2020 Billboard Music Awards: Post Malone is the top winner

October 14, 2020

Post Malone at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles (Photo by Todd Williamson/NBC)

The following is a press release from Dick Clark Productions and NBC:

Post Malone swept the “2020 Billboard Music Awards” (BBMAs), winning a total of nine awards, including Top Artist and Top Male Artist – the most of the evening – bringing his total number of BBMA wins to 10. Echoing the theme of “Music Unites All’ throughout the night Malone said “music can bring everyone together, it’s absolutely incredible.” Airing tonight from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, the BBMAs opened with an unforgettable performance by three-time host Kelly Clarkson, who brought down the house with Whitney Houston’s version of “Higher Love,” joined by two-time BBMA nominees Pentatonix and queen of percussion Sheila E. 

Khalid followed Post Malone for the most wins of the night with five, including Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Album, and Top R&B Song. Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus tied for the third most wins, with both artists recognized for their hit “Old Town Road” in the Top Hot 100 Song, Top Streaming Song, Top Selling Song, and Top Rap Song categories. Billie Eilish took home three awards including Top New Artist and Top Female Artist. Winners in the fan-voted categories were: BTS (Top Social Artist), Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita” (Top Collaboration) and Harry Styles (Billboard Chart Achievement Award).

Rapper and social activist Killer Mike was honored with the inaugural Billboard Change Maker Award from the historic APEX (African American Panoramic Experience) Museum in Atlanta, GA. The award, which honors an artist or group that speaks truth to power through music, celebrity, and community and is active in their community and charitable with time, money, or influence to improve the lives of others, was presented by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. NBC and MRC teamed up to deposit $1M to Killer Mike’s recently established digital bank, Greenwood.  

Cher made an appearance on the star-studded night to present Garth Brooks with the elite ICON Award, followed by his incredible performance of multiple chart-topping hits that was nothing short of iconic.

The night was full of spectacular performances: 

  • All the way from South Korea, K-Pop supergroup BTS gave an electrifying performance of “Dynamite,” their first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100
  • Demi Lovato gave a chills inducing world premiere performance of her timely and powerful new song “Commander in Chief” 
  • Post Malone delivered a soaring performance of his hits “Circles” and “Tommy Lee” featuring Tyla Yahweh, showing everyone why he took home nine awards
  • Alicia Keys made a long-awaited return to the BBMA stage for a dazzling perform of her latest single “Love Looks Better” 
  • Brandy made her BBMA performance debut and treated fans to her hit “Borderline” along with her new single “No Tomorrow” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, and “Almost Doesn’t Count” 
  • Bad Bunny was joined by surprise guests Nesi and Ivy Queen for “Yo Perreo Sola” for his dynamic and exciting BBMA performance debut
  • In her first BBMA performance, Doja Cat set the stage aflame with a dramatic medley of “Juicy,” “Say So,” and “Like That” 
  • EGOT-winner and multi-platinum singer-songwriter John Legend gave an emotional performance of “Never Break” 
  • Kane Brown, Khalid and Swae Lee tore up the stage with an energetic performance of their hit “Be Like That” 
  • In a rare appearance, Sia delivered a powerful moment with her song “Courage to Change” 
  • On the heels of one of his three wins, Luke Combs gave a moving performance of “Better Together” 
  • Breakout artist SAINt JHN, in his television debut, performed his global smash hit “Roses” 
  • And in this year’s Billboard throwback, iconic group En Vogue closed the evening with an empowering performance of their huge hit “Free Your Mind,” which first stormed the charts 30 years ago

In a tribute to legendary guitarist, musician, and songwriter Eddie Van Halen, the show featured a clip from the 2015 BBMAs when his son Wolfgang took the stage with him for a rare live tv performance. Presenters throughout the evening included Addison Rae, Cher, Garcelle Beauvais, Jane Lynch, Jay Ellis, Jharrel Jerome, Julia Michaels, Lilly Singh, Nicole Richie, Spencer X, Taraji P. Henson, TwinsthenewTrend (Fred & Tim Williams), and tWitch.

