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American Music Awards 2010: Rihanna, Katy Perry, Santana, Ke$ha and all the performances, graded


What follows are instant grades of every performance at tonight's American Music Awards. This post was written off-site from the AMAs at the LAT HQ, and strived to be as fast, coherent and accurate as possible. You have been warned. This post was updated constantly throughout the night, with the last update occurring at 8:53 p.m. PST. 

There may be typos. Photos from the red carpet can be found on The Envelope.

1. Rihanna, "Love the Way You Lie (Part 2)" & "What's My Name" and "Only Girl (In the World)."  And the annual major-label popularity contest that is the American Music Awards gets underway with a shaky start. Rihanna can be captivating, as she is on much of "Rated R." But after a brief few seconds of "Love the Way You Lie," performing above what looked to be a futuristic set of spikes, she drops any sense of contemplation. At the start, it was the dark, sci-fi-like "Tron" atmospheres Rihanna sported on award shows while promoting "Rated R," and though her singing is a bit wobbly, the song strikes such a somber tone that you're on her side. But for Rihanna, being depressed is soooo 2009, and she drops the serious tone for some booty-shaking pop-by-numbers. Hey, it sells better. More curious than either of her recent songs, however, is the handkerchief-like accessory she has used to add a dash of color to her hot pants. Yet clearly that's where the viewers' focus shouldn't be heading. Also, when will award-show producers learn that a medley isn't a good look for anyone? C-.

Enrique Iglesias & Pitbull. "Tonight" & "I Like It." In a performance that should have been sponsored by the Ibiza board of tourism, Iglesias' club anthem gets some added intensity via a drum line. The Grammys, mind you, don't have a lock on marching band-enhanced songs. The medley started with "Tonight," which despite its laser light show and uneventful groove, at least showed off Iglesias' chops. "I Like It," however, does no such thing, going for the electronic-infused David Guetta/Black Eyed Peas overindulgence of synth and sugar. But for sing-along choruses and energy-boosting numbers, one can do worse B-.


Miley Cyrus, "Forgiveness and Love." A ballad in search of a Garry Marshall film. C-

Diddy Dirty Money, "Coming Home." Another attempt at reincarnation from Sean Combs, featuring the rap mogul flanked by a pair of knock-out women. At least Diddy seems aware that the world is bored with looking at him. This song flirts with contemplation, but it settles for pandering, with its repetitive -- yet gratingly memorable -- "I'm coming home" refrain. It's the kind of obvious, boardroom-crafted hit that feels as if it's going to show up in countless video montages and movie trailers for at least the next 11 months. But perhaps a preemptive D- can save us.


Kid Rock, "Times Like These." It now appears impossible for Kid Rock to do anything without one wondering where the Budweiser Clydesdales are. Much love to Detroit, but this love letter to Kid Rock's hometown is an eye-rolling groaner. The Michigan friends of Pop & Hiss should save the money that buying Kid Rock's CD would cost and instead spend it on a meal at the Motor City's Slows BarBQ. D.

Black Eyed Peas, "The Time (Dirty Bit)." This is something of a weirdly fascinating mess. The Peas had the oddest set of the night, at least thus far, floating around in giant yellow shadow boxes. There was reason to fear the worst, as this song attempts to rejuvenate "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" into some sort of futuristic techno. Yes, it sounds as bad as that reads. At the very least, it should inspire some curious dances at 2011 proms. Yet the Peas know how to have a good time, and after an ill-advised take on the "Dirty Dancing" staple, the song zigs and zags with digital ping-pong effects. This is a song that takes its partying seriously, almost uncomfortably so. Instead of a chorus, the Black Eyed Peas just chant: "I'M. HAVING. A GOOD. TIME. WITH. YOU." It's the most assertive party song of the year. C+ 


Katy Perry, "Firework." Like the pyrotechnic toys the song takes its name from, Perry's AMA take is all bombast, no substance. All the cliches needed for a big-event moment were here. Gaggle of singing children? Check (Hey, she can be serious, too! It's not all skimpy outfits and giant fruit). String section? You betcha! At least she didn't sing that "Peacock" thing. 

Justin Bieber, “Pray." Apparently, Justin Bieber didn't see the disaster that was Miley Cyrus' "Wake Up America." Teen pop and socially conscious messages rarely mix well. This one seems aimed at Mom and Pop, a Trojan Horse of a pop tune to disguise Bieber as pure innocence. Don't be fooled, parents. This is a gateway drug. D

Bon Jovi medley. So the AMAs don't have Kanye West, which an award show apparently needs to be remotely interesting, but they do have cartoon lightning bolts scribbled around Richie Sambora's guitar. Someone mastered their Etch A Sketch as a young'un. But hey, the songs --  "What Do You Got?," "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "It's My Life" -- are similarly outdated. The Bon Jovi believers no doubt dug the workmanlike medley. Why it was here, however, who knows? But the lightning bolts were delightfully odd, so a generous C.

