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American Music Awards: Best and worst moments, from One Direction to Coldplay to Bieber

While watching the American Music Awards, it’s fun to try and spot the really famous people in the audience so you can foreshadow who will win an award. Nicki Minaj is there? She’ll land a few trophies. (And she did!) Same with Carrie Underwood, The Weeknd, Luke Bryan, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and One Direction, as the soon-to-be-split group took home the coveted Artist of the Year prize.

But as with any musical award show, the trophies are just quick breaks between the performances. Here’s a rundown of everything you missed on Sunday night, from the best and worst moments.

[Even if One Direction does take a ‘hiatus,’ the group had a more spectacular run than anyone expected]


* Celine Dion honoring the Paris victims with Edith Piaf’s “Hymne a L’amour.” 

The AMAs took a solemn turn late in the show when Jared Leto paid tribute to the victims of the horrific terrorist attacks, noting his band Thirty Seconds to Mars had just played the Bataclan earlier this year. “Tonight we honor the victims of unimaginable violence that has taken place this year in Paris and around the world. France matters. Russia matters. Syria matters. Mali matters. The Middle East matters. The U.S. matters. The entire world matters — and peace is possible,” he said. As Dion sang the Piaf cover, the cameras panned around the room with tears streaming down people’s faces.

* Jennifer Lopez’s opening number.

On a much lighter tone, the show opened with host Jennifer Lopez dancing to a mash-up of this year’s biggest hits. J-Lo was given little to do as actual host — but she and her chorus of back-up dancers were mesmerizing as the songs of 2015 played in the background, from “Anaconda,” “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Bad Blood” to “Trap Queen,” “Thinking Out Loud” and “Hotline Bling.”

* One Direction.

It’s usually too easy to make fun of One Direction, but the guys were humble and appeared genuinely moved by the final award, winning the prize for the second year in a row. And who knows when they’ll all be on TV together again? The Zayn Malik-less band plans to go on an extended “hiatus” soon. They thanked the fans for sticking by them for years and noted “we’re going on a little break now to spend time with our families.” Plus, their performance of latest single “Perfect” was just the right amount of flashy without going over the top.

* Ariana Grande’s “Focus.”

Again, Grande got a bad rap lately for licking some doughnuts and bashing America. Yet she knocked it out of the park on her newest song, “Focus,” with her Mariah Carey-like vocals and a snazzy dance number. When she won Pop/Rock Female Artist, she adorably thanked her grandmother (“Nona”) sitting in the audience. And Grande’s “Ew, I’m crying,” when she started getting emotional on stage seemed like a real moment from the star.

* Alanis Morissette and Demi Lovato collaborating for “You Oughta Know.”

The song turns 20 this year, which may also explain why Morissette showed up at a Taylor Swift concert this summer.

* Nick Jonas medley.

Though it’s hard to take him seriously after his role on “Scream Queens,” this Jonas brother proved why he’s the sibling with the solid solo career, with a fairly flawless medley of “Chains,” “Levels” and “Jealous.”


* Justin Bieber’s finale. 

It’s hard to categorize the Biebs as he closed out the show with a medley of his latest songs, “What Do You Mean,” “Where Are U Now” and “Sorry.” It was pretty entertaining as it started out acoustic and then segued into impressive dance moves, though he and the show seemed a little too pleased with themselves when he sang “Sorry” while getting drenched by rain. (“You just experienced a game-changing T-Mobile finale!” the announcer boomed.) Maybe it would have been exciting — except everyone from Britney Spears to Kelly Clarkson to Taylor Swift has pulled the rain-on-stage move before.


* Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth making out after “Marvin Gaye.”

Only because it was a cheap trick to make people Google “Are Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth dating?” No, they’re not — the collaborators end the “Marvin Gaye” music video the same way. Except this make out session went on way longer and was in front of millions of more people.

* Coldplay and the gorillas.

Nope, not a new side project. Just a very distracting set piece as the band played the new “Adventure of a Lifetime.” Gorillas — apparently a theme in the band’s upcoming video — ran around the stage while the neon colors and balloons and confetti made it difficult to concentrate on the actual song.

* Anna Kendrick’s acceptance speech.

Kendrick’s inside joke-filled acceptance speech for the “Pitch Perfect 2” soundtrack flew over everyone’s head and made us wish that she had given her co-stars Rebel Wilson and Hailee Steinfeld a chance at the microphone. “I know this is annoying,” Kendrick said as she pulled out a piece of paper to read a list of names. And it was.

* Pentatonix and the “Star Wars” theme song.

Let’s never speak of this again.

Winners (announced during the show)

Artist of the Year
Luke Bryan
Ariana Grande
Nicki Minaj
One Direction — winner
Taylor Swift

Soul/R&B Album
“X” Chris Brown
“Black Messiah” D’Angelo
“Beauty Behind The Madness” The Weeknd – winner

Pop/Rock Duo/Group
Maroon 5
One Direction – winner
Walk the Moon

Country Artist (Male)
Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan – winner
Sam Hunt

Favorite Soundtrack
“Fifty Shades of Grey”
“Pitch Perfect 2” – winner

Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album
“2014 Forest Hill Drive” J. Cole
“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” Drake
“The Pinkprint” Nicki Minaj – winner

New Artist of the Year
Fetty Wap
Sam Hunt — winner
Walk the Moon
Tove Lo
The Weeknd

Pop/Rock Artist (Female)
Ariana Grande – winner
Taylor Swift
Meghan Trainor

Country Artist (Female)
Kelsea Ballerini
Carrie Underwood – winner
Miranda Lambert

Collaboration of the Year
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth “See You Again”
Rihanna and Kanye West feat. Paul McCartney “FourFiveSeconds”
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk!”
Skrillex and Diplo feat. Justin Bieber “Where Are Ü Now” – winner
Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar “Bad Blood”

Alternative Rock Artist
Fall Out Boy – winner
Walk the Moon

Rap/Hip-Hop Artist
Fetty Wap
Nicki Minaj – winner

Soul/R&B Artist (Male)
Chris Brown
Trey Songz
The Weeknd — winner