From Taylor Swift and Pink to Stevie Wonder

There was no Adele, no Beyoncé and no Harry Styles.

But there was Taylor Swift’s Ticketmaster crash at Sunday night’s 50th American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Despite not performing – not even with a super new album, “Midnights,” which is only a month old – the 32-year-old “Shake It Off” superstar was rewarded for her presence with the night’s biggest haul: six awards, including artist of the year. That brings her record number of AMAs to a whopping 40.

“I love you guys for making this an opportunity for me,” Swift said while accepting the award for Favorite Pop Album for “Red (Taylor’s Version)”, her re-recorded LP, which really hit more in 2012 than 2022 was.

Aside from the T-Swizzle sweep, here are some other highlights – and lowlights – from this year’s AMAs.

Best: Pink opens the show

Pink always makes things better, and as by far the biggest female pop performer of the night, she deservedly opened the show with her new single “Never Gonna Not Dance Again,” which got the party started in a fun, infectious way as it rolled – entered the Microsoft Arena. Pink showed no signs of settling into mom pop at 43 and definitely got this party started.

Pink at the American Music Awards.
Pink opened the American Music Awards with “Never Gonna Not Dance Again”.
ABC via Getty Images
Wayne Brady performs at the American Music Awards.
Host Wayne Brady performed not one, but two musical numbers at the American Music Awards.
Getty Images for dcp

Worst: Wayne Brady’s musical numbers

After his opening monologue — which was so-so at first — host Brady launched into a gimmick bleepfest that got stale very quickly. Finally, he even shamelessly pocketed his performance at Monday’s “Dancing with the Stars” finale. And surely there must have been other cast members available that would have been better than seeing Brady do another number later in the show.

Dove Cameron at the AMAs.
Queer singer Dove Cameron was named New Artist of the Year at the AMAs.
Getty Images

Best of all: Dove Cameron’s pro-queer speech

The 26-year-old queer singer, who won New Year’s Artist of the Year at the night’s first awards ceremony, took the moment to celebrate the LGBTQ community as she opened up about the tragic shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs.

“I want to start by saying that any award I ever win will be first and foremost dedicated to the queer community in general,” she said after accepting the award from actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, a longtime LGBTQ advocate . “You guys have given me a special space to be myself and write music about it, and I’ve never felt more secure, loved and supported, and I hope I can give you a glimpse of that same feeling in my music.” Following the tragedy that occurred at Club Q in Colorado Springs, I want to remind everyone of the importance of queer visibility and the importance of our community.”

Bebe Rexha at the AMAs.
Bebe Rexha performed “I’m Good” with David Guetta at the AMAs.
Getty Images for dcp

Worst: Bebe Rexha and David Guetta

One of the biggest blows to the AMAS is when artists come on stage and perform songs that are either too new for anyone to know or too irrelevant compared to the music that was really important in certain years. Such was the case with Rexha, a B-lister at best, who performed “I’m Good” in a dominatrix-style getup alongside an army of male dancers in black latex pants and tank tops. But it was more like “I’m Meh”.

Anitta and Missy Elliott at the AMAs.
Brazilian artist Anitta has her freak with hip-hop icon Missy Elliott at the AMAs.
Getty Images for dcp

Best: Anitta – and Missy Elliott!

While Rexha tried far too hard, the Brazilian star was effortlessly sexy in a black catsuit, hopping across the stage while a male dancer held her microphone. The Favorite Female Latin Artist winner brought some South American heat to the American Music Awards, performing a medley of “Envolver” and “Lobby” that saw none other than Elliott show up to freak her freak with Anitta.

Jimmie Allen, Wayne Brady and a photo of Loretta Lynn at the AMAs.
Country star Jimmie Allen (pictured with host Wayne Brady) sang “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in honor of Loretta Lynn at the AMAs.
Getty Images for dcp

Best: Jimmie Allen honors Loretta Lynn

Before introducing Carrie Underwood, breakout-country star Allen — one of the African-American artists shaking up the genre’s diversity — came out with his acoustic guitar to play a little “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in sweet memory of the late great Lynn. It was a touching tribute that turned on its head both the gender and race traditionally associated with the classic. And you get the feeling that Lynn is looking down with a smile on his face.

Carrie Underwood at the AMAs.
Carrie Underwood’s aerial act didn’t make it to the top at the American Music Awards.
Getty Images for dcp

Worst: Carrie Underwood’s air flop

Though Underwood brought some much-needed star power to the celebrations, she seemed way out of her element trying to steal Pink’s acrobatic Cirque du Soleil act in a multicolored leotard. When she performed the rocking “Crazy Angels” from her album Denim & Rhinestones, it felt like production overkill for a singer who just needs to stand there and sing like the singing monster that she is.

Pink performs in front of an Olivia Newton-John "Fat" still at the AMAs.
Pink sang the “Grease” hit “Hopeless Devoted to You” in honor of Olivia Newton-John at the AMAs.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Worst: The tribute to Olivia Newton-John

As Pink sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You” in honor of the late, beloved “Grease” star, Pink’s second performance of the night wasn’t bad – it sounded good – but a disappointment nonetheless. It just wasn’t the perfect song for her — nor was that feathery dress the perfect dress — and a medley of other songs and other singers would have done Newton-John more justice.

Stevie Wonder at the American Music Awards.
It was legend saluting legend as Stevie Wonder paid tribute to Lionel Richie at the American Music Awards.

Best: The Tribute to Lionel Richie

The tribute to Richie that ended the show was much more appropriate and provided the emotional and musical highlights of the night. First there was timeless Motown legend Smokey Robinson, who introduced Richie and brought with him the class and classic pedigree that was lacking for most of the show. Then Richie – also newly inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – stepped up to give a very serious speech as he accepted the Icon Award and encouraged young artists to strive to inspire future generations.

But saving the best for last, Stevie Wonder(!) and Charlie Puth performed an upbeat medley of Richie’s hits – from “Three Times a Lady” and “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)” to “Brick House” and “All Night long”. (All night).” It all ended with a star-studded “We Are the World” that felt like 1985 all over again. From Taylor Swift and Pink to Stevie Wonder

Emma Bowman

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