The AMAs took place just a few minutes ago and I spent the show typing up my play by play thoughts. Award show performances are hard, so there were a couple bumps in the road, but there were some truly amazing performances, in particular, Billie Eilish and Halsey. Taylor more than delivered on her AMAs Artist of the Decade feature and proved to everyone that she is still one of the most amazing people in pop. They did a great job pairing presenters and performers that made sense. I particularly loved Carole King introducing Taylor and Billie Porter introducing Camila Cabello's number. For my play by play of the night, keep reading. Each performance is separated out to make it easier to find the specific performances you're looking for too.
Opening Number: Selena Gomez:
Her outfit is on point! I love how her hair is done in those loose waves. The black, stretch turtle neck dress is super elegant. Unfortuently, she seemed to have an issue with her ears or something because she sounds super out of key during "Lose You To Love Me". The quick change was amazing! I love the second look with the silver bodysuit and the knee high boots.
During "Look At Her Now", she seemed off as well. Her energy seemed low and the during the dance she seemed a bit behind the beat. She had difficulty but got through the performance with a smile. It's really hard to do award show performances, and I have to wonder if there were some technical difficulties. You gotta love Taylor and Halsey being her two women hype machine though!
Ciera took the stage after Selena, and while I'm not super familiar with her outside of red carpets and rap isn't really my genre, I have to give her major props as a dancer and performer. She got the crowd hyped and was really entertaining to watch. I can't believe she is hosting after performing. I'm looking forward to see what she's going to do as a host because usually hosts are not the highlight of the night. Also, major props for all that talking after such an energetic performance.
The crowd cuts to all the other celebrities and performers is almost the best part! It's so fun to see how everyone acts in the audience.
Alternative is the first category between Billie Eilish, Panic at the Disco, and Imagine Dragons. This is Billie's year so of course she won it! Her music is so unique and of the moment makes sense. Her speech was so cute, and I can't wait to see her take every award show this season. It was also so funny and relatable at how the microphone was just a little too tall for her!
Pop/Rock song has Halsey, Jonas Brothers, Panic at the Disco, Post Malone, and. It went to Halsey's "Without Me" and I'm so thrilled because that song is one of my favorites of the year. It's the perfect radio banger, but when you think about it, it's a really deep, sad song. I love music that can work in so many applications and have so many layers. This song does it. "Sometimes you grow up and the stuff you used to believe in loses its magic, but music never does" was about what Halsey said when she left the stage, and that beautifully sums it up. Music really is a magic that never fades.
Next up is Lizzo's performance. She told everyone to put their lights up, and it really did create a beautiful scene in the stadium. I am by no stretch of the imagination a Lizzo stand, but I never heard the opening song Lizzo performed (it was "Jerome"). It sounds almost like a musical theatre voice, and, while it's not my favorite, it captures the power that her voice holds really well. It has gone on a bit long. I think award show performances work better when they're quick cut medleys of more upbeat songs. Everyone has light up bracelets you'd recognize from the 1989 tour or Shawn Mendes's latest tour, and they do have a magical effect. I'm a huge fan of them becoming more common at concerts. I'm surprised she didn't do "Truth Hurts" or "Good As Hell" though I guess she's performed it a lot.
Then we have Thomas Rhett performing . I didn't think I knew any of his songs but was immediately proven wrong. I now have a face to put to the name. It's nice to kick the mood up with a light and pyro show. There was a really cute cut to some kids in giant ear protection. I also really like the idea of a country star in tighter ripped jeans as a fun play on their usual uniform. He definitely has most of the crowd with him.
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello are up next with Señorita. I loved the last time they performed it so I'm looking forward to it. They don't seem was into it as on the VMAs, but it's heated up. They got more into it as he left his guitar behind but they basically did the same performance as before including the almost but not kiss and Taylor being the biggest Shawnmilla shipper. The other weird thing was that every time they cut to the audience, someone was whispering to the person next to them.
Ariana, Billie, and Taylor for Lover all got nominated for best pop/rock album. They didn't nominate any rock albums... but Taylor won which is unsurprising considering its fan voted. You can say a lot about Swifties, but you can't doubt their ability to sweep any fan voted contest. She said she didn't think she was going to win this award so she seemed a bit surprised and caught off guard about making a speech which was funny given that she's Taylor.
Kesha performs immediately after which feels appropriate with how they're supporting each other. She started it with "Welcome to our Sunday Service", and I don't think making a Kanye reference was the best choice. It was honestly a little jarring to hear the new song for the first time because as much as the song sounds super Kesha and as generic as I used to think Kesha sounded, I haven't really heard that specific sound since Kesha stopped putting out music in full force. "Raising Hell" definitely isn't one of my new favorites, but I'm happy that Kesha is in a spot where she can make music as she wants to and is getting to a better place where she's doing what she wants with her career. The transition into into "Tick Tock" was a little confusing and jarring with no backing track behind it, but once it kicked in, it was a throwback that definitely go the audience to perk up. The kick line was a weird choreography choice, but the performance really turned itself around.