“Billboard Music Awards” nominees and winners are based on key fan interactions with music, including album and digital song sales, streaming, radio airplay, touring and social engagement, tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including MRC Data/Nielsen Music. The awards are based on the chart period of March 23, 2019, through March 14, 2020. Since 1940, the Billboard charts have been the go-to guide for ranking the popularity of artists, songs and albums, and are the ultimate measure of success in music.

The “2020 Billboard Music Awards” are sponsored by TikTok and Xfinity. The “2020 Billboard Music Awards” are produced by dick clark productions. Amy Thurlow, Mark Bracco, Barry Adelman, Linda Gierahn, Kelly Clarkson, and Robert Deaton are executive producers.

For the latest news on the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) visit billboardmusicawards.com and  www.billboard.com/bbma. For exclusive content and more, be sure to follow the BBMAs on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube) and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #BBMAs.

About Dick Clark Productions:
Dick Clark Productions (DCP) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest,” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and DCP. DCP also owns one of the world’s most extensive and unique entertainment archive libraries with more than 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances, and legendary programming. DCP is part of MRC Live & Alternative, a division of diversified global entertainment company MRC. For additional information, visit www.mrcentertainment.com


Here is the complete list of nominations and winners:

*=winner

ARTIST AWARDS

Top Artist:
Billie Eilish
Jonas Brothers
Khalid
Post Malone*
Taylor Swift

Top New Artist:
DaBaby
Billie Eilish*
Lil Nas X
Lizzo
Roddy Ricch

Billboard Chart Achievement Award (Fan Voted):
Mariah Carey
Luke Combs
Lil Nas X
Harry Styles*
Taylor Swift

Top Male Artist:
DaBaby
Khalid
Lil Nas X
Post Malone*
Ed Sheeran

Top Female Artist:
Billie Eilish*
Ariana Grande
Halsey
Lizzo
Taylor Swift

Top Duo/Group:
BTS
Dan + Shay
Jonas Brothers*
Maroon 5
Panic! At The Disco

Top Billboard 200 Artist:
Drake
Billie Eilish
Khalid
Post Malone*
Taylor Swift

Top Hot 100 Artist:
DaBaby
Billie Eilish
Khalid
Lil Nas X
Post Malone*

Top Streaming Songs Artist:
DaBaby
Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Post Malone*
Travis Scott

Top Song Sales Artist:
Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Lizzo*
Post Malone
Taylor Swift

Top Radio Songs Artist:
Jonas Brothers*
Khalid
Lizzo
Shawn Mendes
Post Malone

Top Social Artist (Fan Voted):
BTS*
Billie Eilish
EXO
GOT7
Ariana Grande

Top Touring Artist:
Elton John
Metallica
P!nk*
The Rolling Stones
Ed Sheeran

Top R&B Artist:
Chris Brown
Khalid*
Lizzo
Summer Walker
The Weeknd

Top R&B Male Artist:
Chris Brown
Khalid*
The Weeknd

Top R&B Female Artist:
Beyoncé
Lizzo
Summer Walker*

Top R&B Tour:
B2K
Janet Jackson
Khalid*

Top Rap Artist:
DaBaby
Juice WRLD
Lil Nas X
Post Malone*
Roddy Ricch

Top Rap Male Artist:
DaBaby
Lil Nas X
Post Malone*

Top Rap Female Artist:
Cardi B*
City Girls
Megan Thee Stallion

Top Rap Tour:
Drake
Post Malone*
Travis Scott

Top Country Artist:
Kane Brown
Luke Combs*
Dan + Shay
Maren Morris
Thomas Rhett

Top Country Male Artist:
Kane Brown
Luke Combs*
Thomas Rhett

Top Country Female Artist:
Maren Morris*
Kacey Musgraves
Carrie Underwood

Top Country Duo/Group:
Dan + Shay*
Florida Georgia Line
Old Dominion

Top Country Tour:
Eric Church
Florida Georgia Line
George Strait*

Top Rock Artist:
Imagine Dragons
Panic! At The Disco*
Tame Impala
Tool
twenty one pilots

