At the beginning of the American Music Awards on Tuesday, host Tracee Ellis Ross had some exciting news to share about Taylor Swift: “If she wins three awards tonight, she will become the most decorated female artist in American Music Awards history.” Guess what happened next?
Indeed, the fan-voted AMAs are the kind of show where if you see a superstar sitting in the audience, you can bet they’re going to get a trophy. Such was the case with Swift, who won four awards, tying Camila Cabello for the most of any artist of the night. That means Swift now has 23 AMAs over her career; Whitney Houston previously held the record with 21.
As a result, Swift had plenty of time on stage as she picked up tour of the year; pop/rock album; and the most prestigious category of the night, artist of the year. (She also won female pop/rock artist, which wasn’t televised.) While Swift didn’t get anywhere near as political as she did in her Instagram post that blew up the Internet this week, she did have one message in her final speech.
“This award and every single award given out tonight were voted on by the people,” Swift said. “And you know what else is voted on by the people is the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Get out and vote! I love you guys.”
Here are some highlights from the show, with a complete list of winners below.
1) Swift’s performance and statement about her “reputation”
The night frequently felt like the Taylor Swift Awards, as she kicked off the three-hour telecast with “I Did Something Bad,” her first live TV performance in nearly three years. There was little subtlety with the lyric, “They’re burning all the witches even if you aren’t one — they got their pitchforks and proof, their receipts and reasons.”
She gestured to herself when she said “witches,” likely referring to the Kanye West “Famous” incident and the backlash she received when the Internet decided she was a “snake.” During the performance, a gigantic serpent was seen behind her, as Swift has defiantly embraced the snake symbol on tour this year. Swift hinted at this all in her speech for pop/rock album for the appropriately-named “Reputation.”
“The whole time that I was writing an album based on all the facets of a reputation and how it affects you, what it actually means to you, I was surrounded by friends and family and loved ones who never loved me less based on the fluctuations of public opinion,” she said. “I always look at albums as chapters in my life, and to the fans, I’m so happy that you like this one … but I have to be really honest with you about something: I’m even more excited about the next chapter.”
2) Cardi B’s performance and speech
Cardi B walked away with three awards: rap/hip-hop song for “Bodak Yellow,” soul/R&B song for “Finesse” with Bruno Mars and rap/hip-hop artist. During her speech for the latter, she gave a shout-out to her 4-month-old daughter, and dismissed the haters who said she couldn’t be a successful working mom.
“I gotta prove people wrong, cause they said I wasn’t going to make it after I had a baby.” She also waved to her husband in the audience, Offset, whose trio Migos later won pop/rock group.
Later, Cardi B delivered a highly entertaining performance of “I Like It” with J Balvin and Bad Bunny, while effortlessly spinning around on a giant circle.
3) The Aretha Franklin tribute
A short video about the Queen of Soul aired toward the end of the show, and a group of powerhouse singers (Gladys Knight, CeCe Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Ledisi and Mary Mary) closed the ceremony with “Amazing Grace,” “Mary, Don’t You Weep,” “How I Got Over” and more.
4) Mariah Carey
What to even say about Carey’s rendition of “With You,” which she performed in an epic mermaid gown that hid quite a few male back-up dancers inside it? Twitter wasn’t thrilled with her lip syncing capabilities, but it was riveting all the same.
5) Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez
J-Lo belted out a ballad, “Limitless,” but her baseball star boyfriend also got some time in the spotlight. “Hello, Alex Rodriguez,” Ross said, cornering him in the audience. “So, you are a baseball legend who played for the Yankees. And I just have one question: What do you do with your skin? Because it is like you wash your face in the tears of baby angels.”
6) Ciara and Missy Elliott
The two stars provided a jolt of energy with “Level Up,” and some seriously impressive dance moves all around.
7) Dua Lipa’s paint-centric performance
How to describe the British pop star’s mash-up of “One Kiss” and “Electricity”: Let’s just say that there was a lot of dancing, rain, making out and paint smeared everywhere, which was visible thanks to a black light on stage.
8) The few political references
While presenting the award for adult contemporary artist with Kathryn Hahn, Billy Eichner delivered a plea to young people: “The biggest election of our lifetime is happening … please grab your friends, tell them to vote. Now is the time, if you believe in equality for women, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community, if you believe that climate change is real and that we need to do something about it. Don’t let anybody tell you your vote won’t count. It counts. And you can go to vote.gov like Taylor Swift told you to!”
Khalid, accepting the trophy for soul/R&B male artist, made a reference to his home state’s heated Senate race: “Shout-out to the 915; shout-out to El Paso, Texas; shout-out Beto.”
9) XXXTentacion’s posthumous prize
The 20-year-old rapper was killed over the summer; his mother, Cleopatra Bernard, accepted his award for soul/R&B album, “17.”
“I’m so nervous, you guys," she told the crowd. "I am honored to accept this award on behalf of my son.”
10) The best lines of the night
When Amber Heard introduced Twenty One Pilots, who sang “Jumpsuit,” she had jokes … about herself: “Twenty One Pilots. Which is exactly how many TV shows that I’ve been on that have not gotten picked up.”
Later, Busy Philipps explained to co-presenter John Stamos why she no longer has a crush on him: “The poster on my wall started to age faster than you did and it freaked me out.”
Complete list of winners:
Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift
New Artist of the Year: Camila Cabello
Favorite Artist Rap/Hip-Hop: Cardi B
Favorite Male Artist Pop/Rock: Post Malone
Tour of the Year: Taylor Swift, Reputation Stadium Tour
Favorite Male Artist Soul/R&B: Khalid
Favorite Song Pop/Rock: Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug “Havana”
Favorite Female Artist Country: Carrie Underwood
Favorite Artist Adult Contemporary: Shawn Mendes
Favorite Duo or Group Pop/Rock: Migos
Favorite Album Soul/R&B: XXXTENTACION “17”
Favorite Album Pop/Rock: Taylor Swift “Reputation”
Favorite Male Artist Country: Kane Brown
Favorite Duo or Group Country: Florida Georgia Line
Favorite Album Country: Kane Brown “Kane Brown”
Favorite Song Country: Kane Brown “Heaven"
Favorite Female Artist Pop/Rock: Taylor Swift
Favorite Album Rap/Hip-Hop: Post Malone “Beerbongs & Bentlys”
Favorite Song Rap/Hip-Hop: Cardi B “Bodak Yellow”
Favorite Female Artist Soul/R&B: Rihanna
Favorite Song Soul/R&B: Bruno Mars & Cardi B “Finesse”
Favorite Music Video: Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug “Havana”
Favorite Artist Alternative Rock: Panic! At The Disco
Favorite Artist Latin: Daddy Yankee
Favorite Artist Contemporary Inspirational: Lauren Daigle
Favorite Artist Electronic Dance Music: Marshmello
Favorite Soundtrack: “Black Panther: The Album, Music From And Inspired By”
Favorite Social Artist of the Year: BTS
Collaboration of the Year: Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug, “Havana”