7:50 p.m.: The American Music Awards are the populist equivalent of the Grammy Awards. Voted on by the fans (via Twitter), the AMAs offer less prestige, but a looser, more fun evening. Katy Perry will open the evening with “Unconditionally,” but expect the proceedings will be much less staid after that, especially with Pitbull at the helm as host. Who will be TLC’s special guest? We’re hoping Lady Gaga. How will Miley Cyrus capture the spotlight after twerking at the VMAs and lighting up a joint at the EMAs?
I’ll be blogging the proceedings live, so please join me for the evening.
8:00 p.m.: And we’re off! Katy Perry is recreating “Memoirs of a Geisha” for show opener, “Unconditionally.” Instead of focusing on the performance, all I can think about is how utterly exhausting it must be to have to come up with a different concept every time she performs. Guys don’t have to do that. On my, now she’s doing semaphore with a Japanese umbrella. Her voice sounded a little ragged, but it also seems like a tough song to sing.
8:06 p.m.: Pitbull is hosting this year, which is a smart move if they’re trying to capture the Latin audience as well. And we’ve hit a low point 8 minutes in. Pitbull, who has been telling anyone who will listen for the last few weeks, that women have been twerking in Miami since the ’80s, so he’s brought out a few women to demonstrate. Can this please signal the VERY end of twerking on TV?
8:10 p.m. Taylor Swift, who looks stunning, presents best pop/rock male to Justin Timberlake, his fourth win in the category. Timberlake does a good job of acting humble and acting like he’s 85 years old by commenting on this new-fangled thing called Twitter. Voting by fax is so 1985.
8:18 p.m. One Direction is performing its new ballad, “The Story of My Life.” The song deserves to be a hit. Musically, it reminds me of Phillip Phillips’ “Home.” It’s a nice, stripped down performance with the five lads trading off singing lines on a spare stage. Harry Styles is having a good night singing live; Louis Tomlinson not so much.
8:22 p.m.: Artists have the choice of singing live of lipsyncing on the AMAs, and, it looks to me like Ariana Grande is lipsynching- or at least singing along with a track–to “Tattooed Heart,” but I’m watching on a computer screen, so I don’t have the best view. Regardless, she has a great voice. She wants to be Mariah Carey, and she needs to focus on being Ariana Grande because that’s good enough. Where’s Stuart Smalley when you need him? Was she born when he was around?
8:24 p.m.: How the heck is Ciara up for best soul/R&B female? Only one song from “Ciara” even made the R&B top 10. The award goes to Rihanna, who is looking amazing, and who gives an awards speech thanking the fans delivered with the excitement I reserve for having to get a root canal.
8:36 p.m.: Drums are obviously the unifying theme of the night. After one was prominently featured in Katy Perry’s opening number, Imagine Dragons go all Blue Man Group on stage bashing all manner of drums in a mash up of “Demons” and “Radioactive.” The drums and band share the stage with all the dry ice available in Los Angeles. The band rocks far harder on stage than it does on the radio version of its songs.
8:38 p.m.: Taylor Swift wins best country album for “Red.” She is so loyal to country radio even though she’s really a pop artist, that I almost can’t begrudge her the award. Luke Bryan, whom she beat, probably cannot say the same.
8:44 p.m.: Akon and Michael Bolton present rap/hip hop album to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for “The Heist,” who are on tour and in Miami. Macklemore decides to make it a political moment and speak up against racial profiling since the band is in Florida, home of murdered Trayvon Martin. Ryan Lewis is left to thank the fans. Appropriate forum to bring up this issue? Or since “Same Love,” have M&RL become the self-appointed ambassadors of civil rights? I agree with everything Macklemore says, just don’t know if it’s the right place.
8:50 a.m.: What has “Wake Me Up” wrought? How many dance/country hybrids are we going to see (not that “Wake Me Up” was the first.) Pitbull and a nearly unrecognizable Ke$ha in Daisy Dukes and boots perform their top 10 hit, “Timber,” with country cuties line-dancing in the background. The dancing is a little 1998 and I’m sure that Luke Bryan is having a hard time not jumping up on stage, but I can’t help it, I like the song. Let’s see how many times I can randomly mention Luke Bryan tonight.