Next we have the Toni Braxton tribute. I actually only know about Toni Braxton because I think her sister was on Dancing with the Stars a few years ago, so it's interesting to actually hear a song of hers. I always find it interesting how major pop award shows always feature two or three performances by older artists who you might recognize by name but not be super familiar with. I'm not sure if it's to pull an older audience too or if it's some push for exposure to a younger generation, but they never quit fit into the night right for me. Also, "Unbreak my Heart" is a really slow song with a live orchestra and an almost Frozen looking set so there's not much to focus on or be entertained by performance wise. This is the slow song I've seen the most celebrities be engaged with. I have to give the violinists who are playing and dancing at the same time major props for their balance skills, but, like I said before, the whole set up is just giving me major Frozen vibes!
Country music category include Kane Brown, Dan and Shay, and Carrie Underwood. Carrie took this one which I found surprising honestly for the AMAs being mostly fan voted. I'm a fan of her older music but didn't know she had new music out. I thought it might go to Dan and Shay because of how often they've made music news headlines lately, but I'm also not super familiar with country as a genre. "For every single person, we all have gifts" was a sweet sentiment. They also wedged in that she won female country artist, which is a category that would've been cool if they'd televised that category, but, honestly, the awards part of this award show seem super rushed and brief to fit in all the performances.
BTS took tour of the year in a recorded video message. I'm not sure who else was nominated in the category cause it wasn't shown but given how frantic the ticket rush was and how all encompassing their
Billie came on to perform next. Finneas was up there accompanying her sitting at the piano playing with a guitar in his lap too. I think this is the first time I've actually watched her perform. They have some amazing visuals with the fire in the background, and I'd heard she performs like a concert attendee because she used to fight to the front of mosh pits and I can see that here. I love it. Her dancing around is so cute and into it. I think she leaves room for everyone to feel like they'd know what it would be like to be on stage. She definitely has a presence that some artists tonight have lacked. She performed "all good girls go to hell" which continues the theme of a lot of the most popular performers not choosing to play their bigger hits. Also, I only noticed cause someone pointed it out on twitter after, but Billie's performance outfit says "No music on a dead planet" with tons of sequin flames.
Collaboration of the year are "Shallow" a Star is Born, "Old Town Road", "Happier" by Marshmallow and Bastille, "Señorita", and "Sunflower" by Post Malone and Swae Lee. "Señorita" won which I was happy to see just cause I wanted to see them accept the award. They had the opposite problem as they did with Billie cause the mic was way too low for Shawn to get a word in. They really kept their speech short, to the point where it was only a few words long. The speeches at the top of the night were quite long by award show standards, so I think they've started cutting people off and telling them to move it along.
New Artist is the next category and seems to be one of the bigger categories. It's between Luke Combs, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Ella May, and Lizzo. Billie took this too which makes sense given the nature of the award show, but I'm hoping it's telling for the Grammy's. "Thank you to my creative team for letting me do what I want pretty much all the time".
That leads directly into Halsey's performance of "Graveyard" which is her new big single. She gave the most captivating performance of the night. She and a dancer were dressed in all white with some inconspicuous paint buckets behind them. They really blended well into the white background, and I thought they were just going to do some kind of contemporary dance. Instead, Halsey, while singing live quite well, proceeded to dance both with and in sync with the dancer. And then they started rubbing and throwing paint at each other. It was so cool to see the explosion of paint colors go with the emotional explosion of the song. I also loved that it was a female dancer that Halsey chose for the piece. The emotional intensity, singing, and dancing were all on point, and I honestly couldn't take my eyes off of them. My one question is how are they going to get all the dark blue paint off Halsey's face for the rest of the night.
Billie introduced Green Day which was really cool considering how much the band means to her. I didn't recognize first their song ("Father of All" (thank you Shazam)) even though I do like quite a few Green Day songs. It seemed like most of the audience also didn't quite know it even though the performance was engaging. Then they launched into "Basket Case" and myself and everyone in the audience got instantly more excited. I love the crowd cuts to Billie and Finneas cause it's so clear that they're living for that moment.
Rap/Hip Hop album was between Meek Mill Post Malone, or Travis Scott. Again, not very familiar with the genre, but I thought with how big of a fanbase Travis might have had a fighting chance, but Post Malone is just on fire this year, so it also felt natural for the award to go to him. He also has the most crossover appeal which might have helped him here. I actually like quite a few of his songs.
