music of 2018.^tfw

The show uses hard numbers, tracked by Billboard and its data partners – but doesn’t disclose formulas, so predicting actual winners isn’t a surefire process. Like, how much does “social engagement” factor in? How is that measured? It’s not exactly clear.

For example, Billboard named “Despacito” the most-streamed song of 2017, but the BBMAs named Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” the top streaming song instead. Similarly, Drake’s “God’s Plan” was the most-streamed song of 2018, but did not secure a nomination in that category this year.

The 2019 BBMAs will air on NBC from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 1 at 8 pm EST.

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