By Riley Eisenbeil
After a long year of notable music releases, tours and performances, the 50th Annual American Music Awards (AMA) has come to an end. The show aired live on ABC from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. to share a love for music and to celebrate this year’s musical accomplishments. Winners were decided by fans who voted online.
“People watching at home, you in the audience, this is your show,” said Wayne Brady, this year’s host, at the start of the night. “These artists are here because you love them.”
Out of all of the talented artists who received nominations, Taylor Swift won the most — she won all of the 6 categories she was nominated for, including the coveted Artist of the Year title. These awards further extended her own record for the most-awarded AMA artist at 40 wins. Swift has gained a lot of traction over the last few years while re-recording some of her old albums. In October, she released her newest album, “Midnights,” which made her the first artist to occupy all 10 spots on Billboard’s Top 100 in a single week and gave her the title of the most streamed album on Spotify in one day with 184.6 million streams.
Other notable winners included last year’s Artist of the Year winners, BTS, who won two AMAs including the first-ever winner for Favorite K-Pop Artist, Ghost who also made history by taking home the first AMA for Favorite Rock Album for their latest album “Impera” and Wizkid who brought home two AMAs including the first-ever winner of Favorite Afrobeats Artist.
Elton John secured his first AMA since 1998 for Collaboration of the Year for his song “Cold Heart – PNAU Remix” with Dua Lipa and this year’s most nominated artist, Bad Bunny, left with two AMAs for Favorite Male Latin Artist and Favorite Latin Album for “Un Verano Sin Ti.” Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar and Morgan Wallen were also among the top-winners, each taking home two awards.
Between award announcements, various artists took the AMA stage to perform live. Pink opened the night with a roller skating flash mob and came back midway through the show to perform a tribute to Olivia Newton-John who passed away in August. She sang “Hopelessly Devoted to You” while a slideshow of Newton-John played on the screens behind her.
Jimmie Allen sang a short tribute to Loretta Lynn before introducing Carrie Underwood to the stage to perform a new song of hers, “Crazy Angels.”
There were a few on-stage collaborations as well. Anitta, a first-time nominee who won Favorite Female Latin Artist and made her debut on the AMA stage, performed “Lobby” with Missy Elliot. Later on in the night, Glorilla brought out Cardi B to perform their song “Tomorrow 2.”
The performances continued with Imagine Dragons and JID who performed both “Bones” and “Enemy,” Bebe Rexha with “I’m Good,” Lil Baby with “In a Minute” and Dove Cameron with her big hit, “Boyfriend.”
After many talented artists had been honored, the last 40 minutes of the show were dedicated to 17-time AMA winner Lionel Richie who took home the Icon Award. He is only the second artist to receive this title — the first being Rihanna in 2013. The Icon Award is given to an artist “whose body of work has made a global influence over the music industry and the world,” according to one of AMAs executive producers, Larry Klein.
Richie’s award was presented by the first AMAs host, Smokey Robinson, who showered him with compliments and praised him for his musical endeavors over the years.
“He's had a solo career second to none. He's a singer-songwriter and television personality extraordinaire. He's a philanthropist, a humanitarian who's used his platform to help those in need,” said Robinson. “Simply put, there have been few careers that have had as much diversity as Lionel Richie.”
After Richie took the stage to thank his fans for supporting him for decades, a video montage played on the screen as a tribute to Richie. Artists and friends like Robinson, Katy Perry, Shania Twain and Ne-Yo spoke on his behalf.
At one point, Twain said, “Sitting with Lionel Richie is like sitting with a professor of music art.”
To top it all off, Stevie Wonder, a close friend of Richie, took the stage with Charlie Puth and delivered “a musical tennis match of Lionel Richie copyrights,” as Puth put it. The duo went back and forth performing several piano duets of Richie’s greatest pieces, including snippets of “Three Times a Lady,” “Easy,” “All Night Long,” “Say You, Say Me,” “Brick House,” “Father Help Your Children” and “Jesus is Love.”
To close out the night, Wonder introduced the final song, “We Are the World,” which Richie had performed with Michael Jackson to raise funds to help famine relief efforts in Africa, which had experienced an unusual drought in the mid-1980s.
To recreate the celebrity-packed stage as they did in the ‘80s, Wonder invited stars like Robinson, Allen, Ari Lennox, Melissa Etheridge, Yola and others onstage for the performance. Richie hopped up on stage as well to finish out the song.
As the performance came to a close, the crowd gave a standing ovation and Richie blew a kiss to all watching in the theater and at home.
The goal of the AMAs is to represent the year’s top achievements in music. With 37 total awards presented and just about a dozen performances from well-known stars, this year’s ceremony did just that — showcasing a lot of talent and a whole lot of love for music.