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American Music Awards: 10 things you missed, from Taylor Swift’s speech to Jennifer Lopez and Maluma’s duet

Actress Taraji P. Henson hosts the American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
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Like all live television in 2020, the American Music Awards had to adjust to pandemic protocols — and the end result was a hybrid of the other award shows you might have seen this year. The AMAs was broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday night with a handful of in-person performers, although multiple acts were prerecorded and some winners gave virtual acceptance speeches. A small crowd, socially distanced and masked, sat and cheered from the upper level of the venue.

Host Taraji P. Henson — who kicked things off with a dance medley to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” Jay-Z’s “Dirt off Your Shoulder” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” — said, beaming, that she was “just happy to be off the couch.”

“I know you’re still at home, but tonight you’re home with me, and we’re going to party,” Henson told the viewing audience, adding that music just might help unite everyone. “It’s time to remember we are one country, y’all, and we need to heal — we need to love on each other a little more, and that’s what tonight is about. We’re embracing our neighbors and coming together with music."

Here are 10 things you missed from the three-hour show; a complete list of televised winners is below.

1) The Weeknd’s face

Yes, as he did at the MTV Video Music Awards and “Saturday Night Live” this year, the Weeknd showed up as the injured character from his music video for “Blinding Lights,” where he gets beaten up by bouncers and speeds away in his car while drunk. The singer has explained the hit song is about the urge to drive to see someone, even while you’re intoxicated. But once again, plenty of confused viewers on social media wondered why he was covered in bandages — leading others to explain that he’s trying to raise awareness about the dangers of drunken driving.

The Weeknd, also known as the upcoming Super Bowl halftime performer, tied with Roddy Ricch with a field-leading eight nominations. He won three awards in the soul/R&B categories: favorite male artist, song (“Heartless”) and album (“After Hours”). The singer got plenty of stage time as he accepted them all in person, and performed “In Your Eyes” — with an assist from Kenny G on the saxophone — and “Save Your Tears,” singing as he walked down a Los Angeles bridge with fireworks exploding in the background.

2) Taylor Swift’s speech

Taylor Swift, the most-awarded musician in the 46-year history of the AMAs, appeared at the end to accept the most prestigious prize of the night: artist of the year, triumphing over the Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Post Malone and Ricch. The pop superstar sent in a recorded speech and thanked fans for their support of her latest record, “Folklore,” the first album to sell a million copies in the United States this year.

“This is a fan-voted award, which means so much to me. You guys have been beyond wonderful, all the years of my career, but especially this one when we’ve been so far apart,” Swift said. “But I still feel really connected to you through the music and, you know, your reaction to ‘Folklore’ and all the ways in which your imagination honored that album.”

She gave an update on her plan to rerecord her first five albums after a highly publicized battle over her original masters with music manager Scooter Braun, who bought her former record label and just sold her catalogue in a reported $300 million deal. “The reason I’m not there tonight is I’m actually rerecording all my old music in the studio where we originally recorded it,” she said, gesturing around the room. “So it’s been amazing, and I can’t wait for you to hear it.”

3) Megan Thee Stallion’s performance

Wondering who caused the small audience in the Microsoft Theater to scream the loudest? That would be burgeoning superstar rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who performed her new single “Body” surrounded by masked backup dancers. The music video is filled with celebrity cameos including Henson, the AMAs host; the rapper explained that the point of the video was for fans to see “all body shapes, a lot of strong women … just being confident and owning their bodies and their sexuality."

4) Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly’s grand entrance

Another Megan started trending worldwide on Twitter Sunday night, as actress Megan Fox and rapper Machine Gun Kelly made their (apparently much-anticipated?) red carpet debut. The couple has constantly been in the tabloid headlines since Us Weekly reported in June that the two were dating, shortly after Fox split with her husband of 10 years, Brian Austin Green. (A breakup that has become increasingly messy.) While Fox showed up briefly during the telecast to introduce MGK’s rendition of “Bloody Valentine” and “My Ex’s Best Friend,” it was this picture that got most of the attention:

5) Katy Perry and Darius Rucker’s surprise duet

What is: duets we never knew we wanted to see until now? Katy Perry enlisted country star and Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker to play guitar and sing with her during an acoustic rendition of “Only Love,” and as it happened, their voices meshed extremely well.