Top Rock Tour:
Elton John*
Metallica
The Rolling Stones

Top Latin Artist:
Anuel AA
Bad Bunny*
J Balvin
Ozuna
Romeo Santos

Top Dance/Electronic Artist:
Avicii
The Chainsmokers*
DJ Snake
Illenium
Marshmello

Top Christian Artist:
Lauren Daigle*
Elevation Worship
for KING & COUNTRY
Hillsong UNITED
Kanye West

Top Gospel Artist:
Kirk Franklin
Koryn Hawthorne
Tasha Cobbs Leonard
Sunday Service Choir
Kanye West*

ALBUM AWARDS

Top Billboard 200 Album:
Billie Eilish “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”*
Ariana Grande “thank u, next”
Khalid “Free Spirit”
Post Malone “Hollywood’s Bleeding”
Taylor Swift “Lover”

Top Soundtrack:
“Aladdin”
“Descendants 3”
“Frozen II”*
“K-12” by Melanie Martinez 
“The Dirt” by Mötley Crüe

Top R&B Album:
Beyoncé “Homecoming: The Live Album”
Justin Bieber “Changes”
Chris Brown “Indigo”
Khalid “Free Spirit”*
Summer Walker “Over It”

Top Rap Album:
DaBaby “KIRK”
Juice WRLD “Death Race For Love”
Post Malone “Hollywood’s Bleeding”*
Roddy Ricch “Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial”
Young Thug “So Much Fun”

Top Country Album:
Kane Brown “Experiment”
Luke Combs “What You See Is What You Get”*
Maren Morris “GIRL”
Thomas Rhett “Center Point Road”
Morgan Wallen “If I Know Me”

Top Rock Album:
The Lumineers “III”
Slipknot “We Are Not Your Kind”
Tame Impala “The Slow Rush”
Tool “Fear Inoculum”*
Vampire Weekend “Father of the Bride”

Top Latin Album:
J Balvin & Bad Bunny “Oasis”*
Farruko “Gangalee”
Maluma “11:11”
Romeo Santos “Utopía”
Sech “Sueños”

Top Dance/Electronic Album:
Avicii “TIM”
The Chainsmokers “World War Joy”
Illenium “Ascend”
Marshmello “Marshmello: Fortnite Extended Set”*
Alan Walker “Different World”

Top Christian Album:
Bethel Music “Victory: Recorded Live”
Casting Crowns “Only Jesus”
Hillsong UNITED “People”
Skillet “Victorious”
Kanye West “Jesus is King”*

Top Gospel AlbumL
Kirk Franklin “Long Live Love”
Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers “Goshen”
William McDowell “The Cry: A Live Worship Experience”
Sunday Service Choir “Jesus Is Born”
Kanye West “Jesus is King”*

SONG AWARDS

Top Hot 100 Song:
Lewis Capaldi “Someone You Loved”
Billie Eilish “bad guy”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”*
Lizzo “Truth Hurts”
Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello “Señorita”

Top Streaming Song:
Chris Brown ft. Drake “No Guidance”
Billie Eilish “bad guy”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”*
Lil Tecca “Ran$om”
Post Malone & Swae Lee “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”

Top Selling Song:
Lewis Capaldi “Someone You Loved”
Billie Eilish “bad guy”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”*
Lizzo “Truth Hurts”
Blake Shelton “God’s Country”

Top Radio Song:
Lewis Capaldi “Someone You Loved”
Jonas Brothers “Sucker”*
Khalid “Talk”
Lizzo “Truth Hurts”
Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber “I Don’t Care”

Top Collaboration (Fan Voted):
Chris Brown ft. Drake “No Guidance”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”
Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello “Señorita”*
Post Malone & Swae Lee “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”
Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber “I Don’t Care”

Top R&B Song:
Chris Brown ft. Drake “No Guidance”
Doja Cat & Tyga “Juicy”
Khalid “Talk”*
Lizzo “Good As Hell”
The Weeknd “Heartless”

Top Rap Song:
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”*
Lil Tecca “Ran$om”
Lizzo “Truth Hurts”
Post Malone & Swae Lee “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”
Post Malone “Wow.”

