Superstars and icons headline the 2017 AMAs

(Photo property of ABC & Dick Clark Productions)

By: Jacob Elyachar,

For over 45 years, the American Music Awards (AMAs) have given fans the power to choose who wins accolades such as Artist of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and Favorite Pop/Rock Artists.   The King of Pop has earned 24 AMAs, while Alabama and Whitney Houston complete the trinity with 23 and 21 individual wins.

Also, the AMAs have welcomed some of the most significant recording artists of all-time to their stage, and they delivered some impeccable moments.  In the 20th Century, some of the best performances included the global sing-along to “We Are the World” in 1986 and Gloria Estefan’s triumphant return to the music world in 1991 with a powerful “Coming Out of the Dark.”  Over the past few years, fans saw memorable performances such as Whitney Houston’s final and emotional performance on the Microsoft Theater stage in 2009 to Rihanna’s stunning performance of Sia’s penned “Diamonds” in 2013 with a full orchestra.

This year, the AMAs are celebrating their 45th anniversary by marking several milestones. Golden Globe-winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross followed in her legendary mother, Ms. Diana Ross’s footsteps as the night’s host. In addition to hosting the AMAs twice in the 1980s, she also won seven American Music Awards throughout her career and tonight, Ms. Ross also received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ms. Ross has opened doors to countless women in the recording industry and tonight, some of the most significant female singers of the 21st century hit the Microsoft Theater stage. Who won some of the most prominent awards of the night? Which artists soared during their performances? Read on to find out!

Jamie Foxx kicked off the American Music Awards with a special tribute to the power of music. “2017 was the year that tested our faith.” Said the Oscar winner. He also acknowledged the first responders behind him and introduced P!nk and Kelly Clarkson, who performed R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.”  This was an incredible vocal performance from two of the biggest names in pop music! A+

Host with the most, Tracee Ellis Ross, made a grand entrance. The blackish star thanked ABC for letting her host on this particular night….the night where her mom was received her Lifetime Achievement Award. Outside of shouting out her family, Tracee called out DJ Khaled for bringing a massive entourage, recognized Kelly Clarkson’s win as American Idol, and her mother.  She left the stage and introduced Demi Lovato.

Demi Lovato walked to the stage for her performance of “Sorry Not Sorry.” I loved the backing choir behind her and Demi delivered a fiery and rousing vocal performance that had everyone dancing in their seats. B+  As Demi left the stage, Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman presented Imagine Dragons with the Pop/Rock Duo/Group Award.

Tracee Ellis Ross announced that fans could begin the American Idol voting process during the commercial breaks. In addition, Chris Hardwick and Lea Michele introduced national treasure: Nick Jonas. The heartthrob performed his latest single, “Find You.” While he charged the crowd with his performance, I thought it was an okay performance. C+

Hailee Steinfeld lead a supergroup that included Alesso, Watt, and Florida Georgia Line. I had low expectations for this AMA performance, but this supergroup pleasantly surprised me. While Hailee had some pitch issues near the end of the song, I truly admired the energy from this group. B-

Ciara awarded the Rap/Hip-Hop Song Award to DJ Khaled for “I’m the One,” his massive collaboration with Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne.  DJ Khaled also revealed that he was back in the studio.  Tracee Ellis Ross introduced Lilly Singh and Sabrina Carpenter, who welcomed Shawn Mendes to the stage. The Canadian singer-songwriter commanded the stage when he performed “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back.” There was nothing wrong with his performance as he delivered a crowd-pleasing performance. I also added on Twitter that Shawn is one of the greatest recording artists of his generation. A-

New Artist of the Year nominee Julia Michaels introduced her friend: Selena Gomez and Marshmello. The duo debuted their new single, “Wolves,” on the AMAs stage. This performance reminded me so much of a scene from a modern-day version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.  “Wolves” is a good track, but I didn’t like the performance.  However, I am glad that Selena Gomez is healthy and happy though! C-

Bad Mom Christmas star Kathryn Haun and This is Us actor Justin Hartley teamed up to give Keith Urban his Best Country Male Award, Best Country Album, and Best Country Song awards. After Keith handed his awards to wife Nicole Kidman and gave shout outs to his lovely daughters, his collaborators and fans for their support.  Next, Tracee Ellis Ross teased Christina Aguilera’s tribute to The Bodyguard.

