South Korean superstars BTS were crowned artist of the year at the American Music Awards on Sunday, brushing aside challenges from Taylor Swift, Drake and The Weeknd as they took home a total of three awards and teamed up with Coldplay for a raucous “My Universe” and closed the show with “Butter.”
“Seven boys from Korea, united by love for music, met the love and support from all the armies all over the world,” said BTS’ RM after the group won their artist of the year for the first time. “This whole thing is a miracle. Seriously, we would never take this for granted.”
The band was also named favorite pop duo or group and got the favorite pop song award for “Butter.”
The show celebrated the best popular music for a second pandemic year with a mix of live and pre-taped performances. Silk Sonic’s Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak kicked off the awards on a funky, R&B and pre-taped note with their “Smokin Out the Window” and Jennifer Lopez pre-taped her “On My Way” from her upcoming romantic comedy “Marry Me.”
An earlier scheduled performance of “Butter” by BTS and Megan Thee Stallion was scrapped after the rapper cited personal reasons for dropping out Saturday. She turned out to be a big winner: named favorite female hip-hop artist, her “Good News” winning for favorite hip-hop album and her “Body” was crowned favorite trending song, a new award this year.
Olivia Rodrigo came into the night with a leading seven nominations but only took home the crown for favorite new artist of the year. “Writing songs is my favorite thing in the whole world and I am so grateful for everyone who has embraced my music,” she said.
Rodrigo lost favorite pop album to Taylor Swift’s “evermore.” In a taped speech, Swift told her fans: “I’m so lucky to be in your life.” Swift also won for favorite female pop artist, giving her a career total of 34, the record for the most awarded artist in AMA history.
Rodrigo performed her hit “traitor” live on a stage covered with flowers and Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean brought a little country to the stage when they sang their pre-taped duet “If I Didn’t Love You.” With a little help from Julieta Venegas and Tainy, Bad Bunny performed their hit “Lo Siento BB :/.”
Among live performances, Italian band Måneskin made their U.S. awards show debut with their viral hit “Beggin.’” Chlöe of Chloe x Halle floated down onto the stage to perform her hit debut single as a soloist “Have Mercy,” swinging her hair and twerking. Mickey Guyton got loud cheers while singing her patriotic song “All American” in a silvery dress, periodically screaming out “How y’all doing?”
The fan-voted awards show aired live from Los Angeles on ABC. Nominees were based on streaming, album and digital sales, radio airplay and social activity, and reflect the time period of Sept. 25, 2020, through Sept. 23, 2021.
Becky G won for favorite female Latin artists and thanked the Latinx community. “You are not alone,” she said. “We are the American dream.”
Machine Gun Kelly grabbed the favorite rock artist award. “I want to accept this for all the aspiring musicians, the one who desires to play an instrument, wants to rap, wants to sing — not just the rock artists, but all the artists,” he said.
Earlier Sunday, in awards announced before the show, Swift was named favorite female pop artist, Ed Sheeran got the favorite male award and Doja Cat featuring SZA on “Kiss Me More” was named collaboration of the year. Kanye West was named favorite gospel artist.
Underwood won for favorite inspirational artist and favorite female country artist and Doja Cat also won two other awards: favorite female R&B artist and her “Planet Her” was named favorite R&B album.
Luke Bryan was named favorite country artist and Bad Bunny was the favorite male Latin artist. The Weeknd was crowned favorite male R&B artist and Drake won the favorite male hip-hop artist. Gabby Barrett took home the favorite country album for “Goldmine” and favorite country song for “The Good Ones.”
For the older viewers, New Edition and New Kids on the Block performed together. The Boston-based groups took turns with the hits, trading hits: “You Got It (The Right Stuff”), “Candy Girl,” “Step By Step,” “Mr. Telephone Man” and uniting for “Can You Stand the Rain,” “Is This the End,” “Hangin’ Tough” and “If It Isn’t Love.”
The favorite Latin album went to Bad Bunny’s “El Último Tour Del Mundo.”
Host Cardi B, wearing a constant stream of new outfits, revved up the crowd. Later her song “Up” was named favorite hip-hop song. The Associated Press was not able to transmit images of Cardi B while she was onstage because her representatives required approval, a restriction the AP would not accept.
—Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press