“This year for me has been a lot. It’s been a lot of good; it’s been a lot of really complicated,” Swift said, thanking fans as she accepted the artist of the year prize near the end of the three-hour telecast. “On behalf of my family and me, thank you so much for being there and for caring.”
There was no mention of Swift’s highly publicized battle with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, the owner and president, respectively, of her former record label, Big Machine Label Group. Last week, the pop superstar alleged the executives were trying to block her from performing her older songs on the AMAs (for a medley of her decade of hits), which subsequently led to days of online chaos. Although in true Swift fashion, she may have hinted at the fight — see how below, along with nine more things you missed from the show.
1) Taylor Swift’s speech and medley.
Swift loves a good coded message or veiled reference or symbol. Sometimes they’re more obvious, such as when she won pop/rock album for “Lover,” and told everyone how happy she is at her new home that is not Big Machine. “This album felt like a new beginning. And I also really love my record label, Universal and Republic,” Swift said. “Monte Lipman, Lucien Grainge, thank you for being so generous to me and allowing me to make whatever music I want to make.”
In her note to fans about Braun and Borchetta last week, Swift referred to the pair as “men who are exercising tyrannical control” and said she felt they were telling her to “be a good little girl and shut up.” Combined with the criticism lobbed at Swift over her career (“She has too many ex-boyfriends!” “She can’t possibly write her own songs!”), it was no surprise she pointedly started her artist of the decade medley with “The Man,” a track from her new album that takes aim at gender double standards.
“I’m so sick of running as fast as I can, wondering if I’d get there quicker if I were a man,” she sang, wearing a white shirt with the names of her albums written on them, surrounded by young girls as her backup dancers. “I’m so sick of them coming at me again — cause if I was a man, then I’d be the man.”
2) Billie Eilish’s message.
“Earlier this year my album ‘Igor’ was the No. 1 album in the country. And then this 17-year-old girl who dressed like a quarterback decided to change that,” Tyler, the Creator, said by way of introducing Billie Eilish, who won new artist and alternative rock artist.
Cut to: Eilish’s literally fiery performance of “All the Good Girls Go to Hell,” which looked like the everything was going up in flames — and made even more sense once you saw the message on her T-shirt, which read “NO MUSIC ON A DEAD PLANET.” No surprise she’s already one of the highest-profile Gen Z voices sounding the alarm about climate change.
3) Lizzo’s performance.
For most televised performances so far, Lizzo has gone with the surefire audience favorites, “Truth Hurts” or “Good As Hell” or “Juice.” But she changed things up for the AMAs, as she belted out the ballad “Jerome.”
“AMAs! I don’t know where you’ve been and I don’t know where you’re going. But I know you’re here right now for a special reason. Everybody put your lights up,” she called out, as the crowd obediently switched on the flashlights on their phones and started waving them around. “This light represents the love you have for yourself. So shine bright!”
4) Halsey’s (possible) Grammys shade.
Did Halsey take a dig at her lack of Grammy nominations last week?! We may never really know — but that was the assumption on social media after the pop star won for pop/rock song for “Without Me,” and gave a long speech about how she used to care so much about award show trophies, until she grew up and realized they aren’t true validation.
“Most of these awards really aren’t what they seem. At all,” she said. “I am so thankful to the AMAs, because they’re the world’s largest fan-voted awards show. … Sometimes you grow up and the stuff that you believed in starts to lose its magic. But music never does, because real fans, real artists and real stories keep that magic alive.” (Later, Swift called it “literally the speech of the whole night.”)
5) Post Malone’s dancing.
Post Malone won rap album and had quite the performance with Ozzy Osbourne, Travis Scott and Watt for the televised debut of their new collaboration, “Take What You Want.” What made the rounds online? His extremely enthusiastic reaction to Shania Twain’s medley.
6) Shania Twain’s medley.
Speaking of the country-pop legend, she has a new Las Vegas residency to promote, so she closed out the AMAs with her greatest hits: “You’re Still the One,” “Any Man of Mine,” “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.” The audience went crazy, even as she opened with an acoustic guitar medley of popular tunes from Swift, Post Malone, Twenty-One Pilots and Drake. Random? Absolutely. But it was Shania, so she made it work.
7) Camila Cabello’s big night.
The only artist to get more screen time than Swift? It certainly felt like Cabello, who got two performance slots: one for her new song, “Living Proof,” and another to duet with her boyfriend, Shawn Mendes, on their hit “Señorita,” which also won collaboration of the year. Once again, just like a strikingly similar rendition on VMAs, the couple leaned in for a kiss, and the audience held its breath in anticipation … and then they pulled away from each other. Shall we expect the same thing yet again at the Grammys?
8) Green Day’s anniversary.
Green Day’s smash album “Dookie” turns 25 this year, and to celebrate, they got to play “Basket Case” and their new single, “Father of All,” at the AMAs. Eilish, born years after that album was released, was psyched to introduce the group before their performance: “Growing up, there was no band more important to me or my brother,” she explained.
9) Ciara’s multitasking.
After a high-energy rendition of “Melanin,” Ciara, who hosted the show, asked her adorable small children in the audience for their thoughts.
“How did I do?” she asked her son, age 5.
“YOU DID GOOD!” he yelled.
Ciara turned to her daughter, age 2. “How did Mommy do?”
“GOOD!” she declared.
“Aww, thank you so much, my babies,” Ciara exclaimed, and turned to the audience: “I’m here to tell you that women can do it all.”
10) Lil Nas X’s big year continues.
After a win at the Country Music Association Awards and six Grammy Award nominations this month, Lil Nas X continued his victory lap with a win for rap/hip-hop song for “Old Town Road,” the game-changing TikTok meme turned gigantic hit. He accepted the prize while wearing an excellent green suit with a very earnest speech.
“I don’t want to get too deep,” he said. “But I want to say whether you’re 15, 30, 55, or whatever, and you feel like your moment has passed — know that it’s waiting for you, you know?”
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Taylor Swift — winner
NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Billie Eilish — winner
Lil Nas X
ALTERNATIVE ROCK ARTIST
Billie Eilish — winner
Panic! At the Disco
Halsey “Without Me” — winner
Jonas Brothers “Sucker”
Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”
Panic! At the Disco “High Hopes”
Post Malone & Swae Lee “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”
Billie Eilish “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”
Ariana Grande “Thank U, Next”
Taylor Swift “Lover” — winner
Kane Brown “Experiment”
Dan + Shay “Dan + Shay”
Carrie Underwood “Cry Pretty” — winner
COLLABORATION OF THE YEAR
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper “Shallow”
Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road”
Marshmello and Bastille “Happier”
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello “Señorita” — winner
Post Malone and Swae Lee “Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”
Meek Mill “Championships”
Post Malone “Hollywood’s Bleeding” — winner
Travis Scott “Astroworld”
Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus “Old Town Road” — winner
Post Malone “Wow.”
Travis Scott “Sicko Mode”
Luke Combs “Beautiful Crazy”
Dan + Shay “Speechless” — winner
Blake Shelton “God’s Country