(November 25, 2019). To say women dominated this year’s AMAs in Los Angeles would be a huge understatement.
Performances by host Ciara, Camila Cabello (three times, including one with boyfriend Shawn Mendes and another with Taylor Swift), Halsey, Selena Gomez, Kesha, Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Toni Braxton, Christina Aguilera (with A Great Big World), Dua Lipa, Shania Twain and, of course, Taylor Swift – plus wins by many of those same artists – provided ample evidence that this year’s American Music Awards – held Sunday at the Microsoft Theatre in L.A. – were intent on placing women front and center in what is the only fan-voted major music awards show out there.
Oh, there were some guys present, too.
Jonas Brothers performed their most recent hit, “Only Human.” And 25-year-anniversary honorees (and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers) Green Day had the audience rocking out to their classic “Basket Case,” from their landmark 1994 album Dookie.
Thomas Rhett worked the crowd – literally – and had fans swooning over his recent No. 1 country hit “Look What God Gave Her.” And Post Malone – who also performed in a fiery collaboration with the legendary Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott – was among the night’s few men to win an award when he took home Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop album for Hollywood’s Bleeding.
Predictably, the male-dominated rap/hip-hop and country genres could be counted on to save the day for the fellas as Lil Nas X also won Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop song for his chart juggernaut “Old Town Road” (featuring Billy Ray Cyrus). And later in the program, country duo Dan + Shay took home Favorite Country Song for “Speechless” as well as Favorite Duo or Group – Country.
But the AMAs clearly belonged to the ladies in an event filled with several female-driven high points, most notably when Swift was presented with the Artist of the Decade award by another legend: singer/songwriter Carole King.
That immediately followed Swift’s awe-inspiring performance of a medley of six of her hits, including four – “Love Story,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Blank Space,” and “Shake It Off” (the latter in which she was joined by Halsey and Camila Cabello) – from her earlier albums.
Given her ongoing dispute with her former label, Big Machine, and every Swifty’s new favorite person to hate, Scooter Braun, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the older songs – the licensing rights to which Braun owns – would be part of her song repertoire.
Taylor, who also won Favorite Pop/Rock album for Lover (she made sure to thank her current label bosses for their generosity) and the highly coveted Artist of the Year award, opened with “The Man” and closed with “Lover,” both from the latest album.
Other takeaways from the night’s events:
It was likely no accident that Taylor opened her set with “The Man,” followed by “I Knew You Were Trouble,” given the above-mentioned saga with Braun.
Didn’t it seem like Halsey was holding back a little bit during her acceptance speech for Favorite Pop/Rock Song (“Without Me”)? At first, it appeared that she was going to rail against the pretentiousness of ALL such industry awards (including the one she was holding), but she spared the AMAs her wrath by noting its legitimacy as the largest fan-voted awards show out there, and that it’s the fans – of course – who mattered the most.
Speaking of Halsey, she had the best performance of the night (well, before Taylor took the stage, at least) with her song “Graveyard” and a paint-smearing routine with her doppelgänger dancer. The two of them took awards show performance art to a new level with their mock paint-fight scene as Halsey belted the tune.
Ciara hosted, and she did so admirably.
What was that on Shay Mooney’s (of country duo Dan and Shay) shoe as he accepted their Country Song award late in the program?
I love Selena Gomez’ recent No. 1 single, “Lose You to Love Me.” But did it have to be featured twice during the evening – once during her live performance at the show’s opening and then another about an hour in during an airing of the video?
And when is the industry going to stop labeling Lizzo as a “rapper.” She’s clearly more than that (if she’s even that) – as her over-the-top, dramatic performance of “Jerome” proved. The song is from her multi-Grammy-nominated album Cuz I Love You, and featured Lizzo covering a wide vocal range, eh, that’s a wide vocal singing range (oh, that shriek at the end though!).
Speaking of singing, didn’t Taylor sound pitchy on “Lover”? Admittedly, it’s a pretty hard song to sing live – she’s done it at least three times on national TV since its release in August – but it’s still the sweetest song on her latest album.
Paying homage: We’re glad Taylor acknowledged Carole King’s own accomplishments while accepting her Artist of the Decade award.
It was good to see Ozzy onstage given his recent medical issues.
And I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering how auto-tuned Post Malone would sound singing “Circles” live. Pretty much just like the record. Nice performance though. Loved the forest backdrop.
Nineties Nostalgia-fest 1: Who among us older folks weren’t feeling Toni Braxton’s heartbreaking performance? She was the night’s other 25-year honoree (having won her first AMA in 1994). Braxton gave a super elegant performance of her 1997 No. 1 hit, “Un-Break My Heart,” in which male violinists decked in black and white tuxedos surrounded her on stage while doing a well-choreographed dance sequence (even the conductor got involved).
Braxton was in perfect voice as she sang the song in the exact key she had recorded it more than two decades ago.
Nineties Nostalgia-fest 2: If Green Day’s high-energy performances of new single “Father of All” and the ‘94 classic “Basket Case” were any indication, then their upcoming joint tour with Fall Out Boy and Weezer promises to be a doozy. It was fun watching all the celebrity millennials in the audience rocking out to this group of still-young elder statesmen.
Nineties Nostalgia-fest 3: When ‘90s country/pop crossover queen Shania Twain took the stage and performed a career-spanning medley of her hits including “(You’re) Still the One,” “Any Man of Mine,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” and the show’s closer “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” you almost felt like it was another preview of an upcoming concert (she’s kicking off a new Las Vegas Residency in December).
But Twain brought the crowd to its feet as she segued from her signature ballad (“Still The One”) to the uptempo dance numbers. The addition of those male dancers and her infusion of contemporary hits by other artists (she interpolated Post Malone’s “Wow” and Swift’s “Shake It Off” as she opened her set) were a nice touch.
Overall, this year’s AMAs did not disappoint. There really wasn’t a bad performance in the bunch. And as awards season will be in full swing in a couple months, it’ll be interesting to see if the other shows can match the bar this show established Sunday.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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