The American Music Awards: A Running Diary


Just impale your eyeball on one of these things right now

Oh man, OK, so the American Music Awards should really thank the Billboard Music Awards for being the only reason the AMAs are not the least relevant music awards show on the face of the planet. In theory, I kind of like how the AMAs don’t even pretend to base their decisions on the actual quality of the musicians they salute. But the whole “Favorite” thing has a massive drawback: nobody famous ever wants to appear on this show. Somehow, the AMAs have managed to become progressively more boring over time, which means that this year will probably be the most boring AMAs in AMA history, at least until next year. This is going to be a long three hours.

8:00: Oh Jesus, they’re really starting the show with Fergie? And she’s doing “Fergalicious”? And Will.I.Am is standing next to her doing the robot and wearing a tux with a top hat and white gloves? Who’s going to see this opening and not realize that we’re heading straight into trainwreck hell? Things actually go downhill during this opening, as “Fergalicious” (which I sort of like OK) becomes “Clumsy” (which I don’t) and then “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (which I actively hate). Seriously “Big Girls” always makes me feel like I’m waiting for surgery, and she does more or less the whole song. Whose idea was it to let her do three goddam songs?

8:07: Oh fuck, now Will.I.Am gets to do a solo song too? Are we going to get solo tracks from Apl.De.Ap and Taboo next? Will.I.Am has an all-model backing band, and he’s surrounded by naked silver mannequins. He’s like the new Robert Palmer. At least he’s nice enough to squeeze like one synth-riff from “Looking for the Perfect Beat” into the tacked-on dance-sequence at the end of the otherwise regrettable “Heartbreaker.”

8:10: Jesus fucking Christ, now Will.I.Am’s doing a song with Nicole Pussycat Doll. It’s like the producers wanted to remake the VMAs, except without any actual stars or good songs or anything. In the crowd, Beyonce looks bored until she realizes that she’s on camera. Wow, this show is only one-eighteenth over. The best song of that five-song opening montage was “Fergalicious.” This show is never, ever going to end.

8:16: Jimmy Kimmel, tonight’s host, makes fun of the fact that he’s scabbing on the Writers’ Guild strike. Apparently, there will be no written jokes tonight, which actually isn’t much of a letdown. Instead, he’s bringing Jordin Sparks and Kellie Pickler onstage to do the Soulja Boy dance. And they’re all going to dress like Soulja Boy, too. Hilarious. Kimmel basically does the Soulja Boy dance exactly like I do when I’m drunk, which is to say not very well. The real Soulja Boy predictably shows up to do the dance. Wow, that was amazingly awkward. Soulja Boy is also helping to announce that this year’s awards were decided by viewers’ votes. 1.2 million people voted this year! That’s really not very many people at all!

8:18: Carrie Underwood gives the Breakthrough Artist award to Daughtry. At this point, they’re going to run out of former American Idol contestants before they hit the half-hour mark. One of the guys in Daughtry’s band has the worst little mohawk I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of bad little mohawks.

8:25: Christina Applegate and James Blunt are presenting an award together, and the assembled onstage starpower is blinding me. They give some award to Rascal Flatts, who don’t even look a little bit surprised to be winning.

8:27: If the guys in One Republic really want to get big, they’re going to have to work on their award-show presentation skills. They introduce a throughly mediocre Avril Lavigne.

8:31: Hey, it’s Rascal Flatts again! I was starting to miss them. The announcer calls them “America’s #1 band,” which is probably true, frighteningly enough. They do some fluffy but OK power-ballad, which makes them far and away the best performers of the night thus far. I guess I can’t stay mad at them.

8:39: Ryan Seacrest shows One Republic how to do this award-show presentation thing. He introduces Maroon 5, who are almost good. Maroon 5 developing some sense of swagger is really one of the weirdest and most welcome things to happen to big-money pop music in the past year or so. I mean, who would’ve thought?

8:44: Akon wins the Soul/R&B Male award, which he tries to give to T-Pain. Robot love onstage!

8:51: As the Jonas Brothers start playing, a bunch of screaming preteen girls rush the aisles. All three Jonas Brothers stand behind panes of glass that shatter when they start singing. One of them trips and falls in the glass, but he gets back up without missing a bit or cutting an artery or anything. Other than the fall, this whole intro was totally planned (someone told all those girls when to go), but this sort of goofy spectacle works amazingly well on a show like this, and the Jonas Brothers’ precise power-pop actually has some energy working for it. Two of the screaming girls make it onstage and sort of awkwardly stand by one of the Jonases for a second before an enormous security guard chases them off. Aw!

