Emma McIntyre /AMA2020/Getty Images for dcp, ABCOne of the biggest nights in music, the American Music Awards, kicked off Sunday night with a series of worldwide premieres, big wins and even bigger surprises.
Hosted by Taraji P. Henson from Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater, the audience looked a little different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Along with a “small but mighty COVID-free audience,” cardboard cutouts of the who’s who within the music industry, like Dolly Parton and Beyonce, lined the front rows — of which Henson enjoyed pretending to interact with as if they were the real deal.
On the award’s side, three acts emerged as the big winners of the night with Taylor Swift, the Weeknd and Dan + Shay taking home three awards each.
Swift further cemented herself as the most decorated winner in American Music Award history, bumping her lifetime awards total to 32 on Sunday. The awards she added to her expansive trophy case were Favorite Music Video, Favorite Female Artist from the Pop/Rock category and the coveted Artist of the Year award.
There also was an exciting reason why the “cardigan” singer was unable to physically pick up her trophies, which she eagerly confessed to in her acceptance speech, “The reason I’m not there tonight is I’m actually re-recording my old music in the studio where we originally recorded it!”
“It’s been amazing and I cannot wait for you to hear it,” the 30-year-old signed off with a cheerful grin.
As for the Weeknd, the Canadian artist picked up Favorite Male Artist, Favorite Song and Favorite Album within the Soul/R&B category.
Just as he did at MTV’s Video Music Awards, the “Blinding Lights” singer shocked fans by taking the stage with his battered and bruised face wrapped in bandages, an ongoing theme within his latest music videos that support his After Hours album.
Dan + Shay’s hit, “10,000 Hours,” which features vocals from Justin Bieber, picked up two awards: Collaboration of the Year and, from the Country category, Favorite Song. The duo also collected Favorite Duo or Group within the category.
Said an emotional Dan Smyers, “I just want to say, music has power to unify us, change lives and to save the world. To everybody creating art, thank you for what you do. And the fans, thank y’all for everything, man. This is a dream come true.”
Doja Cat also had a strong showing on Sunday, taking home New Artist of the Year and, within the Soul/R&B category, Favorite Female Artist.
It was an amazing night for BTS as well, who accepted two awards live from South Korea for Favorite Duo or Group in the Pop/Rock category and also for Favorite Social Artist.
Bad Bunny also walked away with an award in each hand thanks to a newly expanded category for Latin music, one for Favorite Male Artist and the other for Favorite Album thanks to his studio effort YHLQMDLG.
Performance-wise, the night was highlighted by nonstop world premieres with artists taking the stage to publicly perform their songs for the first time.
Opening the ceremony was Justin Bieber, who performed a soulful medley of his newest hits, first starting off with an emotional rendition of “Lonely” while staring at his reflection before switching gears for a more upbeat version of “Holy.” He remained on the stage to help Shawn Mendes officially debut their collaboration, “Monster,” which dropped on Friday.
Another duet came from the Weeknd, who tapped Kenny G to help him premiere two songs off the After Hours album, “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears.” For his spectacular performance, the Canadian artist closed down an entire bridge in Los Angeles and strutted down the median as fireworks exploded behind him. He also employed the help of drones to catch his rockstar performance at every angle, becoming the first artist to ever do so in AMA history.
Katy Perry returned to the AMA stage on Sunday and slowed the night down by teaming with Darius Rucker to perform her mournful and reflective single “Only Love,” which explores what they would do had they only had 24 hours to live.
Jennifer Lopez and Maluma also paired for a duet and used their energetic performance to tease their upcoming romantic comedy, Marry Me by debuting two songs off of the official soundtrack: “Pa’ti” and “Lonely.”
Closing out the night was BTS, who performed an energetic rendition of “Dynamite” and also debuted their brand new inspirational single “Life Goes On.”
However, the night wasn’t all about saluting new songs — it was also a big night for rapper Nelly, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his debut album Country Grammar. The Dancing with the Stars finalist performed a medley of his hits that propelled him to global stardom — “Country Grammar,” “E.I.” and “Ride wit Me.”
In addition, the audience was also treated to another throwback moments courtesy of Bell Biv DeVoe, who came together to perform their own medley of hits, singing “Do Me!” and “Poison.”
One for the books. Thanks @tmobile @amas #AMAsWithUs #Ad pic.twitter.com/rKmMwZMOtd
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) November 23, 2020
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