8:57 p.m. Dave Grohl musters a nice golf clap as he and Joan Jett announce Imagine Dragons as winners of best alternative rock album. Then lead singer Dan Reynolds thanks Grohl and Jett, completely winning over Grohl. If you don’t like Imagine Dragons, just go watch how they interact with their fans in the “Demons” clip, especially their biggest fan, a 17-year old boy who died of cancer. It will make you believe in the power of music.
9 p.m.: Marc Antony wins favorite Latin artist. who, apropos of nothing, wants to remind us to be alive, not just live. Hey, if Macklemore can quite MLK Jr., Antony can throw out any platitude he wants.
9:02 p.m.: Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids are performing a great version of the bluesy “Drink You Away,” far and away the best tune on “The 20/20 Experience Vol. 2” and the best performance of the evening so far. I feel like I’m in a Memphis speakeasy. Man, that’s a lot of people on stage. He just made everyone else but Imagine Dragons look like posers. Huge standing ovation.
9:12 p.m.: We have a showdown for best pop album between Taylor Swift and One Direction for best pop rock album (along with Justin Timberlake).And it goes to One Direction for “Take Me Home.” Remember, it’s fan voted…the AMAs shows admirable restraint by not getting a reaction shot from Swift.
9:14 p.m.: The Ceremonies intro Florida Georgia Line.Who are the Ceremonies, you may ask? They are three brothers from Los Angeles, who are managed by Troy Carter, who, until recently, managed Lady Gaga. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they were booked to present while Carter still managed Gaga, if you get what I’m hinting at here. FLG is performing “Cruise” for the 1,329th time this week alone, and yet they still manage to look happy about it. Nelly joins them and then they go into Nelly’s “Ride With Me,” which helps liven things up a bit, although between this and the line dancing in “Timber,” makes me feel like the whole show is happening in some kind of time warp.
9:19 p.m.: Ariana Grande wins new artist of the year, which, along with One Direction’s win for best pop/rock album, goes to prove that the average demo voters is 12 and overwhelmingly female. Grande pulls her acceptance speech out of her cleavage and then manages to deliver it in record speed. Just made me like her even more.
9:26 p.m.: OK, WTF? Is Bill Maher presenting the Icon Award to Rihanna because he wants to sleep with her? There really can’t be any other reason, can there? Is Robert Reich going to introduce Lady Gaga? Rihanna is performing “Diamonds.” Or rather lipsyncs “Diamonds.” Shouldn’t icons be required to sing live?
9:36 p.m.: “I can’t believe that at 25 years old, I’m holding an Icon Award,” says Rihanna after her mom presents her with the Icon award. It’s a sweet moment and Rihanna has accomplished a tremendous amount in a relatively short period of time, but I’m with her… it’s still too early for this kind of award. However, keep in mind that awards like the Icon Award are completely discretionary and can often be used to convince a superstar to show up and perform. I’m just saying…
9:42 p.m.: Did Justin Timberlake just sing along to his own song as he goes onstage to accept best soul/R&B male? He wants to talk about how cute Rihanna’s mom is. Is it just me or is he coming off as a little bit of a jerk tonight? That was still a great performance though.
9:47 p.m.: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are performing “Can’t Hold Us” with Ray Dalton live from Miami and it’s a high energy shot of adrenalin. Another highlight of the night, but I’m blinded by my tears since I stupidly forgot to get tickets for their upcoming sold-out tour stop in Los Angeles.
9:51 p.m. Taylor Swift wins top female country artist. It’s her 13th AMA award and if you are even a passing fan of Swift’s you know that’s her favorite number.
10:00 p.m.: Definitely an emphasis on the Latin audience tonight, which makes Jennifer Lopez’s salute to the great Celia Cruz even more appropriate- as if you need a reason to pay tribute to the Queen of Salsa. Between the exhilarating dancing, Lopez’s three costume changes and her performance (yes, she’s lip syncing, but I’m giving her a bit of a break on that), it’s a really fun spectacular.
