But as anyone watching the show will tell you, the actual awards ended up taking a backseat to the night’s many performers, who incited Twitter trends and plenty of head-scratching as the evening wore on.
In case you were watching The Walking Dead or Sunday Night Football, here’s what had us asking, “What just happened?”
Katy Perry’s Geisha ensemble
Like Madonna before her, who donned a similar costume at the 1999 Grammy Awards, Perry kicked off the show in full-on geisha attire, complete with kimono, makeup and parasol, causing the Twitter-verse to again ask if it’s ever really okay when Americans don the traditional get-ups of other cultures for entertainment sake?
Pitbull owns the night
Why hasn’t Pitbull hosted an awards show earlier? The Miami rapper had the audience eating out of his hands Sunday night, keeping things light with his customary blend of cheese and sleaze. Plus, it was clear from his facial expressions that he was having the absolute time of his life. In 15 years, Pitbull is either going to be leading a megachurch, or running for office.
Lady Gaga and R. Kelly team up for a presidential “Do What U Want”
The ARTPOP promotion may well be remembered as the moment Lady Gaga gave in to her inner Broadway diva once and for all. For her AMAs performance of “Do What U Want,” Gaga assumed the role of a humble White House secretary, used and abused by President R. Kelly. (Those are three words we’ve wanted to type for a long time.) A JFK-Marilyn riff? A race-flipped Scandal homage? Whatever it was, it was the most wildly inventive performance of the night.
Bill Maher presents Rihanna with the first ever AMA Icon AwardWhat was Bill Maher doing at the AMAs? Only he knows for sure. The outspoken talk-show host showed up at the music ceremony to present the AMA’s inaugural Icon Award to Rihanna, calling her “the voice of our time.” Fine. Then he brought out Rihanna’s mom, and promptly rolled his eyes when Mama Fenty thanked God, because he is Bill Maher. He looked pretty jazzed about the experience backstage, though.
JT snaps back at Sarah SilvermanIn the run-up to her stint presenting the Favorite Album, Soul/R&B category, Sarah Silverman tweeted that the AMA producers had killed her bit, forcing her to “wing it.” We’d love to know whatever was included in the original routine, but what the foul-mouthed comedian came up with was the realest of talk, pointing out that the nominees of the Soul/R&B category consisted of two white guys with Hollywood connections, and one black woman from Barbados. Unfortunately for Silverman, one of those very white guys won the award just a few seconds later, leading to one of the most uncomfortable podium moments we’ve seen in a while. “That’s the first time I’ve ever been racially profiled by a white woman,” Timberlake quipped. All in all, not one of post-racial America’s finer moments.
TLC gets a new L
More than a decade after the death of Left Eye, the remaining members of TLC – Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas – took to the stage to perform “Waterfalls” with Lil Mama filling in. But even after all this time, the move still felt too soon.
Miley Cyrus’s cat backdrop
Just when we thought we couldn’t see Cyrus do anything stranger than twerk, she performed “Wrecking Ball” alongside the image of an animated, lip-syncing cat. Ironically, the star has said in the past her tears in the song’s music video were caused by the death of her dog, Lila. The source of her animated cat’s tears remain unknown.
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