The American Music Awards celebrated their 40th anniversary with an impressive lineup of performances, including Usher, Pink, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and a surprise appearance by MC Hammer and PSY (See videos below).
Usher kicked off the show with a dizzying medley of “Numb”/ “Climax”/ “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop”, all tracks from this latest electronic-inspired album. The performance offered all the Usher standards: pyrotechnics, gyrating, lasers and even a treadmill. It was as full of production as any opening should be, but the R&B star could have slowed down a bit for a more nuanced number. For the third year in a row, Usher was named the favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist.
Usher’s protégé, newly single Justin Bieber, also took the medley approach, starting with “As Long as You Love Me,” followed by “Beauty and the Beat,” which featured a guest rap by Nicki Minaj. Blinding, multicolored lights followed the pair around the stage, with Minaj leaving in a line about Bieber’s ex, Selena Gomez.
Bieber dominated the awards, winning Artist of the Year, Pop/Rock Album of the Year, and Pop/Rock Male Artist.
Minaj came back on stage for a performance of her own song, “Freedom.” The number had a winter wonderland theme and gospel choir. Next to the choir’s powerful soloist, Minaj started to feel like more of an afterthought near the end.
Pink delivered the evening’s standout performance, with a gripping version of current single, “Try.” In between all the flashy, abbreviated medleys, Pink delivered the aspirational anthem in meaningful entirety, impressively combining performance art and vocals.
“Try” was hard to follow, with Christina Aguilera and Pitbull delivering forgettable mashups after Pink left the stage.
Korean rapper PSY and MC Hammer closed out the AMAs in the evening’s most intriguing collaboration. Hammer, dressed in white entered the stage for a rendition of PSY’s pervasive hit “Gangnam Style,” which has taken pop culture by storm this fall, before they switched to Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit.” And yes, both wore Hammer pants.
Other notable AMA performances included Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson and Kesha.
MC Hammer and PSY