Pink, "Raise Your Glass." Bless Pink for championing the "underdogs" and the "dirty little freaks," but her catchy "Greatest Hits ... So Far!!!" throwaway is little more than a PG-rated version of Kanye's "Runaway," but without any of the latter self-awareness. Still, on the musical disaster that is this year's AMAs, this is a high point, especially when Pink mimicked a guitar pluck by shouting "Brrrr! Nrrrrr-nrrrr!" Amid all the overly studied moves of the night, Pink was at least an injection of fun. B.

Ne-Yo, "Libra Scale" medley. The R&B star is the first artist to perform on tonight's AMAs who's actually taking chances, as his fantasy-themed "Libra Scale" is a convoluted concept about superheroes and forbidden love. Or something. Nevertheless, Ne-Yo's ambition is welcome, and songs such as "One in a Million" and "Telekinesis" show what Ne-Yo does best, which is crafting genuine, Michael Jackson-inspired glossy R&B pop ballads. It was a slightly marred appearance, however, as the AMA performance was inter-spliced with clips of a "Libra Scale" film. It didn't allow Ne-Yo to ever really hit a stride, and closer "Beautiful Monster" tried to do too much. B+

Taylor Swift, "Back to December." Here to perform a song she just sang a few weeks ago on the Country Music Assn. Awards, Swift gave a careful and purposeful rendition. With her piano as an accessory, and Christmas lights as her background, Swift officially chopped off her country roots, even sporting some trendy Hollywood bangs. No matter, she's a high concept artist, and each guitar hit in the final  moments of "Back to December" stopped just short of '80s rock ballad status. A brief end-song breakaway into OneRepublic's "Apologize" seemed unnecessary, and was clearly tapped on to give Swift and band a chance to rock out without turning into Def Leppard. There was something oddly off about it, but the whole night has been a pop misfire. B-


Christina Aguilera, "Express (Burlesque)." As a teaser for the movie, I kind of liked it. It was a low-rent re-creation of Bob Fosse's "Cabaret" work, but Aguilera sounded like a pro, and it was delightfully trashy. Fingers are crossed for a fine midnight movie. C+

Usher & the Swedish House Mafia,"DJ Got Us Falling in Love." Where Ne-Yo is subtle, Usher is in your face. His dance moves were admirable, and the man was drenched in sweat, but he put singing on the back burner. Save for the pyrotechnics, it was one of the more bare performances of the night. The song has been inescapable, and if you're still watching this thing, you likely know the words. Usher wanted to give a performance rather than deliver a song. C+

Train, "Marry Me" and "Hey, Soul Sister." Credit Train for finding a second career scoring TV commercials, but I can't do it. Singer Patrick Monahan somehow manages to look tough, slick, goofy and sincere all at once. His pants sparkled, his hair didn't move, and his cheeks were perfectly chiseled. Meanwhile, “Marry Me" and "Hey, Soul Sister" are cotton soft, allowing Monahan to flash a puppy dog smile. There's something alternately too-cool and too-earnest about Train. This says more about me than the band, perhaps, but they come off like the kind of dudes who learned how to play "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" for the sole purpose of stealing your girlfriend. D

 Ke$ha, "We R Who We R." Ke$ha's "Girls Gone Wild" chic has been replaced with the more in-vogue robotic look, and she was Auto-Tuned to the point of being indistinguishable from anyone else. "Hot and dangerous," she sang, bragging again about getting trashed and being dumb. She briefly sported a guitar, tossing it around her waist as if it were a scarf. But Ke$ha's pop's bad girl, right? After all, the word "hate" was X'ed-out on the back of the guitar's body. So ... she's anti-hate? A stance has been taken, world! I hope New Kids on the Block don't come out wearing pro-hate shirts. There's going to be brawling. D


Santana & Gavin Rossdale, "Bang a Gong (Get It On)." Alright, American Music Awards: WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON? This is quite possibly the most bizarre award show in recent memory. Why was Bon Jovi here? Why are the New Kids on the Block here? Why...why...why FOR THE LOVE OF GOD were Santana & Gavin Rossdale allowed to cover T. Rex? This was a disaster -- a four minute guitar solo that went nowhere, sludging along as Rossdale's overwrought vocals scraped and clawed at the verses like a shovel being dragged on dry concrete.