Top Country Song:
Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber “10,000 Hours”*
Maren Morris “The Bones”
Old Dominion “One Man Band”
Blake Shelton “God’s Country”
Morgan Wallen “Whiskey Glasses”

Top Rock Song:
Imagine Dragons “Bad Liar”
Machine Gun Kelly x YUNGBLUD x Travis Barker “I Think I’m Okay”
Panic! At The Disco “Hey Look Ma, I Made It”*
twenty one pilots “Chlorine”
twenty one pilots “The Hype”

Top Latin Song:
Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna & J Balvin “China”
Bad Bunny & Tainy “Callaita”
Daddy Yankee ft. Snow “Con Calma”*
Jhay Cortez, J Balvin, & Bad Bunny “No Me Conoce”
Sech ft. Darell, Nicky Jam, Ozuna, Anuel AA “Otro Trago”

Top Dance/Electronic Song:
Black Eyed Peas x J Balvin “Ritmo (Bad Boys For Life)”
Ellie Goulding x Diplo ft. Swae Lee “Close To Me”*
Illenium & Jon Bellion “Good Things Fall Apart”
Kygo x Whitney Houston “Higher Love”
Marshmello ft. CHVRCHES “Here With Me”

Top Christian Song:
Bethel Music, Jonathan David Helser & Melissa Helser “Raise A Hallelujah”
Casting Crowns ft. Matthew West “Nobody”
Lauren Daigle “Rescue”
for KING & COUNTRY “God Only Knows”*
Kanye West “Follow God”

Top Gospel Song:
Kirk Franklin “Love Theory”
Kanye West “Closed on Sunday”
Kanye West “Follow God”*
Kanye West “On God”
Kanye West “Selah”

2020 Billboard Music Awards: performers and presenters announced

October 14, 2020

 
Kelly Clarkson (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

The following is a press release from Dick Clark Productions and NBC:

WHO:
Host and opening performer Kelly Clarkson will be joined by Pentatonix and Sheila E. Additional performers include Alicia Keys, Bad Bunny, Brandy featuring Ty Dolla $ign, BTS, Kane Brown featuring Swae Lee and Khalid, Luke Combs, Doja Cat, En Vogue, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Sia, Post Malone featuring Tyla Yahweh, and SAINt JHN. Garth Brooks will receive the elite ICON Award. Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms will present rapper and social activist Killer Mike with the inaugural Billboard Change Maker Award. Presenters include Addison Rae, Cher, Garcelle Beauvais, Jane Lynch, Jay Ellis, Jharrel Jerome, Julia Michaels, Lilly Singh, Nicole Richie, Spencer X, Taraji P. Henson, TwinsthenewTrend and tWitch.

WHAT:
The “2020 Billboard Music Awards” is hosted by three-time Billboard Music Award host Kelly Clarkson and airs live on NBC on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. ET/PT from the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.

The three-hour live telecast will showcase this year’s hottest musical acts, unexpected collaborations and buzzworthy moments. “Billboard Music Awards” nominees and winners are based on key fan interactions with music, including album and digital song sales, streaming, radio airplay, touring and social engagement, tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including MRC Data/Nielsen Music. The awards are based on the chart period of March 23, 2019 through March 14, 2020. Since 1940, the Billboard charts have been the go-to guide for ranking the popularity of artists, songs and albums, and are the ultimate measure of success in music.

The “2020 Billboard Music Awards” are sponsored by TikTok and Xfinity. The “2020 Billboard Music Awards” is produced by Dick Clark Productions. Amy Thurlow, Mark Bracco, Barry Adelman, Linda Gierahn, Kelly Clarkson and Robert Deaton are executive producers.

