Congratulations, America, we had our music awards tonight. Per usual, the American Music Awards were much more about the music than the awards, with the performances outnumbering the actual awards given out. There were winners and losers and Miley Cyrus, because it’s still 2013. Here were the evening’s highs and lows.
HIGH: The host, Pitbull.
We regret all the jokes we made about Pitbull hosting the AMAs before it all started. Quite quickly it was obvious that Mr. Worldwide was one of the best hosts the AMAs has ever had. He didn’t stumble over the teleprompter, spoke charmingly in both English and Spanish, and just made the entire thing look effortless, all without his trademark sunglasses. Dale, good sir, dale.
LOW: The awards.
It’s fine if you want to make your award show performance-heavy, but if you’re going to only have around fifteen awards given out, Taylor Swift (she won four), Justin Timberlake (three), and One Direction (two) shouldn’t win half of them. They were all even nominated for the pop/rock album award, a.k.a. the award for most famous artist who actually showed up. We get it. They each are thankful for their fans.
HIGH: J. Lo’s tribute to Celia Cruz.
Lest you forget, Jennifer Lopez was once a beloved performer, whose first album On the 6 even boasted a song written by Gloria Estefan (“Let’s Get Loud”). She once defined crossover, having, early in her career, played Selena in a biopic, and J. Lo can certainly salsa while singing. In a tribute to Cuban Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, Lopez carried pounds of fake hair atop her head without skipping a beat.
LOW: TLC’s tribute to themselves?
Seeing as VH1’s TLC biopic CrazySexyCool wasn’t completely awful, it shouldn’t have felt this wrong to have Lil’ Mama, who played Left Eye Lopez in the TV film, sit in for her in this performance. What was the nagging problem? Was it Lil’ Mama’s totally mangled “Waterfalls” interlude? Was it that we might have preferred a hologram instead? If TLC is still fighting for that comeback, they’re going to have to go a different route.
HIGH: Ariana Grande’s acceptance speech.
There is maybe nothing more consistently winning in award show speeches than genuine nervousness, and Ariana Grande reinforced that theory when accepting the award for New Artist of the Year. The combination of her struggling to get up the stairs in that dress, having her mom write her speech, calling out the countdown clock, and speeding through her thank-yous resulted in an altogether charming speech. If only every win was a first win.
LOW: Luke Bryan’s acceptance speech.
“Thank you to my wife. Thank you for letting me shake it a little bit out on the road,” has replaced Ben Affleck’s “marriage is work” as the most doghouse-worthy way to thank your spouse at an award show. Either he is extremely comfortable with his open marriage or he’s oblivious to the fact that open marriages exist.
HIGH: Lady Gaga and R. Kelly channel JFK and Marilyn Monroe.
Apparently, all Lady Gaga needed to get us to really appreciate her inner campiness was to bring in R. Kelly. They previously humped on Saturday Night Live, and tonight the two played president and Monica Lewinsky–slash–Marilyn Monroe for a scandalous mini-musical. They sexed it up a bit, then when pictures of them together were leaked on Instagram and Kells denied “all sexual relations with that woman,” Gaga turned the whole thing into a heartbreaking ballad. (We’ll just forget that the entire thing was a bit too close to Friday’s 50th anniversary of JFK’s death for comfort.)
LOW: Nelly and Florida Georgia Line Make You Want to Change the Channel.
Imagine a cruise that never ends. It would be fun at first, sure, but once you realize that you can never escape, it’s actual hell. And that’s sort of what Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” feels like at this point: a song that once fought for Song of Summer and apparently will also choose to fight for Song of Fall and Song of Winter. The trio turned it around by surprising the audience with a duet of Nelly’s hit “Ride Wit Me,” but then FGL went on to win actual awards and ruin everything.
HIGH: Miley Cyrus Is Still the Internet.
“Let’s give them something to talk about” is what we can only assume Miley Cyrus sings to herself in the mirror every night before brushing her tongue. Again she nailed it, but this time in a completely above-aboard, pretty-damn-clever way. Miley’s AMA’s performance subverted her months spent promoting her new album exclusively through Internet chatter, as if to say, “All my controversy was just another meme like a cat singing and crying diamonds.” Every audience can appreciate an appropriation of feline culture. Well, except dogs. There’s going to be one hell of a think piece tomorrow on that Dog With a Blog dog’s blog.