6) Becky G’s speech

The AMAs expanded the Latin music categories for the first time, given the genre’s double-digit growth in sales over several consecutive years. Becky G, who broke out in 2014 with the track “Shower” (a recently viral TikTok dance) was the first singer to ever win the favorite female artist prize in the Latin music category, nominated with Karol G and Rosalía.

“When it comes to me and the decisions I make in the career, I proudly wave both flags, Mexican and American. And like many, many children and grandchildren of immigrants, no matter where they’re from, we have learned from the ones before us what sacrifice and hard work looks like,” she said. “I dedicate this award to all of our immigrant workers, and in this pandemic, the students and immigrant families.”

Latin Grammys 2020: 5 things you missed, from Bad Bunny’s performance to Pitbull honoring front-line workers

7) Bell Biv DeVoe’s return

The famous trio is celebrating the 30th anniversary of their massively successful 1990 debut album, and returned to the AMAs to sing, of course, their two biggest hits: “Do Me!” and the much-loved “Poison.” Social media was blown away by their dance moves all these years later.

8) Justin Bieber’s continued redemption tour

Justin Bieber knows he’s behaved badly over the years, and, boy, does he want everyone to know that it’s all because child stardom can ruin you. He opened the show with “Lonely,” all about the perils of becoming famous at a young age, and continued that theme with a duet of “Monster” with Shawn Mendes: “I was 15 when the world put me on a pedestal … made some bad moves trying to act cool.”

9) Jennifer Lopez and Maluma’s duet

J-Lo and Maluma weren’t just promoting their new songs when they debuted a steamy duet of “Pa’ Ti” and “Lonely,” which involved a complicated chair dance — they’re also promoting the soundtrack to their (delayed) new movie, “Marry Me,” scheduled for release in May. They play engaged star singers whose relationship falls apart when Maluma’s character has an affair and J-Lo takes up with a random guy (Owen Wilson) in the audience at one of their concerts who holds up a “Marry Me!” sign.

10) BTS’s performance

The AMAs knew to save the most eagerly awaited for last: BTS, the K-pop band with an enormous global fan base, closed out the show with the ultra-catchy “Dynamite” and “Life Goes On,” which tries to offer a glimmer of hope during the pandemic. The group performed at an empty stadium in South Korea — but it was lighted up, reminding everyone that, hopefully, there’s a brighter future ahead.

Winners and nominees (televised)


Justin Bieber

Post Malone

Roddy Ricch

Taylor Swift — winner

The Weeknd


Lewis Capaldi

Doja Cat — winner


Lil Baby

Roddy Ricch

Megan Thee Stallion


Doja Cat, “Hot Pink”

Summer Walker, “Over It”

The Weeknd, “After Hours” — winner


Lewis Capaldi, “Someone You Loved”

Dua Lipa, “Don’t Start Now” winner

Post Malone, “Circles”

Roddy Ricch, “The Box”

The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”


Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber, “10,000 Hours” — winner

Maren Morris, “The Bones”

Blake Shelton with Gwen Stefani, “Nobody But You”


Jhene Aiko

Doja Cat — winner

Summer Walker


Becky G — winner

Karol G



Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion, “WAP” — winner

DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch, “Rockstar”

Roddy Ricch, “The Box”


Chris Brown ft. Drake, “No Guidance”

Summer Walker, “Playing Games”

The Weeknd, “Heartless” — winner


BTS — winner

Jonas Brothers

Maroon 5


Anuel AA, “Emmanuel”

Bad Bunny, “Las que no iban a salir”

Bad Bunny, “YHLQMDLG” — winner


Chris Brown

John Legend

The Weeknd — winner


Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion, “WAP”

DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch, “Rockstar”

Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber, “10,000 Hours” — winner

Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, “Rain on Me”

Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé, “Savage Remix”


Doja Cat, “Say So”

Future featuring Drake, “Life Is Good”

Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, “Rain on Me”

Taylor Swift, “Cardigan” — winner

The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”


Dua Lipa

Lady Gaga

Taylor Swift — winner

See the rest of the winners here.

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