Don’t look for Shonda Rhimes to cast either singer on Scandal in light of their campy scene setting up a POTUS/secretary love affair on an Oval-ish Office set, but the outlandishness of the storyline proved a crazy/beautiful fit for the outré duo. Both Gaga and Kelly delivered scorching vocals on the best cut from Artpop — and better still, the former’s end-of-song emotions set against one of her childhood piano videos and a flurry of damning anti-Gaga headlines proving oddly stirring.
Best Presenter Banter
“There are three amazing nominees for Favorite Soul/R&B album tonight: One, a white kid from the Mickey Mouse Club. Another, the son of the dad from Growing Pains. And the other, a strong, soulful Caribbean woman of color. I don’t know who will win, but I do know who should find this most ironic if she loses.”
Most Tragic Presenter Credentials at an Awards Show of All-Time Ever
“This month’s Maxim cover girl, Paulina Gretzky!”
Not even Kendall Jenner’s “you can see her on Keeping Up With the Kardashians” sounded more depressing.
Most Baffling/Infuriating Performer Energy-to-Crowd Response Ratio
Imagine Dragons’ “Demons”/”Radioactive”
Frontman Dan Reynolds delivered a rockin’, raucous vocal while bouncing around like a superball hurled by Mariano Rivera, before the entire band took to banging enormous (and awesome) drums. So how come all those industry types at L.A.’s Nokia Theater stood there as glumly as if they’d just been transported back to high-school trigonometry class?
TVLine Reader Jury Prize (Did We Love It or Loathe It?)
Jennifer Lopez’s tribute to Celia Cruz (featuring Maksim Chmerkovskiy )
Most Compelling Reason for a Magic Mike Sequel
By putting his enviable backfield in glorious motion on “That’s My Kinda Night,” the country superstar brought new meaning to the phrase “SexyBack.”
Gwen Stefani Memorial Prize for Appropriation of Asian Culture
Perry’s Geisha-rific show-opening performance of “Unconditionally” was certainly lavish, perhaps in an attempt to distract from an utterly pedestrian vocal?
Presented Without Comment
A screengrab featuring artist Damien Hirst’s musings about Icon Award winner Rihanna against the image of the singer’s protruding tongue.
Most Unexpectedly Powerful Vocal
The Global phenom said it felt strange to receive the AMAs’ “Icon Award” at the age of 25, but by delivering one of the best live performances of her career, RiRi proved the best may be yet to come.
Best Supporting Players
Arianna Grande’s Backing Vocalists
Those four fellas brought all the movement and energy that the gifted Best New Artist winner couldn’t deliver as she belted it out beneath 30 lbs of hair and a heavy sequined dress.
Most Dramatic Performance
The Voice coach reminded everyone of her exquisite instrument as she joined A Great Big World on “Say Something” — and served up high drama and emotion while barely moving from her spot at the mic stand.
Whoa! We didn’t realize Pendleton and Members’ Only had a hideous love child!
Most Simultaneously Offensive/Impressive Bit
Pitbull’s Dancing Ladies
Pitbull’s opening monologue predictably included a reference to the rise of twerk in 2013, after which he brought out four female dancers to prove that his Miami hometown’s been dropping it like it’s hot for years now. Perhaps if the emcee himself had shaken what his own mama gave him, we’d have been better able to appreciate the ladies’ ferocious moves — without feeling guilty that they’d been reduced to human props.
Most Disappointing Performance
We were as excited as anyone to see the seminal R&B group back in action — with Lil Mama subbing for the late Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes — but the ladies seemed more focused on executing some middling choreography than they did on their barely audible vocals.
Most Political Acceptance Speech
On a night where acceptance speeches mostly ranged from vacuous to inconsequential, the outspoken rapper dedicated his prize for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album to Trayvon Martin, declaring it’s “time we look out for our youth” and that people everywhere need to “fight racism and the laws that protect it.”
‘More Is Not Always More’ Prize
Timberlake kicked off his rendition of “Drink You Away” by introducing the copious “Tennessee Kids” who accompanied him. Too bad all those cooks went to work on a song with a hook as memorable as canned chicken broth.
Pitbull & Ke$ha, “Timber”
Please don’t judge us for couch-dancing to a song that includes the lyric, “face down/booty up” and a chorus of “swing your butt round and round.” Trust us, our shame-o-meter is already registering in the red zone.
Worst Distraction from a Terrific Vocal
That Lipsynching Cat Video Behind Miley Cyrus
The firebrand pop tart could’ve felled a building with all the power and passion she threw into “Wrecking Ball.” Alas, though, the weeping feline backdrop and her alarmingly tailored undies will probably garner most of Monday morning’s water-cooler buzz. Is this the 2013 interpretation of ‘just bein Miley’?
Ad Through Which Hopefully No One FF’d
Country Stars Endorse Nashville
If Kellie Pickler, Sheryl Crow, The Band Perry and Rascal Flatts are all watching ABC’s addictive Connie Britton-Hayden Panettiere drama, shouldn’t everyone? (Spoiler alert: The answer is yes!)