Briefly, the band dipped into the Talking Heads' "Take Me to the River," just to see, I imagine, whether it were possible to create something so gag-worthy that it was actually kind of amusing. It wasn't. The energy of the T. Rex original was completely sapped by Santana's noodling. Hey, the world gets it, Santana can play the guitar, but "Bang a Gong" is attitude and riffing, and Santana and Rossdale came off as a pair of middle-aged suburbanites trying to rock out at the family reunion. An embarrassment for everyone involved. F

Backstreet Boys & New Kids on the Block medley. I surrender, American Music Awards. Sell me the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys nostalgia tour. You win. Give me Justin Bieber and Ke$ha instead of Kanye West and Lady Gaga. Remind me of the power of a Bon Jovi arena anthem. You have worn me down. Hands are behind my back ready to be cuffed. ABC, I will do whatever you say. I will watch a 24-hour marathon of "Cougar Town." I will get coffee and pastries every morning for the entire crew of "The View." Just please, make this be the final performance. Please. F. 

-- Todd Martens


American Music Awards 2010: A family-friendly show is free of controversy

Photos: American Music Awards 2010 red carpet

On the American Music Awards red carpet: Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block talk touring

Video: Checking in with Taio Cruz, Trey Songz, Gavin Rossdale and Mike Posner

Best & Worst: American Music Awards 2010

Images: Rihanna (Associated Press); Miley Cyrus (Associated Press); Black Eyed Peas (Getty Images); Katy Perry (Reuters); Santana & Gavin Rossdale (Associated Press)

Comments () | Archives (58)




eff you la times! NKOTBSB was one of the best performances.They were able to sing and dance at the same time, interact with the audience and have a good time. other than your horrible review on them, the rest of your reviews were pretty on the ball. Why cant Usher sing and dance at the same time(F GRADE)? P.Diddy needs to know that moving his hand like a retard is not cool, Justin Bieber is an Idiot, Pink did great, Rhianna did better than I expected.

"you obviously do not have a clue about music. the rihanna performance was quite good actually and has been the best performance of the night. the outfit was a tribute to her caribbean roots. but i wouldnt expect you to know that. do some research before you criticize."


Rihanna gave the most memorable performance of the night. So, I don't know where your "C-" is coming from. In what world was the Enrique Iglesias/Pitbull performance better than the Rihanna medley? She was up on stage for roughly nine minutes and was entertaining throughout. You obviously have an agenda if you think Rihanna's performance, where she sang and danced and worked the stage was comparable to Miley Cyrus where she stood in front of a microphone and sang an unimpressive ballad while dressed in black. In terms of vocals and stage presence, Rihanna was clearly the superior of the two.

Watched 4 minutes of the first of the show. Rihanna's song where she was writhing and squirming and simulating sex on stage was more than I wanted to see. I can only imagine how it would have been if my grandchildren had been in the room. I am their grandmother of 15 and 10 year old girls and I disapprove of such on a show that comes on at 8 p.m. No wonder our world is going to hell in an handbasket
Trashy show.

Christina Aguilera deserved a better grade, she was live, how do i know? i've been a fan for over 10 years, i can tell when she's live, and i've heard the song so many times, it was live. Now, Christina has stated and it's true, she's more of a vocalist than a dancer, so she deserves credit for attempting to do both at the same time. A lot of other performances deserved higher grades as well.

I thought this was the most embarrasing performance by Calos Santana since I have watched him starting with Woodstock. I do not know if Carlos is losing it and doesn't know how he sounds, where he fits, or is this was a mutual effort to make a quick buck for Clyde Davis and Carlos? The album recently released is about as bad as this performance! Carlos I am a player and you should stick to caribbean, Brazilian, and african styles where you fit, as well as the fact that there is so much music to work with here that has something to say verses stuping to drug oriented bone head chit rock music built on weak talent and gimicks! Instead play music that requires ability and talent to perform correctly, which proves one's true ability. Carlos and Davis you should have knowen better, every thing in life especially the arts should not be so controled by profit that you lose the art of music. Popular music may equal money, but rarely quality talent,creativeness, passion, and heart that transends any real work of art performance!

Where's Adam Lambert when you need him? I found myself thinking how GREAT his performance was last year in comparison to this endless vanilla drivel. At least that boy can sing. Jeez. This show sucked.

Taylor Swift sounded horrible, specially during her "Too late to apologize" part, she can't sing at all.
Yet you give her a B? and Christina a c+?

There is a reason that most of the marks given here are below average.

The reason is that most of the performers cannot sing very well. Their records sell because the finished / processed voice sounds good. This is done in a controlled environment using various types of "pitch correction" software.