Billie Porter came out to introduce Camila Cabello in the most perfect way. I loved the intro.
Camila got quite the set up between dancers and the dreamy, sunset screens. She looked amazing in her gauzy, white costume. She's singing her latest release, "Living Proof" which I didn't love when I heard the studio version, and it's still not my favorite song, but I like it much better how they arranged it live. It really showcased her amazing vocal ability more. I also love that her backup dancers, both male and female, are all in the same gauzy, dress type things and black unitards. The dancing and choreography added an interesting visual complexity to the song that took it up a level and they really took advantage of the screens. What took me by most surprise was how... sexual it was. There was lots of grinding and suggestive closeness throughout which was an interesting twist for her.
They rolled straight into th Jonas Brother's set live from Boston. Kevin had his little moment at the start of "Human" with his guitar which was cute. I really don't love the baseline in this song, but it does ave a real groove, and their bouncy performance captured that. There will always be a special place in my six year old heart for the Jonas Brothers. They were actually my first or second concert.
Carole King is a fitting introduction for Taylor as she's one of the best songwriters of her time and Taylor is the leading songwriter of her generation. She gave a very sweet and accurate introduction. They gave her an intro montage with documentary overdub. It's nothing extraordinary, but it's a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman. I like how she mentioned fight for artist's rights because I think that's one of her biggest and most lasting contributions outside of music. It's pretty amazing to hear her achievements all spelleed out. Taylor comes up next placed towards the middle/end of the set which is interesting. I thought she might close the night.
She's opening with a new version of "The Man" which is SOOOOO perfect. Wearing an oversized button downs with all of her album titles. It's a MOOD. With all the tiny back up dancers, the next generation she's fighting for. Then it all gets stripped off for a gold, sparkly "Love Story" rendition that goes dark, back toward "I Knew You Were Trouble" reimagined. Then we go to "Blank Space" which is the perfect transition. It's also done in a new way. She works with her background dancers extraordinarily well. Shake It Off Turns into a technically whirlwind with Halsey and Camila cameos that are perfect. It seemed likei t finale but then some dancers came out and orchestra started playing. Taylor got behind the piano to play "Lover" while two ballerinas danced. It was gorgeous. I love how Taylor and Halsey's seat got given to her parents to watch her perform.
"All anyone in this room wants is to create something that will last." She gave a beautiful speech."All that matters to me is the memories that I've had with all of you guys over the years". Despite the Grammy snubs, I think it's okay. Taylor owned the AMAs.
My one sad spot is that she didn't play a song from every single era. I get why, but it still would've been cool to see a debut deep cut and something from Rep. I'm still in awe of that little bit of "The Man" though. She's the queen of elegant jabs. She managed to make a statement but still be very clear that it was her moment of joy and nothing going on in the world could poison that.
The following category was Rap/Hip hop song: Old Town Road, Post Malone, and Travis Scott. Lil Nas X took it which isn't a surprise considering he basically owned the internet for like six months. The way too short microphone strikes again. He also told you even if you feel like you're too old and your moment has passed, you can still do it.
Christina Aguilera and Great Big World debuted a duet right after. Taylor is a hard act to follow, and it's hard to translate really slow, emotional songs into great award show performances so this was sort of an uphill battle. The song is also no "Say Something".
Post Malone did a great job with "Circles". It sounded just like the recording and it's super chill and a good vibe. Even though I didn't think I liked Ozzy Osborne or the song that they did, I'm actually pretty into this Ozzy/Post Malone/Travis Scott collaboration. The crowd was pretty into it too. It was pretty amusing to see Carrie Underwood losing herself in the music. It's another performance I'm surprised they didn't save for the closer.
Dua Lipa came on next with another song I've somehow missed. Her performance seemed a little low energy. The song itself has a very similar sound to "New Rules" while being slower. It's also on th same theme.
Country songs nominees were Luke Combs, Dan and Shay, and Blake Shelton. It went to Dan and Shay which makes sense. It feels like about time that they scored an award for how dominate they've been on the radio this year.
Artist of the year is between Drake, Ariana, Halsey, Post Malone, and Taylor Swift which is a strong line up, but between her fandom and winning artist of the decade, it would've been the shock of the night if she hadn't won this category. Her speech has been quite heartfelt and open. She gave a shoutout to Halsey's speech and callout of the music energy. She thanked everyone most of all for being there. "I'm lucky to be here. I know that every step of the way."
Shania Twain wrapped up the night with a performance I found a bit underwhelming and too long. I wish they'd had Taylor do a few more songs and kept this shorter. But the saddest part is that Taylor got on the stage so excited, put her arms out to hug her and was snubbed. All I could think was poor Taylor as the closing screen drifted in.