8:54: Fabolous and Taylor Swift are standing next to each other. Whose idea was it for these two to present an award together? Did they just pull names out of a hat? They present some award to Justin Timberlake; he accepts via taped message and doesn’t seem interested at all.

8:57: Terrible skit time: Kid Rock punches out Jimmy Kimmel over Celine Dion. Kimmel scabbed for this?

9:01: High School Musical 2 wins a soundtrack award. Does this award exist specifically so the HSM people would accept it?

9:03: Rihanna sings “Umbrella” and “Hate That I Love You” with a full orchestra and Ne-Yo because, you know, she’s a serious recording star now. Actually, this is sort of great. The show looks a whole lot less second-string when the people onstage look have some idea how to act like stars.

9:13: Some guy from Grey’s Anatomy says that Fergie rocks. Huh? Were they on Double Dare together or something? He gives some award to Carrie Underwood, and even she doesn’t look all that amped (no tears).

9:15: Sugarland covers “Irreplaceable” all exaggerated jug-band style. They could’ve just done it straight; it’s not like that song is all that different from their regular style. Beyonce comes in halfway through for an unsurprising surprise appearance, and the lack of chemistry onstage is truly something to behold. What a well-intentioned mess.

9:19: Solange Knowles is dressed like a cupcake. Daughtry wins the Adult Contemporary Award, which seems sort of like a double-edged sword.

9:28: Josh Groban, introducing Celine Dion: “I guess you could say that she’s got an edgy attitude now because her new song is called ‘Taking Chances.'” Was that sarcasm? Or just a deeply ridiculous statement? He sure looked sincere. “Taking Chances” is actually a really good Kelly Clarkson song, which makes it probably the best song Celine Dion has ever released, weirdly enough. Celine’s attempts at sexy dancing are too goofy for words, but this is really perfectly OK.

9:33: Lenny Kravitz plays a piano, which I guess means he’s being sensitive. This new song isn’t even interesting enough to suck properly.

9:39: Chris Brown is dressed like a character from Tron, and he’s dancing to hair-metal. He’s not even pretending to actually sing. I love this guy! Whoa, now he’s dancing while suspended upside-down. This kid is too much.

9:49: Hannah Montana gives Carrie Underwood some kind of text-message award. My brain hurts.

9:56: Jimmy Kimmel makes a sex joke about the girls from High School Musical, ew. Naked picture means fair game, I guess. They give some award to Daughtry, and there’s that fucking mohawk again.

9:59: Alicia Keys’s gospel choir is sitting on the hood of a pickup truck onstage, and “No One” suddenly turns into an awkward reggae remix with Junior Reid. And now he’s singing “One Blood”? And Chaka Demus and Pliers are singing “Murder She Wrote”? And now Beenie Man is doing “Who Am I?”? I can’t even process what’s happening here. Does Keys think “No One” is a reggae song? Is that why she’s doing this thing? Whatever, this is great.

10:08: Good Lord, now Tony Hawk is here to introduce Duran Duran? This is turning into the Southland Tales of award shows; I’d love to know just how much cocaine went into the planning process. Duran Duran’s middling Timberlake song is slowly growing on me, but it’s still a middling Timberlake track, and it would probably be better if Timberlake sang it. Tonight, Simon Le Bon is actually singing like he has Timberlake’s entire head lodged in his nasal canal. But all is forgiven when they sing the deathless “Hungry Like the Wolf.”

10:15: Slash appears onstage but fails to reproduce his endlessly entertaining string of drunken cusswords from 1990. Instead, he gives an award to Carrie Underwood.

10:17: Usher, looking dapper, gives a lifetime achievement to Beyonce. Nobody younger than me should ever win a lifetime achievement award.

10:27: Mary J. Blige’s Catwoman jumpsuit is more memorable than her new quasi-disco single, but it says something that she’s still hugely likable even when she’s singing something this boring.

10:33: The nominees for the Rap Group award are Bone Thugs, Pretty Ricky, and the Shop Boyz. Wow, what does that say about the state of the rap group? Bone Thugs win, which is good since they were the only remotely defensible choice. One of the random backup guys onstage has a mohawk almost as bad as the one on the Daughtry guy.

10:39: Queen Latifah sings smooth jazz. Post-rap maturity has never been so boring, ever. She can sing and all, but guh.

10:44: Upset! Rihanna beats Beyonce for something. Akon gives her the award. The cyborg takeover marches on.

10:50: Daughtry Unplugged is somehow even more ragingly tepid than Electric Daughtry. His awards are sitting onstage behind him, along with a whole bunch of lamps and throw pillows. They really aren’t making this last hour easy on me, are they?

10:55: An extra-skeezy Gene Simmons gives something to Fergie. Is this show over yet?