WHEN:         
The “2020 Billboard Music Awards” airs Wednesday, October 14 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

MORE:
About Dick Clark Productions:
Dick Clark Productions (DCP) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and DCP. DCP also owns one of the world’s most extensive and unique entertainment archive libraries with more than 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. DCP is part of MRC Live & Alternative, a division of diversified global entertainment company MRC. For additional information, visit www.mrcentertainment.com

Review: ‘Selah and the Spades,’ starring Lovie Simone, Celeste O’Connor and Jharrel Jerome

April 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Celeste O’Connor, Lovie Simone and Jharrel Jerome in “Selah and the Spades” (Photo by Ashley Bean/Amazon Studios)

“Selah and the Spades”

Directed by Tayarisha Poe

Culture Representation: Taking place at an elite co-ed boarding high school in Pennsylvania, the grim drama “Selah and the Spades” has a racially diverse cast of characters (African American and white) who represent the upper-class.

Culture Clash: The rebellious teenagers at the school have intense social rivalries, as they try to hide their law-breaking activities from adults.

Culture Audience: “Selah and the Spades” will appeal mostly to people who like movies about teenagers behaving badly, but most of the characters’ personalities are shallow and underwritten.

Lovie Simone in “Selah and the Spades” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

“Selah and the Spades” is about a group of privileged and rebellious teenagers who weren’t even born when the 1988 dark comedy film “Heathers” was first released, but the basic concept of “Selah and the Spades” draws a lot from the “Heathers” template, without the winning charm of “Heathers.” The idea is the same: A new “outsider” girl enrolls in a high school and finds herself being accepted into the “cool kids” clique at the top of the school’s social ladder, led by a stuck-up “queen bee.” The “new girl” is a quirky, creative type, while the “queen bee” is cold and power-hungry.

One of the main differences between the two movies is that “Heathers” told the story from the perspective of the new girl, while “Selah and the Spades” (the first feature film written and directed by Tayarisha Poe) tells the story from the perspective of the queen bee. Unfortunately, for “Selah and the Spades,” the movie is as humorless and pretentious as its central character. The other main difference between the two movies is that “Heathers” took place in a predominantly white public high school (with people of different social classes), while “Selah and the Spades” takes place at an elite, racially diverse boarding school where the members of the school’s most powerful clique all happen to be African American.

“Selah and the Spades” exists in a world where, unrealistically, race is never mentioned or addressed. It might seem like writer/director Poe did something different or edgy by creating a world where African American students rule the social hierarchy at an elite boarding school, but these African Americans are also the school’s drug dealers, which puts them in the same ghetto mindset and criminal category that numerous other movies and TV shows have put African Americans. In other words, Poe might have changed the setting to a boarding school, but making the central characters drug-dealing African Americans is completely unoriginal and panders to negative stereotypes.

“Selah and the Spades” takes place during the spring season at the fictional Haldwell School for Boarding and Day Students, located in an unnamed U.S. city in Pennsylvania. (The movie was actually filmed in Massachusetts.) An unseen teenage narrator (voiced by Jessie Cannizzaro) explains the social structure of the school’s vice-motivated “underground rebels,” which consists of five factions.

  • The Spades, who are at the tope of the heap, are led by 17-year-old high-school senior Selah Summers (played by Lovie Simone) and her right-hand guy Maxxie Ayoade (played by Jharrel Jerome, the Emmy-winning star of Netflix’s “When They See Us”), who are the aforementioned drug dealers.
  • The Seed, a group of former teacher’s pets who’ve gone rogue and engage in cheating, is led by Tarit Toll Perelstein (played by Henry Hunter Hall).
  • The Skins, whose specialty is gambling, are led by Amber Bolfo (played by Francesca Noel).
  • The Prefects, who make the school’s administration “blissfully unaware” of these students’ illegal activities, are led by Thomas Richard Thomas III, also known as Two Tom (played by Evan Roe).
  • The Bobbies, who throw illegal parties, are led by Roberta “Bobby” Pellegrino (played by Anna Mulvoy Ten).

