Most of the awards were given out off-camera, but when all was said and done, Justin Bieber and Drake were the big winners at Sunday night’s 2016 American Music Awards.
Justin, who performed “Let Me Love You” live from Bologna, Italy via satellite, scooped four trophies, including Favorite Male Pop/Rock Artist, Favorite Pop/Rock Album, for Purpose, and Favorite Pop/Rock Song, for “Love Yourself.” Drake, who headed into the show with the most nominations — 13, an AMA record — took home four, including Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist, Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Song, for “Hotline Bling,” and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album, for Views.
During his acceptance speeches, Drake thanked his parents, the city of Toronto and his fellow artists. “I just like to keep things exciting…” said Drizzy. “Shoutout to everybody that’s doing the same thing.”
Ariana Grande, who was named Artist of the Year, stumbled over her speech, using the “s” word twice, and then spit it out at top speed: “I’m so thankful for art, and I hope whatever I can create in my life…I hope you feel a little bit of light and I hope I can bring joy to you and make you feel unified and happy.”
Ariana wasn’t the only one who got bleeped: Chrissy Teigen, the Chainsmokers and Zayn Malik all used the “s” or “f” words, or both, during their time onstage.
Selena Gomez made her first public appearance since announcing several months ago that she was taking a break from her career to focus on her health. She was named Favorite Female Pop/Rock Artist, and in an emotional speech, declared, “Most of you know a lot of my life, whether I liked you to or not…I had to stop….I was absolutely broken inside.” She spoke of being honest and truthful, noting, “I don’t wanna see your bodies on Instagram: I wanna see what’s in here.”
“I’m not trying to get validation, nor do I need it anymore,” she continued. “All I can say from the bottom of my heart is I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be able to share what I love every single day with people that I love. And I have to say thank you so much to my fans, ’cause you are so damn loyal, and I don’t know what I did to deserve you. But if you are broken, you don’t have to stay broken.”
It was a good night for past and present members of One Direction: Zayn Malik was named T-Mobile Breakthrough Artist of the Year, and later was seen on camera hugging his girlfriend, Gigi Hadid, who co-hosted the show with former SNL star Jay Pharaoh. Meanwhile, Niall Horan, who’s still in 1D, performed his debut solo hit, “This Town.”
Twenty One Pilots won Favorite Pop/Rock Duo or Group and Favorite Alternative Artist. The duo thanked their fans, adding, “And to everyone else: who cares, really?” They also thanked all the live bands out there “who are trying to make it, slugging it out in their hometowns, setting up their own gear.”
Prince‘s Purple Rain was named Favorite Soundtrack, and the late singer’s sister, Tika Nelson, accepted on his behalf. Holding up the trophy and looking up at the sky, she said tearfully, “We’ll keep this for you at Paisley Park until we see you again…this is for you.” The album won two AMAs back in 1985, when it was first released.
Sting was given the American Music Award of Merit by Robert Downey Jr., who gushed that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is “one of the most talented and giving human beings ever to walk the face of the Earth.” Sting performed his current single and two Police classics and acknowledged the “very real debt I owe to American music.” He said, “While I may be an Englishman in New York…” — a reference to one of his solo hits — “…my musical soul is all-American.”
The recent election and the events of the past few days drew comments from many of the presenters and a few artists. During their performance of “Bang Bang,” Green Day chanted, “No Trump, No KKK, No Facist USA,” which has been a popular slogan during the protests surrounding Donald Trump‘s election.
Billionaire Mark Cuban, a presenter, said he was trying not to get invited to the inauguration, while Idina Menzel, who was presenting with him, referred to “us scary theater people” not being invited either, adding, “I love you, Hamilton!” She was referring to the cast of Hamilton’s public calling-out of vice president elect Mike Pence Friday night, and Trump’s subsequent demands that the cast apologize for “harassing” him. For her part, Chrissy Teigen referred to the “f***ed up, f***ing election.”
Co-host Gigi Hadid, meanwhile, did an impression of Melania Trump saying, “I love my husband Barack Obama and our children, Sasha and Malia,” in reference to Mrs. Trump seemingly plagiarizing one of Michelle Obama‘s speeches earlier this year. Jay Pharoah did an impression of Trump talking about Bruno Mars, who opened the show: “I love Bruno Mars. I don’t know what color his is so I can’t deport him….Listen everyone, I love ‘Uptown Funk,’ it was so totally about me, it was originally called ‘Uptown Trump.’ Listen, I’m going to funk this country up, bigly.”
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