I’ve always had a certain affection for the American Music Awards; they’re endearingly crass where the Grammies are self-important. The show is based around who is most popular rather than who is most prestigious or whatever (awards are called “Favorite blah blah blah” instead of “Best blah blah blah”), and so they never end up with weird middlebrow travesties like India.Arie getting nominated for multiple awards. Also, they hire ticking time bombs like Anna Nicole Smith, people who have nothing to do with music, to present awards, often with entertaining results. They jump genre lines almost indiscriminately, and country and teenpop always represent heavily. It’s not as sensationalistically brazen as the VMAs, but there’s an almost charming awkwardness to the whole thing. But it can get boring, too. Observe:
8:09: I missed the beginning because I forgot it was even on. You probably did, too. When I turn on the TV, host Cedric the Entertainer is coming out onstage with a huge ghetto blaster, which is playing “Laffy Taffy,” and he’s doing the dance from the video. This is amazing. Then he says a bunch of stuff that isn’t funny. I saw Kings of Comedy. He can do better than that.
8:14: Shakira is wearing a cardigan or some shit.
8:15: Mariah Carey wins something. The hole at the front of her dress is maybe a little too big, but she seems refreshingly not crazy.
8:18: Slum Village is in a Chevy commercial. When was the last time you saw a stereotypical thug rapper do something this lame?
8:21: Nicole Richie is in Utah? To introduce the Rolling Stones? What the fuck?
8:22: Brooks and Dunn keep milking that stupid “ahh-ooh-hoo” yodel thing.
8:24: Emmy Rossum always seems so damn proud of herself. I do not understand why.
8:28: I keep waiting for the strings and booming drums and gospel choir to come in on Rob Thomas’s unbelievably boring and goopy power ballad. They never do.
8:30: Lindsay Lohan can’t sing, but she can show Rob Thomas how to do this overblown power-ballad shit right, at least until she switches into an ill-advised Stevie Nicks cover. She has black hair now, which looks way better.
8:37: Daddy Yankee and Travis Barker are presenting the “Breakthrough Artist” award, whatever that is. Travis Barker is a drummer; I do not understand why he gets to do stuff like this.
8:40: The camera crew must keep thinking Pharrell’s hypeman is Pharrell, since they keep showing him. They stop showing either one when Gwen Stefani comes down from the ceiling in a hot air balloon (for real). No one is making the sad reality that Gwen only has to say five words on this song but that she still sounds truly irritating saying them. Skateboarders come out, and Kenny Chesney looks confused. This song is OK.
8:44: Ashanti is presenting something, which would explain why she wasn’t at yesterday’s boring-ass Irv Gotti trial day.
8:50: Pamela Anderson presents an r&b award. You can’t make this stuff up.
8:52: Kelly Rowland crying because she has to accept an award by herself: surprising!
8:53: Jenny McCarthy?
8:54: Wow, this Hillary Duff new wave song is great! How have I never heard this? Also, her mincing male dancers are the funniest things onstage all night.
8:56: Keith Urban is sitting on a riser in the crowd playing an acoustic guitar while his band plays on the stage behind him, which is a weird look. Keith Urban is boring.
9:06: Tim McGraw is wearing a black leather cowboy suit. I want one.
9:08: Lee Ann Womack is introducing a performance from Cyndi Lauper, so someone is clearly just throwing darts at a bulletin board.
9:09: I love “Time After Time” as much as everyone else. But Cyndi Lauper playing an autoharp or zither or something? Sarah McLachlan singing backup? The results being shown on TV in out-of-focus black-and-white? This is clearly not the way to go.
9:23: Bow Wow and Ciara do like you on a set made up to look like a city street with rowhouses and stoops and everything. They look cute together. Then Omarion, dressed like “Smooth Criminal”-era Michael Jackson, dances. This is great! And then Bow Wow and Omarion change clothes in record time and do “Hold You Down” together, which is a bit much.
9:29: Will Smith beats 50 Cent for an award. In what universe does Will Smith sell more records than 50 Cent? This is some bullshit. Smith says something about staying committed to ideals when the world is going in another direction. Whatever, Will Smith.
9:37: Missy Elliott is on crutches? She says she’s been “dancing too much.” Huh.
9:41: Is it really necessary for Santana to be trading solos with the guy from Los Lonely Boys?
9:54: I can’t even bring myself to hate Sheryl Crowe’s hookless, empty song. I usually like Sheryl Crowe. This is depressing.
9:57: Tim McGraw’s song is not as good as his leather cowboy suit, but it’s OK. So far, the only performer to get past “OK” is Hillary Duff, weirdly enough.
10:08: Eurythmics has a harmonica player? Why are all these fucking new wave people trying to get all rootsy?
10:19: Two people who are on ABC shows (John Stamos and one of the girls from Gray’s Anatomy) present an award on a show broadcast on ABC. Doesn’t the network realize that everyone hates it when it does this? Kelly Clarkson wins, but she isn’t there to accept. In fact, only maybe half of tonight’s winners are there to accept.
10:21: Rascal Flatts do a great song with a whole lot of vocoder and a heavy pseudo-funk stomp-riff. Did Rascal Flatts just become interesting?
10:29: There’s a “contemporary inspirational” award? Mary Mary wins instead of any of the white people, so that’s something.
10:31: The All American Rejects do “Dirty Little Secret.” Can we talk for a minute about how great this song is? The soaring Undertones riffs? The prim pop-idol delivery? The unrepentantly assholeish eem lyrics? This is the mainstream rock single of the year, easy.
10:41: The Backstreet Boys present a country award, and one of them gets all cute and announces the winners as “the Barnyard Boys.” Brooks and Dunn, who actually win, should beat his ass, but they don’t.
10:43. Paris Hilton.
10:51: You know how everyone says this new Rolling Stones tour is so great? Going on available evidence, these people are wrong.
10:58: It’s over? Does that mean I missed Kenny Chesney? Fuck!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 23, 2005