10:02 p.m.: Florida Georgia Line and Nelly win the award for single of the year for “Cruise.” It’s a new award because the presenters say until iTunes, you had a buy a full album. Really? What do you call all those 45s I still have in my closet?
10:03 p.m.: Sarah Silverman says what everyone else is thinking when she remarks that two white guys (Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke, who’s nowhere to be seen tonight) are competing against Rihanna for best soul/R&B album, as “The 20/20 Experience” wins. But after I just cut down JT a few paragraphs back, he comes back with a brilliant retort: “That’s the first time I’ve ever been racially profiled by a white woman.” Is racial profiling the theme of the night? Essays have been written about the continuing appropriation of black culture by white artists… there was a whole new round of them after Miley Cyrus twerked on the VMAs, so maybe for tonight, we just let Justin Timberlake enjoy the spoils of winning any award that One Direction isn’t up for.
10:14 p.m. A Great Big World, or at least Ian Axel from the duo, performs “Say Something” with Christina Aguilera backed by a string section. It’s beautiful. A Great Big World could be the next fun., and this song could be as big as Pink and Nate Ruess from fun.’s “Just Give Me A Reason.” I know I’m recommending a lot of ancillary homework tonight, but check out the video for “Say Something” if you haven’t yet. Bring Klennex.
10:19 p.m. Kendrick Lamar performs a capable but hardly medley of “Swimming Pools” and “Poetic Justice.” Kendall Jenner, who may or may not be dating Harry Styles, presents best EDM artist to Avicii. Why is he always wearing a cap when it’s clear he’s got a great head of hair? Stop it.
10:26 p.m.: Lady Gaga and R. Kelly play Marilyn Monroe and President Kennedy (or in this case, President Kelly) in their performance of “Do What U Want” in a fake West Wing setting. All I can imagine is Kelly is looking up Lady Gaga’s skirt while she’s dancing on his desk. They simulated sex about 20 ways to Sunday on “Saturday Night Love” last week, but it looks lie the AMAs are making them use a little restraint as the cameras judiciously cut away when it looks like she’s gotten down on her knees in front of him. There’s rear projection of a Lady Gaga playing piano as a kid, while the adult Gaga finishes the song on top of a piano as newspaper stories about her being over scroll by. I think I need to digest this one for a second.
10:36 p.m.: Luke Bryan wins top country male over Justin Timberlake. Just kidding, he wasn’t nominated in that category. He beats Hunter Hayes and Blake Shelton. And he wins just in time for him to perform.
10:39 p.m.: One Direction wins best pop rock band/duo/group. I wonder what the difference is between a band and a group? Maybe a band actually plays its own instruments? See Ariana Grande’s win for why this just happened. If you had to be 18 or older to vote ,tonight’s results would look very different.
10:44 p.m. Luke Bryan performs “That’s My Kind of Night,” a song that has come to represent to critics everything that is wrong with mainstream country radio, while fans have crowned it as one of the most popular songs in country music history. Guess whose opinion Bryan cares about?
10:47 p.m. TLC with Lil Mama, who played the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez in VH1’s biopic are lipsyncing “Waterfalls.” I don’t know why they’re even wearing mics. It’s lovely to hear the song, which still sounds great, but the whole thing feels more like a karaoke performance than anything else.
10:53 p.m.: Miley Cyrus having a computer generated, wide-eyes cat singing “Wrecking Ball” behind her may be one of most brilliant things I’ve ever seen just because it makes no sense. .She proves she can sing and still will get all the headlines tomorrow. My hat’s off to her. I can’t fight it anymore.
10:58 p.m: Taylor Swift wins artist of the year for the third year of the row. “If you voted for this that validates that we are heartbroken the same way… If you voted for this, we’re pretty much in it together.” And that is why Swift’s fans love her.
11 p.m.: That’s a wrap. There were some solid performances with no obvious disasters, but not enough water cooler moments that a show like this always relies on.
What did you think?