Though the 2021 American Music Awards peppered its performance lineup with some veteran superstars including Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood and show openers Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak), the show primarily spotlighted first-timers.

Chlöe, Måneskin, Walker Hayes and Olivia Rodrigo were among the acts making their inaugural AMAs performance bows, while electronic music luminary Diplo debuted as the musical curator for the show. 

Megan Thee Stallion was originally scheduled to sing the “Butter” remix with BTS but she pulled out Saturday due to an “unexpected personal issue.”

This year’s AMAs featured a unique twist: a few performers performed live from their home towns. New Kids on the Block, New Edition and Jason Aldean teamed up in Nashville to host a Battle of Boston. Kane Brown was live at the HBCU Tennessee state university in his home state. 

List of AMAs award winners:Taylor Swift and Lil Nas X win early prizes

Here’s how they – and the rest of the AMA performers – fared.

Silk Sonic, Smokin’ Out the Window’

The pet project of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak opened the show with their current throwback hit. The pair took turns gliding around the stage – Mars sporting his omnipresent sunglasses – in their burnt orange velvet suits, joined by two backup singers to give the performance a Temptations feel. Nothing about Silk Sonic is particularly inventive, but it’s hard not to appreciate their dedication to smooth.

Coldplay, BTS and ‘My Universe.

This was a terrible performance. This was the first live performance for Coldplay and BTS on their sweet hit of affection, but if they’re always going to sound this awful, it’s OK if it’s their last. We were able to verify that the vocals were indeed live because they were off-key, and overwhelmed the rest of their band. This was not a band that Chris Martin, the frontman of BTS tried to save. The wreck was made worse by the BTS’s discipline and Chris Martin’s eagerness.

Olivia Rodrigo, ‘Traitor’

Olivia Rodrigo performs "Traitor".

The AMAs debut was simple for the rising star. She played acoustic guitar to the Swift-ian tune. “It took you two weeks/To go off and date her/Guess you didn’t cheat/But you’re still a traitor,” Rodrigo emoted as her all-female band kicked in behind her. Projecting plenty of hurt and emotion, she scaled octaves and, thanks to the simple arrangement, proved why she’s likely about to get christened in this week’s Grammy nominations.

Tyler, the Creator, “Massa”

The rapper performed in short white pants and socks, while he stood before a fake snow-dribbling house. As he dug into his deep lyrics – “Mom was in the shelter when ‘Yonkers’ dropped…When I got her out, that’s the moment I knew I made it” – the camera crept closer, allowing viewers to feel his intensity. At the end of the song, taken from his new album, “Call Me If You Get Lost,” a scooter pulled up, Tyler picked up a case, hopped on, and zoomed away.

Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean, ‘If I Didn’t Love You’

Performing from Nashville as an ode to the twosome’s professional hometown, the country powerhouses blended vocals on their hit from Aldean’s new album, “Macon” (named for his real hometown in Georgia). Aldean stayed seated behind a piano, while Underwood in a thigh-baring black gown belted nearby with her usual zeal.

Tainy with Bad Bunny, Julieta Venegas and Julieta Venegas. ‘Lo SientoBB:/’

Bad Bunny performs "Lo Siento BB :/".

The world premiere performance of the song from Latin music producer Tainy’s forthcoming album, “Data,” took a futuristic approach. Bad Bunny perched inside a complicated-looking contraption that we’re sure has an official name, a white hood with a camera lens covering his eyes, while Venegas’ face appeared on a video tablet as she sat behind the piano. Tainy, meanwhile, hung behind his nearby keyboard in a plume of smoke, plinking out the melody to the song’s shuffling groove. 

Måneskin, ‘Beggin’ ‘

Offering their global smash for their U.S. awards show debut – a remake of The Four Seasons’ 1967 hit – the Italian rockers dressed for the occasion in snazzy black tuxes. With serrated guitar, a touch of glam and much European charisma, the quartet (whose name means “moonlight” in Danish) injected a much-appreciated dash of rock ‘n roll into the show. Flickering strobe lights coupled with flying hair augmented the vintage hit’s catchy chorus.

Chlöe, ‘Have Mercy’

Chloe performs "Have Mercy".

In a cutout-filled white outfit, Chloe Bailey, of Chloe x Halle fame (apparently you graduate to an umlaut upon going solo) traversed the stage with a troupe of female dancers. In September she also performed her first single at VMAs. However, this time she added twerking to the mix and did a split.

Jennifer Lopez, “On My Way”

Jennifer Lopez performs.

The always-glamorous multi-hyphenate took the unpretentious route for the new single form her upcoming film, “Marry Me.” Backed by an orchestra and with the assistance of a cool costume tweak behind massive video screens, Lopez crooned the feel-good ballad with conviction. The song’s sweeping bridge and honeyed vocals make Lopez a perfect fit. 

Mickey Guyton, “All American”

In thigh-high, black boots, Guyton, country’s star, projected her national anthem for inclusion on the American flag. Guyton’s engaging smile and booming voice complemented her background singers in the simple song about unity. Guyton seemed genuinely moved to perform as she offered her thanks to everyone and blew kisses. 

Giveon, ‘Heartbreak Anniversary’

Giveon performs onstage.

Like a modern-day James Ingram or Ne-Yo, the R&B singer, who gained prominence on songs by Drake (“Chicago Freestyle”) and Justin Bieber (“Peaches”), is very much a man who knows his way around a sensual ballad. As he walked down the walkways and hit some falsetto notes, the crowd roared with a chorus of Audible complaints. His creamy voice was drowned out by the women around him. 

Kane Brown, ‘One Mississippi’

The newly minted star in arena presented his song, released last summer and beamed from HBCU Tennessee State University. It features more country elements that his previous crossover work. Brown, wearing a jeans-and-splattered pullover, strolled down the pedestrian walkway, where he was greeted by fans.

New Edition and New Kids on the Block

In a segment built for nostalgia, two veteran boy band behemoths from Boston – New Kids on the Block and New Edition – didn’t so much “battle” as advertised, but provided 10 minutes of unfettered joy. NKOTB hit the block first with “The Right Stuff,” clad in various forms of black and dancing with precision. They cleared the stage for New Edition, nattily attired in colorful fedoras and pea coats, the sextet grooving to “Candy Girl.” Both groups – which featured original members – sounded crisp and looked well-rehearsed. The dancing crowd included a shot of BTS, who were surely thinking, “There we are in 25 years.” Tradeoffs between the groups included “Step By Step” and “Hangin’ Tough” for NKOTB and “Mr. Telephone Man” and “If It Isn’t Love” for New Edition, as well as a silky mashup of “Please Don’t Girl” and “Is This The End.” Absolutely no one was surprised to hear that the adeptly choreographed staging was a teaser for a 2022 tour with the two pop powerhouses. We’re all in.



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