American Music Awards: The Good, the Bland and the Ugly

Beyonce, in a league of her own.

I watched the American Music Awards last night. Well, not really. I DVRd it and watched the performances. Devoting three hours to the full telecast was just not something I was prepared to do. Because if we're handing out awards, there's only one group of people less trustworthy than ancient recording academy members -- the record buying public. There were a whopping 19 performances over the three hours and I've separated them into three categories. Unsurprisingly, most are in the middle.

The Good
He very easily earned the James Bond theme that his performance gets. That was as silky smooth an awards show performance as you'll see, and the big brass section actually made it feel funky. A deserving standing ovation at the close.

Except for maybe her future stepson-like-entity LeBron, nobody makes me just stare at the TV slackjawed like Beyonce. She is just born to perform. And "Single Ladies" is no "Crazy in Love" but it gets a little closer every time I hear it. Verse and chorus are basically the same thing, always a good move in my book. But Beyonce, just unbelievable.

Annie Lennox
She's always been about the art and performance aspect as much as anything else, so seeing her just alone at the piano was surprising. But she pulled it off. Especially refreshing after the pole-dancing antics of the Pussycat Dolls.

I really thought Rihanna surpassed Beyonce at the VMAs. But while Rihanna is still plenty captivating (and she looks a whole lot like Prince sometimes), she just can't match Beyonce. Not that we should be holding that against her.

The Bland

Christina Aguilera
Sorry, but I think you need to have a more impressive career than Christina Aguilera to merit a career-spanning medley. Christina's legacy is basically this: she was the second-most-famous female star of the teen-pop explosion; she can actually sing; and, for a few years, she topped most Sluttiest Famous People lists.

Someone was clearly having fun getting a disheveled, strung-out Weiland to introduce Pink performing a song called "Sober." Pink's like a cross between Gwen Stefani, WWE wrestler Chyna and Roxette. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Taylor Swift
Swift wins in the most hotly contested category of the night: Worst Lip-Syncher. It was embarrassingly bad. Perhaps she was just thrown off having to be at an awards show without J. Freedom. The song was fine enough, at least. As much Lillith Fair as Music Row.

Leona Lewis
This song reminds me of that Natalia Imbruglia song. Take that for what it's worth.

Miley Cyrus
I was trying to figure out why I kind of liked the song and then realized it's pretty much using the main riff from "Rock Lobster." Subtly ripping off the B-52's, an underrated move.

Having experienced one of those Coldplay confetti moments, it really is astounding how many of those paper butterflies fall from the rafters. It's like the 11th plague -- butterflies and Coldplay.

Mariah Carey
Things I have learned from watching Mariah Carey performances. 1) It's always windy wherever she is. 2) When she moves one of her hands, something fancy is going to happen with her voice. 3) Mariah Carey is boring.

The Fray
Well, if Chris Martin is going to be prancing and spinning all over the place, at least we've got someone to pick up the tortured, pasty guy at the piano singing dramatic "Gray's Anatomy" rock slack.

Jonas Brothers
Kevin Jonas will absolutely be the first Jonas Brother to be on a degrading VH1 reality show. There is little doubt about this.

Natasha Bedingfield
She gets a three song medley? I wish she reminded me of Natalie Imbruglia.

Kanye West
Meh. I don't have high hopes for Kanye's Auto-Tune era, even if Chris Richards can't get enough. But his Virgin Mobile Festival performance was still one of the highlights of my concertgoing year.

Sarah McLachlan
Pink does a surprise walk on! It's like the musical equivalent of Brad Garrett doing a walk-on on "Craig Ferguson."

Alicia Keys
The awards show specialist gets the final performance of the night, which she shares with Queen Latifah and Kathleen Battle. Fun stat: out of the 19 performers on the evening there was just one guitar-based act: the Jonas Brothers.

The Ugly

New Kids on the Block
We should all make a pact right now to make sure this never happens with 'NSync or Backstreet Boys. Everyone will feel better about themselves.

Pussycat Dolls
Honestly, anyone who has anything to do with the continued success of the Pussycat Dolls -- and this goes for record executives down to album buyers -- should be ashamed of themselves.

By David Malitz |  November 24, 2008; 11:03 AM ET Awards Shows , Live Last Night, On TV
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I too am starting to love Single Ladies. Looks like B wasn't wearing her bionic hand, though. Shame.

Posted by: fellstus | November 24, 2008 3:46 PM

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