Brutally honest reviews of every performance

While the 2021 American Music Awards dotted its lineup with some veteran superstars, including Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood, and show openers Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak), the show mostly shone a spotlight on newbies.

Chlöe, Måneskin, Walker Hayes, and Olivia Rodrigo were among the artists who made their first performance arcs at AMAs, while electronic music luminary Diplo made his debut as the show’s musical curator.

Megan Thee Stallion had been asked to perform the remix of “Butter” with BTS, but withdrew from her appearance on Saturday, citing an “unexpected personal matter.”

In a twist this year, the AMAs have taken some of the performers back to their roots, while a handful of performers have performed from their hometowns. New Kids on the Block and New Edition performed together for a “Battle of Boston” in their hometown; Underwood and Jason Aldean teamed up in Nashville, where they launched their careers; and Kane Brown performed live from HBCU Tennessee State University in his home state.

List of AMA winners: Taylor Swift and Lil Nas X take top prizes

Here’s how they – and the rest of the AMA artists – fared.

Silk Sonic, smoking out the window ‘

Bruno Mars and Anderson’s fetish project .Paak opened the show with their current success. The two took turns on stage – Mars wearing his ubiquitous sunglasses – in their burnt orange velvet suits, joined by two backing singers to give the performance a feel of temptation. Nothing about Silk Sonic is particularly inventive, but it’s hard not to appreciate their dedication to preening.

Coldplay and BTS, ‘My Universe’

What a technical mess of a performance. It was the first live performance for Coldplay and BTS on their sweet stroke of affection, but if they still have to sound this horrible, it doesn’t matter if it’s their last. At least we knew the vocals were live, because they were completely wrong and dominated the rest of the band. No amount of rebounding from enthusiastic frontman Chris Martin or disciplined BTS could save this wreckage, made worse by the blunders popping all over the place as flash pots exploded at the merciful end of the performance.

Olivia Rodrigo, ‘traitor’

Olivia Rodrigo plays "Traitor".

For her AMA debut, the emerging star kept it simple, playing acoustic guitar to Swift-ian’s pointy ballad. “It took you two weeks / To hang out and hang out with her / I guess you didn’t cheat / But you’re still a traitor,” Rodrigo moved as his all-girl group kicked in behind her. Projecting a lot of pain and emotion, she scaled the octaves and, thanks to the simple arrangement, proved why she was probably about to be baptized in this week’s Grammy nominations.

Tyler, the creator, ‘Massa’

Playing in white shorts with socks up, the rapper stood in front of a house with fake snow flowing. As he dug into his deep words – “Mum was safe when ‘Yonkers’ fell… When I took him out, that’s when I knew I had made it” – the camera moved closer, allowing viewers to feel its intensity. At the end of the song, taken from his new album, “Call Me If You Get Lost”, a scooter stopped, Tyler picked up a suitcase, jumped on it and drove away.

Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean, “If I didn’t love you”

Playing Nashville as an ode to the duo’s professional hometown, the nation’s powers mixed vocals on their hit from Aldean’s new album, “Macon” (named after his real hometown in Georgia). Aldean remained seated behind a piano, while Underwood in a bare-thigh black gown belted nearby with her usual zeal.

Tainy with Bad Bunny and Julieta Venegas, ‘Lo Siento BB: /’

Bad bunny plays "Lo Siento BB: /".

The song’s world premiere from Latin music producer Tainy’s upcoming album, “Data,” took a futuristic approach. Bad Bunny was perched inside a complicated-looking contraption that we’re sure bears an official name, a white balaclava with a camera lens covering his eyes, while Venegas’s face appeared on a tablet. video as she sat behind the piano. Tainy, meanwhile, hung behind her nearby keyboard in a plume of smoke, sending the melody to the song’s groove.

Måneskin, ‘Beggin’

Offering their global smash for their first U.S. awards show – a remake of the 1967 Four Seasons hit – the Italian rockers dressed for the occasion in sleek black tuxedos. With a jagged guitar, a touch of glam and plenty of European charisma, the quartet (whose name means “moonlight” in Danish) injected a dash of much-loved rock ‘n roll into the show. Flickering strobe lights coupled with flying hair heightened the catchy chorus of the vintage hit.

Chlöe, ‘Have mercy’

Chloe plays "Have mercy".

In a white outfit filled with cutouts, Chloe Bailey of Chloe x Halle fame (apparently you get a solo umlaut) walked across the stage with a troupe of dancers. She also performed her first single at the VMAs in September, but this time around she added some twerk and a split as she threw up some sultry looks.

Jennifer Lopez, “On the Road”

Jennifer Lopez is playing.

The ever-glamorous multi-hyphen has taken the unassuming route for the new single from his upcoming film, “Marry Me.” Supported by an orchestra and with the help of a cool costume fit behind huge video screens, Lopez sang the feel-good ballad with conviction. Her honeyed voice is perfectly suited to the song, and her galloping bridge points to another refined hit on her resume.

Mickey Guyton, “All American”

Walking the stage in black thigh-high boots, the country star projected her anthem to inclusivity in front of a giant American flag. With his booming voice and engaging smile, Guyton performed both of his backing vocals during the song, which is filled with simple lyrics on the unit. Guyton looked genuinely touched to play as she kissed the crowd and patted her chest in gratitude.

Giveon, ‘Heartbreak Anniversary’

Like a modern-day James Ingram or a modern-day Ne-Yo, the R&B singer, who has made his mark on songs by Drake (“Chicago Freestyle”) and Justin Bieber (“Peaches”), is truly a man who knows make your way in a ballad direction. The audible cries of the women in the crowd threatened to drown out his creamy vocals as he strolled the aisles, played falsetto notes and displayed many murderous smiles.


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