The Riverdale cast awarded The Chainsmokers their first award of the night: Best EDM Artist. Emmy and Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis received a standing ovation from the Microsoft Theater audience and introduced the highly anticipated Bodyguard tribute. Christina Aguilera delivered a medley of some of the film’s biggest hits: “I Will Always Love You,” “I Have Nothing,” “Run to You,” and “I’m Every Woman.” Ms. Aguilera delivered one of the best tributes that the AMAs ever put on and Whitney would be so happy with Xtina’s vocals! A+

Jenna Dewan Tatum and Billy “Dewan” Eichner awarded Shawn Mendes his first American Music Award: Best Adult Contemporary Award.  Project Runway host and America’s Got Talent judge Heidi Klum introduced Lady Gaga, who was performing at in Washington D.C.  The “Joanne” singer-songwriter performed a powerful version of “The Cure.” It was a spectacular visual experience. A-

G-Eazy and DJ Khaled introduced Macklemore & Skylar Grey, who performed “Glorious.” As much as I loved these two performers, this was a hot mess! Skylar Grey’s piano overpowered both Macklemore and Skylar’s vocals. This was the worst performance of the night! F  Thankfully, Portugal. The Man was able to clean up their mess when he performed his hit single: “Free It Still.” It was nice to put a face to a song, and he put a smile back on my face.

After the Stranger Things cast introduced Zedd and Alessia Cara, the duo performed a unique twist to their hit: “Stay.” Gone were the synthesizers and in their place was an orchestra and a piano. The creative decision allowed for Alessia’s voice to shine with auto-tune or any unique musical technology. Also, I would be highly interested in buying this re-arrangement on iTunes! B+/A-

Khalid and Imagine Dragons teamed up for an epic performance. Khalid showcased why he is one of the hottest rising stars when he joined Imagine Dragons for a superb collaboration of “Thunder.” I have never seen so much kinetic energy on the AMAs stage in all of my years of watching the award show. B

Nick Cannon presented T-Mobile’s New Artist of the Year Award to Niall Horan. After the whole room gave him a standing ovation, the Irish lad acknowledged his friend, Post Malone, his fans, and the Capitol Records team. Tracie Ellis Ross announced that P!nk was performing on top of the J.W. Marriott Hotel, I got scared for the “Don’t Let It Get Me” singer. While she delivered an amazing vocal performance, the death-defying aerial performance made my jaw drop! A  

Patrick Schwarzenegger presented Collaboration of the Year Presented by Xfinity to Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber’s “Despacito.” Luis dedicated the award to his hometown of Puerto Rico. Kat Graham and Kelly Rowland introduced Niall Horan, who performed “Slow Hands.” It was a good performance, but I thought Shawn Mendes did a better job with his vocals, and the scream-along did not help. B-

The Shark Tank tycoons awarded the Alternative Rock Award to Linkin’ Park as the three remaining band members, who dedicated this award to the late Chester Bennington and challenged the artists to make their fallen bandmate proud. Chrissy Metz and Jesse Tyler Ferguson introduced Kelly Clarkson, who performed a jazzy interpretation of “Miss Independent” and one of my favorite songs of the year: “Love So Soft.” I have no words to describe this perfect performance!  A

K-pop has made landfall in the United States! Korean pop group BTS made their U.S. debut that reminded me of watching the Backstreet Boys and One Direction’s first performances. While I could not understand the lyrics, I have a funny feeling that this music group is going to conquer the American music world by the end of 2018. B

Oscar winner and Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto presented Artist of the Year Award to Bruno Mars, who was unable to attend the event.  After introductions from Taylor Swift, former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and her son, Evan, Ms. Ross finally took the stage. The music legend sang some of her greatest hits such as “I’m Coming Out,” “Take Me Higher,” “Ease on Down the Road,” “The Best Years of My Life,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Ms. Ross delivered an impactful performance that inspired numerous performers around the world and showcased with style and grace what a true entertainer should aspire to be. A


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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar