If you’re like us, you didn’t expect much out of last night’s American Music Awards. They are, after all, a second-rate awards ceremony at a time when even the Grammys and the Oscars fail to provide much fodder for water-cooler conversation. But now that we’re living in a post-Kanye-interruptus world, the potential for moments of unscripted magic were enough to plant us in front of our TV sets last night. And, although Taylor Swift took home five awards without incident, it was the evening’s performances — not its winners — that wowed us.
You see, for us, last night marked a sort of changing of the pop guard, with established divas like Jennifer Lopez and Whitney Houston falling on their asses (sometimes literally) as ascending stars Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert turned in jaw-dropping production numbers. (Must be why the show logged its best ratings since 2003.) After the jump, check out Glambert’s hot, homoerotic performance and three other essential AMA moments.
Strangely, we had been talking with roommates, earlier in the evening, about folks like Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga. Their new, polysexual, culturally literate brand of pop star has been on our mind since they came up in our chat with David Bowie biographer Marc Spitz last week. We said something along the lines of, “Adam Lambert is okay and all, but if he wants to keep my attention, he better do something legitimately shocking soon.” Lo and behold, a few hours later, he did.
On a stage full of bondage-clad male and female dancers, Glambert rocked the kind of polysexual performance that would make Bowie (or Madonna, for that matter) proud. The song began with some simulated boy-on-Lambert fellatio and ended with the Idol runner-up grabbing his male keyboard player and planting a giant kiss on him, in a move Rolling Stone says producers weren’t prepared for. Oh, and his new single, “For Your Entertainment,” was pretty damn entertaining, too.
Unsurprisingly, Lambert’s friend and mentor Lady Gaga put on the second-best show of the night. Decked out in nothing more than a nude body stocking topped with light-up bones, she and her army of sexy skeleton dancers nailed “Bad Romance.” (Check out those androgynous codpieces!) Then, Gaga put her mic stand through a wall of glass, sat down at a flaming piano and gave an intimate, liquor bottle-smashing performance of “Speechless.” Two very different moods, but Gaga mastered both of them.
Now, on a night full of big comebacks — which also featured Whitney Houston bathed in angelic light but failing to reach the sublime vocal heights of her heyday — none was better than Rihanna’s. The singer’s recent sci-fi aesthetic was perfectly fitted to the stage, where she — dressed in white leather and spikes — sang her new tough-girl anthems “Wait Your Turn” and “Hard” in front of a wall of staticky TVs.
Now, lest you think everything at last night’s ceremony was glossy, sparkly and perfect, witness Jennifer Lopez’s much-anticipated return to music. Sure, it was a big, Rocky-referencing production number. But nothing can save J. Lo’s uninspired new single “Louboutins” — and it doesn’t help that she fell on her butt around the three-minute mark.
So, what do you think? Is a massive shift in the pop-music landscape underway? Or did Jen and Whitney just have a bad night?