These five factions (which total about 20 students) have outdoor meetings at a school picnic table, where Selah (pronounced “sell-ah,” perhaps a play on words, since she’s a drug seller) leads the meetings with a haughty, imperious manner. There’s constant friction between Selah and Bobby, who is the only other faction leader to question Selah’s authority. It makes sense that these two faction leaders would butt heads, since The Bobbies are in charge of the parties, which need the drugs that The Spades provide.

There are only two adult characters with significant speaking roles in “Selah and the Spades,” and they both represent despised authority figures in Selah’s life.

The first is Selah’s demanding mother, Maybelle Summers (played by Gina Torres), the only person in the story who can make Selah feel powerless. Maybelle is the type of parent who, when Selah tells her that she scored a 93 out of 100 percent on a recent test, will ask what happened with the other 7 percent instead of congratulating her daughter on the high score. Maybelle also berates Selah by saying, “You’re starting to sound like your father,” when Selah makes excuses for why she didn’t score 100 on the test. (Selah’s father or stepfather is briefly shown kissing Maybelle goodbye before he heads off to work, and the movie doesn’t show any interaction between him and Selah.)

Maybelle is also the type of domineering parent who already has Selah’s future planned for her after graduation (a prestigious university, of course), but Selah drops hints that she might want to take a gap year or might not want to go to college at all. When Selah tries to tell her mother that she isn’t really interested in college, Maybelle quickly dismisses the idea and never asks what Selah really wants to do with her life. It’s the time of year where Selah has to decide which university to attend, and she’s been secretly delaying her response to the top school of her mother’s choice. Her mother finds out anyway that Selah hasn’t responded, and, not surprisingly, she’s livid about it.

The irony of Selah’s tense relationship with her mother is that the unpleasant characteristics that Selah dislikes about her mother are the same characteristics that Selah has when she’s around her peers. Selah and her mother are both bossy control freaks who use emotional manipulation, bullying and fear to get people to do what they want. They also don’t like having their plans disrupted, and they have a hard time accepting that people might not always want to go along with their plans.

The other adult authority figure in Selah’s life is Headmaster Banton (played by Jesse Williams), who is generally clueless about what goes on in the school’s “underground” factions. He usually finds out about student shenanigans after the fact. Headmaster Banton ends up cancelling the junior/senior prom because of the student unruliness. In response, the five factions decide to have their own off-campus party, which leads to a series of events that test the limits of some of the movie’s characters.

Before the party happens, there’s a scene in the movie that shows the mischievous side of the five factions, who vote on what what to do for their senior prank. They all decide that their prank, which they plan to do after school hours, will have something to do with water. The prank turns out to be filling hundreds of identical small tumbler glasses with water dyed blue, green and purple, and setting the glasses on all the steps of a long and winding staircase inside a school building.

It’s eye-catching, but it’s not a particularly creative prank. Headmaster Banton arrives with a colleague the next day and finds the stairs can’t be climbed because it’s filled with the water glasses. Apparently, this elite boarding school is too cheap to pay for on-campus night security, which would’ve caught these pranksters in the act.

As for the new girl, she’s Paloma Davis (played by Celeste O’Connor), who’s a sophomore when she enrolls in Haldwell. Paloma (just like Winona Ryder’s Veronica Sawyer character in “Heathers”) starts off as introverted and shy, but then changes after being accepted by the top clique of the “cool kids.” Paloma has an interest in photography, since she’s constantly taking photos of students on her professional camera. She’s in awe of the older kids in the “five factions.” Paloma is thrilled when Selah starts to pay attention to her, and eventually the two girls start to spend more time together. 

Paloma is the only non-senior classmate who was invited to the “water prank.” Curiously, Paloma was openly taking pictures of the students during the prank, which is an odd plot hole to the movie, considering that Selah is the type of paranoid control freak who wouldn’t allow someone to have evidence of who caused the prank.

