Taylor Swift made headlines over the weekend by calling out Republican politicians, which provided a perfect segue into her opening performance at Tuesday’s American Music Awards. The newly outed Democrat kicked off the show with a rousing “I Did Something Bad,” which began with her smirking, “I never trust a narcissist, but they love me. I play them like a violin.”
That was just one of politically touched moment in the three-hour telecast, which stuck pretty closely to the middle of the road in terms of sound and vibe, with a few notable exceptions. Chief among those? Taylor, the evening’s big winner, accepting her Artist of the Year award by reminding viewers that all the awards were voted on by the people – “and you know what else is voted on by the people, the midterm elections.”
Cardi B put together the most show-stopping performance of the evening for “I Like It,” perching on a spinning, multi-colored disc, surrounded by dancers and horn players in matching outfits -- and turning up the heat another few notches when joined by J Balvin and Bad Bunny.
Writer-producer Benny Blanco put in the evening’s wackiest performance by debuting his first single as an artist – “Eastside” – by sitting on a couch, then lying on a bed, to watch Halsey and Khalid sing the thing.
Host Tracee Ellis Ross, who made a point of noting she was dressed entirely by black designers for the evening, got into the act by getting in a full week’s worth of cardio by working it to a medley that included “This is America” and ”Respect.”
Twenty One Pilots delivered a moody version of their goth-tinged single “Jumpsuit,” backed by appropriately dark video accompaniment.
Mariah Carey debuted her very Mariah-ish new single “With You” with a simple performance that showcased the higher end of her multi-octave voice – and the curves poured into her magenta gown.
Shawn Mendes followed that up by showing off his own vocal range on his new single “Lost in Japan,” accompanied by Zedd, who traded his electronic arsenal for a plain ol' grand piano.
Post Malone took a darker turn with an emotional “Better Now,” letting Ty Dolla Sign slip a verse of his own “Psycho” in the middle like a fortune into a cookie.
Jennifer Lopez jumped on the song-debuting bandwagon by introducing “Limitless,” a soaring ballad from her new movie Second Act -- with a big enough sound to compete with anything from A Star Is Born.
The ballad mood dominated the show’s final hour, with Camila Cabello delivering a sweet orchestral version of her timeless-sounding new single, “Consequences” and Carrie Underwood breaking out the tear-jerker “Spinning Bottles.”
Things got considerably more energetic when Ciara and Missy Elliott took the stage for “Level Up” – setting the challenge bar mighty high for any contenders.
The night ended with a pair of well-done tributes: Panic at the Disco, beamed in from Australia, honored Queen’s Freddie Mercury with a surprisingly on-target “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And to wrap up the telecast, an all-star gospel group led by Gladys Knight teamed to celebrate the sanctified side of the late Aretha Franklin with a spectacular medley of church classics, including "Amazing Grace" and "How I Got Over."
2018 American Music Awards winners.
- Artist of the Year – Taylor Swift
- Pop/Rock Song – Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug: “Havana”
- Pop Rock Male – Post Malone
- Pop Rock Group – Migos
- Pop Rock Album – Taylor Swift: Reputation
- New Artist of the Year – Camila Cabello
- Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist – Shawn Mendes
- Soul/R & B Male – Khalid
- Soul/R&B Album – XXXTentacion: 17
- Song Soul/R&B: Bruno Mars & Cardi B “Finesse”
- Male Artist Soul/R&B -- Khalid
- Female Artist Soul/R&B: Rihanna
- Rap/Hip-Hop Artist – Cardi B
- Album Rap//Hip-Hop -- Post Malone: Beerbongs & Bentlys
- Female Country Artist – Carrie Underwood
- Country Male Artist – Kane Brown
- Country Album -- Kane Brown: Kane Brown
- Country Song -- Kane Brown: "Heaven"
- Tour of the Year – Taylor Swift
- Music Video -- Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug : “Havana”
- Alternative Rock Artist: Panic! At The Disco
- Adult Contemporary Artist: Shawn Mendes
- Latin Artist: Daddy Yankee
- Artist Contemporary Inspirational Artist: Lauren Daigle
- Electronic Dance Music Artist: Marshmello
- Favorite Soundtrack: Black Panther: The Album, Music From And Inspired By
- Social Artist of the Year: BTS
- Collaboration of the Year: Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug, “Havana”