Last night’s 2012 American Music Awards telecast felt more like an all-star concert than a typical awards show, jammed with performances as it was — but there’s no denying that some artists fared better than others. From the great moments (Christina Aguilera‘s astoundingly insane medley and Justin Bieber trolling “the haters”) to the lackluster ones (a sleepy Nicki Minaj and another exhausting take on novelty hit “Gangnam Style”), the AMAs were a definite mixed bag, with spectacular highs and dreary lows.
Head below to see the best and worst moments from last night’s performances-heavy, awards-light ceremony.
5. Justin Bieber shouting out to the haters
Do you hate Justin Bieber? Then you’re probably mighty pressed after seeing Bieber take home no less than three trophies at last night’s AMAs — and worse still, that he called you out by name. “I want to say this is for all the haters who thought I was just here for one or two years,” Bieber said, in complete sincerity. “I feel like I’m going to be here for a very long time.” The acceptance speech was basically the human equivalent of a “U MAD?” gif. Haters around the world are collectively readying a statement this morning asking that the media please respect their privacy during this sensitive time.
4. Taylor Swift serving up a showstopping “I Knew You Were Trouble”
Taylor Swift dazzled on the red carpet in a flirty gold sheath, but even more impressive was her masquerade-themed performance of her new single “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which had a theatricality and sensuality that aren’t usually found in her cheery live sets. The mid-song costume change was one of the only real gasps of the night, and the hair flips were absolutely on point.
3. Christina Aguilera’s camp classic performance
It’s not entirely clear whether Christina Aguilera intended to be sincere in her medley performance of “Lotus Intro,” “Army of Me” and “Let There Be Love,” but it was one of the most dizzyingly madcap, embarrassing, messy moments of campy brilliance televised in recent memory. With drag queens, oiled-up shirtless dancers, visual representations of haters, and Aguilera emerging like the triumphant lotus flower that she is to scream-sing her vocals, the medley was truly a historic disaster, and easily one of the evening’s highlights.
2. Eden Sher fangirling over everyone
Overall, the preshow red carpet was a pretty dull affair, but red carpet correspondent Eden Sher delivered a string of memorable moments in her interviews with the show’s top talent. While her interview with Christina Aguilera, in which she unrepentantly called the singer “Legendtina Goduilera” and asked her if Lotus was an acronym for “Legend Of The United States,” was a standout for all true lovers of music, it was her extraordinary fangirling over Taylor Swift (she called the singer “Slaylor Gift-From-God” and then cried) that was most brilliant — earnest, authentic and true to the spirit of the enthusiasm of the AMAs.
1. Pink’s performance of “Try”
While many of the performances felt overly rehearsed and snoozy, the evening’s best was easily Pink, who turned out a remarkable performance of her latest single “Try,” effectively replicating the video’s impressive choreography live on stage. Emotionally and physically taxing, it was the only set where the stakes actually felt high — rather than the glittering distraction of a light show, the spotlight was on the human element, and it was the evening’s only moment that fans will still be discussing years from now.
5. Nicki Minaj getting liberated on “Freedom” — and putting us to sleep
Our expectations were high for Nicki Minaj to take the stage at the AMAs, since the high-concept, high-drama rapstress has delivered some absolutely showstopping performances in the past — but her live debut of “Freedom” probably won’t be remembered as one of them. The sleepy set suffered from poor styling, a melodramatic gospel choir and, worst of all, Minaj totally stripped of her usual attitude and swagger. Pass.
4. Elisha Cuthbert explaining EDM to the public
Elisha Cuthbert is adorable on her ABC sitcom Happy Endings, but perhaps someone more attuned to the world of hooligan ravers and their discotheques would have been a better fit to give a quick definition of Electronic Dance Music while introducing that genre’s award — since Cuthbert described it, hilariously, as “the hottest new thing in music.” She sounded like an alien, and it was kind of awesome, but mostly just cringe-inducing.
3. Jenny McCarthy assaulting Justin Bieber
Let’s just put it out there: Jenny McCarthy makes us uncomfortable, from last night’s Lisa Loeb eyeglasses to her vaccines-cause-autism conspiracy theorizing to her humor, which spans a wide comfort of jaw-grinding squirming from “boundary-pushing” to “totes inapprop.” Thus, when she assaulted Justin Bieber with a kiss on the neck and later tweeted “Cougar rape? #poorjustin” about it, it wasn’t funny. It was just tasteless.
2. Swizz Beatz, Ludacris & Chris Brown celebrating an unhappy “Birthday”
Here’s a short list of things no award show needs:
1. Chris Brown shirtless
Thank you for your time.
1. PSY & MC Hammer’s Gangnam Style
Yes, we know “Gangnam Style” is the viral hit of the millennium. Yes, it’s become part of the cultural fabric. But by the time PSY took the stage to perform “Gangnam Style,” we were so exhausted by the dreary spectacle of the show that something truly inspiring would have come in handy — and instead, he he trotted out MC Hammer to dance with him? It was the sort of obvious, cynical bid for viewer attention that’s sure to get eyeballs, but also turns a show that could be fun into a total farce. Seriously — who needs to see PSY dance again?