Taylor Swift takes top prize, AMA's Weeknd dominates
Swift's third consecutive artist of the year The Weeknd is the major winner
Taylor Swift received her third consecutive year's prize at the American Music Awards, but she skipped the show for a good reason: she said she's busy re-recording her early music after selling her catalog.
In a video that aired during Sunday's awards show, the pop star said the reason I'm not there tonight is I'm actually re-recording all of my old music in the studio where we originally recorded it. So it's been amazing. And I can't wait for you to hear it."
Music producer Scooter Braun, who manages Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, revealed last year that his Ithaca Holdings company had acquired Big Machine Label Party, home to Swift's first six albums. Braun said he sold the master rights to Swift's first six albums to an investment firm this month; Swift confirmed social media sales and said she wouldn't deal with new customers because Braun was still involved.
Instead, she returned to the studio.
Swift defeated Bieber, Post Malone, and Roddy Ricch for the top prize. She also won best music video and favorite pop/rock artist, winning three awards and tying Bieber, Dan+Shay and The Weeknd for most Sunday wins.
Weeknd wins a lot
The Weeknd lost the year's artist, but he still kicked off his all-star week as a major winner: he won favorite soul/R&B male artist, favorite soul/R&B album for After Hours and favorite soul/R&B single for Heartless two days before the 2021 Grammy nominations.
"The last time I received this award it was given to me by the late great Prince," he said after winning favorite soul/R&B song. "And, you know, he's the reason I get to constantly challenge the genre of R&B and yeah, I'd like to dedicate this to him."
His gauze-wrapped face, which suited the vibe of his recent album and music videos where he appears bloodied and bruised, did not break character in the three-hour broadcast. He accepted his awards and performed his gauze-wrapped face.
For his success, Kenny G joined The Weeknd, playing sax in downtown Los Angeles as The Weeknd walked across a bridge singing In Your Eyes. He's done singing Save Your Tears.
The Weeknd was one of many artists performing live for the fan-voted awards show at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Others recently tapped their performances due to the coronavirus pandemic, while host Taraji P. Henson—who appeared live from the venue—said that the few members of the audience sitting in the mezzanine practiced social distance, wore masks, and were screened for the virus.
Henson joked that A-list celebrities were in audience, like Beyoncé, while the singer's cardboard cut-out, Jay-Z and other stars sat in seats.
But several chart-toppers were in the house. Doja Cat performed and won the year's new artist and favorite soul/R&B female artist. Grammy-winning country duo Dan+Shay performed beautifully I Should probably go to bed and win favorite country duo or group, year collaboration and favorite country song for 10,000 Hours, the latter two shared with Bieber. And Megan Thee Stallion—won favorite rap/hip-hop songs with Cardi B for WAP—performed Body from her latest debut album Good News.
Bieber and Shawn Mendes started off the AMAs with a pre-taped performance of their new duet Beast, marking their first performance together. It started with a stripped-down Bieber singing his latest hit Lonely, piano songwriter-producer Benny Blanco, and Holy, where background dancers wearing masks joined him.
Mendes then starred for Monster, who featured the twenty-somethings singing songs about fame and growing up as celebrities who gained huge media attention. Mendes later sang his song Wonder during the ABC broadcast.
In her first performance since birth of her first child, Katy Perry gave a powerful performance of the emotional and optimistic song Only Love, featuring a surprise guest appearance by Darius Rucker, who sang and played guitar. With blazing red lights glaring behind her, Billie Eilish sang her latest song as her brother-songwriter Finneas backed her on guitar. Jennifer Lopez and Maluma teamed up to perform their new songs Pa' Ti and Lonely from the film Marry Me, which both starred in while Dua Lipa, who won favorite pop/rock song, floated in the air during her Levitating set.
24kGoldn and Iann Dior, who currently have Mood's No. 1 song with the smash hit, also performed. The multi-genre track is the unusual single hitting No. 1 on both rap and rock charts.
Other performers included BTS, Lewis Capaldi, Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Boy, Bell Biv DeVoe, and Nelly, who performed hits from his debut album Country Grammar, which marks this year's 20th anniversary.
This year the AMAs, usually awarding one Latin honor, introduced more genre categories. Becky G—who exploded with the pop hit Shower on the music scene in 2014, but recently had success singing in Spanish and launching hits on Latin charts—won favorite Latin female artist.
She spoke to honor immigrant families.
"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. "And I dedicate this award to all of our immigrant workers in this pandemic; the students and immigrant families. It's because of my family, my abuelitos, that I stand here today."
AMA nominations were based on streaming, album and digital sales, radio airplay and social activity, representing the period from Sept. 27, 2019 to Sept. 24, 2020.