One Direction may be British, but they dominated the fan-voted 2014 American Music Awards, which aired live Sunday night on ABC.
The five Brits performed on the show and took home three trophies, including the most prestigious one, Artist of the Year. Pronouncing the award “so, so cool,” Liam Payne said, “It’s amazing, because we worked so hard on these last two albums…we spent a lot of time writing the music and really going down and trying our hardest to really improve and make the music better and better.”
The group, whose new album FOUR just came out and has already hit #1 on the British charts, also won for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group, and for Favorite Pop/Rock Album, for their previous release, Midnight Memories. “You guys have been absolutely incredible,” said Louis Tomlinson about 1D’s fans. “America has been so incredible to us, so thank you so much.”
Katy Perry also won three awards — Favorite Female Pop/Rock Artist, Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist and Single of the Year for “Dark Horse” — but two of those awards were not presented on camera, and Katy wasn’t in the house to accept, anyway. She sent an acceptance video from Australia, where she’s currently on tour.
Beyonce, who was also not present, won two awards, as did Iggy Azalea, who was. The Australian rapper was the leading nominee going into the event with six nods, but ended up with just the two trophies: Favorite Rap Hip-Hop Artist and Favorite Rap Hip-Hop Album. The album honor was, she said, “the first award I’ve ever won in my entire life,” adding, “It means so much to me that it’s for Best Hip-Hop because it’s what inspired me to move to America and pursue my dreams, and it’s what helped me, when I was a teenager, to escape and get through my life, and to better times.”
Later, when she was named Favorite Rap Hip-Hop Artist, Iggy, who’s had to deny rumors about her, and defend and/or explain herself numerous times this year on Twitter, noted, “I think musicians receive so much critique, sometimes you question what you’re doing. And this really validates that I am on the right path.”
Iggy also performed three numbers on the show: a medley of her hit “Fancy” with Charli XCX and her current hit “Beg For It,” and then a sexy duet with Jennifer Lopez on “Booty.”
Taylor Swift wasn’t eligible for any regular awards on Sunday night because her new album 1989 missed the eligibility deadline, but she still dominated the show, opening up the proceedings with an eye-popping performance of her #1 hit “Blank Space” that featured fire — lots and lots of fire — plus a dinner table suspended in mid-air. It was basically a reworking of the song’s video, where she plays a woman crazed with jealousy. Then, Taylor was seen numerous times dancing and singing in the front row with her buddies Lorde and Sam Smith. Later on in the evening, she was presented with the inaugural Dick Clark Award for Excellence by no less a legend than Diana Ross, and she used her acceptance speech to further her stance against her music appearing on online streaming services.
Speaking about her last three albums all selling over a million copies in their first weeks of sale, Taylor told fans, “What you did by investing in music and albums…what you’re saying is that you believe in the same thing that I believe it: that music is valuable, and music should be consumed as albums, and albums should be consumed as art, and appreciated.”
Sam Smith was named Favorite Male Pop/Rock Artist, and at the podium, the British star said, referring to his hit album In the Lonely Hour, “Last year, I wrote an album about being lonely, and tonight, I couldn’t feel further from lonely, so thank you so much.”
Overall, it was a good night for non-American acts: in addition to wins by Brits One Direction, Sam Smith and Calvin Harris — his category was presented off camera — as well as Australian Iggy Azalea, the Aussie band 5 Seconds of Summer was named New Artist of the Year. Drummer Ashton Irwin said, “This really shows that a little band from Sydney can do great things, so thanks…you guys rule!”
Country superstar Luke Bryan was named Favorite Male Country Artist and singer Brantley Gilbert won for Favorite Country Album, but the only country music performance came via satellite from Greensboro, North Carolina: Garth Brooks was shown onstage live performing his new song “People Loving People.”
Ariana Grande was also shut out of any nominations or awards, but was still a big presence on the show. She performed stripped-down versions of her smash hits “Problem” and “Break Free,” sang her latest hit, “Love Me Harder” with The Weeknd, and then teamed up with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj for a show-stopping version of “Bang Bang.”
In fact, many of the awards were presented off camera so that the show could focus on the musical performances — there were 18 in all, from the likes of Sam Smith, Fergie, Mary J. Blige, Selena Gomez, Imagine Dragons, One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and the evening’s host, Pitbull.
Lorde failed to win any of the awards she was up for, but her performance of “Yellow Flicker Beat,” from The Hunger Games — Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack, was among the standouts. She started the song from inside a white box, lit by blue and then red light, and when she emerged, she threw herself around the stage with wild abandon while her pal Taylor sang along at the top of her lungs. At the end, she took her hand and smeared her trademark dark lipstick, in an homage to one of her heroes, legendary rocker David Bowie: that’s one of his signature moves.
While there was much speculation online about how scandalous Jennifer and Iggy’s “Booty” duet — which closed the show — would be, it wasn’t controversial at all. Both women were adequately covered during the number, and even though they did some writhing together, colored patterned lights were projected onto them, so you couldn’t even see what they were doing in detail.
In fact, even though several artists had the audio dropped out of their performances to cover up their cursing, nobody really wore or did anything shocking or scandalous. Even Nicki Minaj was completely covered up in a long-sleeved white gown during her performance of the ballad “Bed of Lies,” and while there was some writhing and skimpy costumes in many numbers, it wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before.
In retrospect, Charli XCX probably gave the wildest performance: while she sang her song “Break the Rules,” she grabbed her boobs, and then she and her backup dancers, who were dressed like goth zombies, destroyed some stage props. One of the backup dancers, wearing a green rabbit mask, also lifted Charli up into what might be described as an extremely compromising position.
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