As explained by the unseen narrator in the beginning of the film, Selah will soon graduate, so she’s looking for someone to continue her “legacy” and take over The Spades after she’s gone. Paloma seems like an ideal candidate for Selah to mentor. But unlike Selah, who is selfish and vindictive, Paloma is compassionate toward her fellow students. And she doesn’t always follow Selah’s commands. For example, Selah wants Paloma to take her side in Selah’s feud against Bobby, but Paloma is reluctant to pick a side and has no problem hanging out with Bobby.

Meanwhile, other insecurities fray the bonds of The Spades. Maxxie starts to become jealous that Selah and Paloma have become close, and he fears being replaced as Selah’s most-trusted right-hand person. Selah identifies as asexual and privately tells Paloma that she has no interest in dating. So it’s not much of a surprise that petty Selah becomes envious that Maxxie has become romantically involved with an attractive fellow student named Nuri (played by Nekhebet Juch). Maxxie and Nuri’s romance has distracted Maxxie from all the attention that he used to give Selah.

Like many toxic leaders, Selah is also quick to cruelly punish people she considers to be “disloyal.” There’s an insidious side to her, as it’s made clear to viewers that Selah doesn’t hesitate to have people beat up if they “snitch” or fall behind on their drug debts. There’s also something that happened during her sophomore year that is mentioned several times in the movie as being disruptive to The Spades but a turning point in Selah’s leadership. The full details of what happened are revealed in the movie.

“Selah and the Spades” uses Selah’s controlling mother to explain why Selah is such a deeply unhappy person. It’s this movie’s attempt to make Selah more sympathetic (with the predictable scenes of Selah crying after being bullied by her mother), but it’s not to enough to explain why Selah (who also has an awful personality) has become the “queen bee” of the “cool kids.”

Selah is an empty shell of a person. Antiheroes who become leaders usually have some kind of charisma that attracts people to them. However, Selah has no charisma or any particular talent. If she has any passions or ambitions, they’re not shown in the movie. And she doesn’t appear to be the richest student in the school, so it’s not adequately explained in the movie why people would want to blindly follow her.

It is not unrealistic that the teenage characters in the movie talk like they’re 10 years older than the ages of their characters (such as when they use a phrase like “pray tell”), because these are supposed to be well-educated teenagers. The problem is that even though the movie tries to make Selah look like she’s wise beyond her years, in actuality, she has the emotional intelligence of a slug.

There’s also a preachy part in the movie where the Selah character, in the middle of cheerleader practice, stops and talks directly to the camera to go off on a rant about how people want to control the bodies of 17-year-old girls, who should have the right to say, do and dress however they want without being judged sexually. This is the only time that the Selah character “breaks the fourth wall” and talks directly to the audience.

It’s a very pretentious and misguided part of the film, not just because “breaking the fourth wall” doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie, but also because this attempt to make Selah look like an enlightened feminist falls very flat. At the point in the movie where Selah goes off on this rant, viewers already know she’s a self-entitled brat who’s also a drug dealer. It’s a little hard to take her preaching seriously, considering how morally bankrupt and hateful she is.

As the loathsome Selah, Simone does an adequate job at portraying someone who is supposed to be written as a complicated person, but she’s really transparent and fairly two-dimensional. The real discovery is O’Connor, who goes through a metamorphosis as Paloma, and gives by far the best performance in the movie.

Unfortunately, most of the characters, except for Selah and Paloma, are written as vague sketches. The movie could’ve been more interesting if it showed more of the personalities of the other faction leaders, so viewers can get an idea of the social dynamics that caused Selah to rise to the leadership position.

It’s not about Selah being likeable. It’s about her being fascinating enough to explain why she’s the “queen bee” of the school’s social hierarchy. Because “Selah and the Spades” takes the misstep of having a central character with such a dead personality (which leads to a lot of dull and predictable scenes), this movie that is clearly inspired by “Heathers” won’t ever be considered a cult classic like “Heathers.”

Amazon Prime Video premiered “Selah and the Spades” on April 17, 2020.