The American Music Awards took place live and socially distanced at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday (Nov. 22) night. Taylor Swift nabbed the artist of the year award, but as with so many awards shows, it was really all about the live music.
From a Nelly medley to the Weeknd’s explosive outdoor performance to Becky G’s heartfelt speech, these are the 10 best moments from the 2020 AMAs.
Hootie & Hudson
Katy Perry slowed it down for a duet with Darius Rucker, crooning the heartfelt Smile ballad “Only Love” and giving her robust vocals a moment to take the spotlight. Sometimes ballads can drag down an awards show’s energy, but the stark simplicity of Perry and Rucker together helped this one stick the landing.
Strutting down an empty L.A. freeway while fireworks exploded around him, The Weeknd’s performance of “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears” was a stunning visual highlight of the night. The face bandage shtick is still a bit puzzling, but no explanation was needed for that silky-smooth Kenny G cameo.
Becky G’s Message
After winning favorite female artist – Latin, Becky G gave the night’s most meaningful speech, dedicating her win to immigrant workers and immigrant families. “I proudly wave both flags, Mexican and American,” she said. “I dedicate this award to all of our immigrant workers in this pandemic.”
‘Body’ Bags a Victory
Megan Thee Stallion was absolutely on fire during her performance of “Body,” K.O.-ing her choreography and twerking without breaking a sweat. Book this Stallion for more awards shows, people.
‘Mood’ Swings Onto TV
Whether it’s because their song is currently sitting atop the Hot 100 or that they’re newcomers to the whole TV awards show realm, 24kGoldn and Iann Dior brought an irrepressible energy to a kinetic performance of “Mood.” The set was inventively designed, too, showing them performing as if standing on the front of an apartment building, defying gravity while smiling through the jaunty No. 1 smash.
Nelly Takes Us to Grammar School
Years before Lil Nas X put some yeehaw in hip-hop, Nelly was all about the Country Grammar, and he busted out three hits from that 20-year-old classic on the AMAs stage. Honestly, it’s never a bad time to hear “E.I.”, “Country Grammar” and “Ride Wit Me.”
Dressed to Kill
Host Taraji P. Henson did a lovely job emceeing the evening – especially considering the mostly empty auditorium she was performing to thanks to COVID-19 – but that mini-dress she wore halfway through the show with a pianist on the front, paired with a bolero hat, deserves an AMA all unto itself.
J.Lo & Maluma Sizzle
We have to wait until 2021 to find out what Jennifer Lopez and Maluma bring to the big screen together in Marry Me, but if it’s anything half as hot as their AMAs performance, that movie is gonna be sizzling. The chemistry between J.Lo and Maluma as they sang “Pa Ti + Lonely” was a masterclass in how to sell a song.
Taylor Offers An Update
Taylor Swift won the artist of the year award and sent in a digital thank you to her fans. “You guys have been beyond wonderful all the years of my career, but especially this one when we’ve been so far apart,” Swift said before explaining why she didn’t attend the ceremony in person. “The reason I’m not there tonight is I’m re-recording all of my old music in the studio we originally recorded it.” Now we sit back and wait for Twitter to endlessly analyze the poster on the wall behind her for Easter eggs.
BTS Brings the Night to an End With a Bang
After showing off their gorgeous harmonies on “Life Goes On,” BTS kicked it into high gear to end the night on a hyper-energetic note with “Dynamite.” The Weeknd might’ve had actual fireworks in his performance, but the boy band’s dance moves were every bit as explosive.
The American Music Awards are produced by dick clark productions, which is owned by MRC Entertainment, the parent company of Billboard.