The problem with digital audio editing programs such as "ProTools" is that it can make you sound a little too good. When you get up on stage, people get to see them for who they are........just a pretty package


Well, I didn't watch the show, but judging by the reviews of the performers I didn't miss anything. It just proves what I've been saying for years now, and that is POP MUSIC IS DEAD. Those "artists" songs are all terrible on the radio so I have no desire to watch them perform "live".

When a person doesn't like much of anything, their criticism is of no use. Where's Ann Powers when you need her? Mr. Martens, you need to study her. She criticizes yet doesn't feel the need to obliterate everything in sight.

Wow...did this writer like any performance? Please pull the stick out of your butt and turn that frown upside down


You stink as a reviewer...really you do. I stopped reading after you gave Kid Rock a D for his song...

You have no clue how to seperate the things you like vs. the things that are actually good.

You can't let you personal beliefs get in the way of a good review...

I bet you liked Keisaha "what ever her name is" and that lipsync crud don't you??

Truely i didnt see much of the AMA's until about the end, and by that time even i didnt have to see the biggining to realize how "good?" the other performers were. When seeing Usher he did do pretty well on dancing and trying to keep up with the young folks, but his singing with the back up singing was off and did lose his breath to may times and lost his place in the song~But he did do okay~

When they broought out the last performance with NKOTB and the other boys, you people can not deny that they did ??????????? it was shakey and needed a lot more practice. Youre not that age anymore and to sing a song that was many years ago is hard i would have suggested them to sing 1 song together and leave the stage~

oh but the Santana thing was a very big ?

The thing that chaps my ass is these people are getting bazillions of dollars because they are SUPPOSE to be talented and they SUCK. OMG most of the performers couldn't even sing their own songs without cracking and being off key. It was awful I stopped watching after that Beiber kid. I just couldn't take it anymore. Have to say at least Kid Rock sounded good and wasn't auto turned all over the place. Also the backup dancers and singers were all great. Perhaps they should have switched places... and they wonder why the record industry is in trouble? Hello! It's because they have no talent. If you can't be honest enough to record a song that you can ACTUALLY sing live why should I be honest enough to pay for it!!!!They should be embarrassed REALLY!

All the posts were posted before the show even went on. Finally after 11 years, there is music again. Great songs. Awesome voices especially Miley Cyrus, Justin Beber and Usher. Thank God i didn't again have to watch the overrated jay z et al. I'm sure they paid you off quite well to write your terrible review. One more thing, Carlos intimidated all the "stars" because they might have to actually have to learn to play music. Where is Robert Hilburn...the show was so good I'm sure he offered a "free" review. I'd like to see what he has to say. I mean, he quit because there was no music to review. But last night was a marked improvement.

Taylor Swift was horrid as always. I am glad the LA Times finally told the truth about her lack of "country" in her country. She is about as "country" as Snoop Dog. The whole poor me let's play the victim thing is getting really old too. All her songs sound the same, and she is exploiting the boys she dated in the past (for maybe a week or a month tops! lol) to sell album sales and get attention. She is so self-absorbed and self-important it is sad to watch. She has no range or power in her voice, and cannot sing on key to save her life. Most Over-rated Over-exposed Artist in the history of music = Taylor Swift.

No wonders the ratings fell 22% from last year. They needed people who can actually SING LIVE on key! Pink and Christina were decent, but the rest were just awful. Usher is usually a great vocalist but he was way off last night.
Taylor Swift remains the worst live vocalist in any genre of music, and her over-promotion is getting real real old. Carrie Underwood is a MUCH better artist and vocalist then tonedeaf Taylor, and she should have performed last night instead. She also should have won that award, considering that Taylor is not even country anyway. Carrie did win Country album but the AMAs didn't even bother to show her category on tv. pretty sad.

Hey Todd,

Seriously? An F for NKTOBSB?! They were the best performance of the night! They saved that award show. Almost every single performance was atrocious. And by the way, to give Pink a B proves my point. You have no idea what you're talking about. She didn't even sing most of her song!! Did you just have the channel muted and drafted this review 10 minutes before submitting it? Please see a doctor to have your ears checked, or let someone with TASTE review musicians far more talented than yourself.

You are obviously deaf and/or blind, or 13 years old, for giving some of the weak performances the better grades. This is utterly ridiculous and people like you should not be reviewing anything. I would say that last performance saved the show and incase you missed it, which looks like you did, the audience reacted to that. People like you make me wonder how you have a job at a prestigious newspaper press after reviews like this.

You are the worst grader ever? NKOTBSB a F! Your crazy ... They were the best performance. You should be FIRED.

Most of the performances on this awards show was horrible!!!! The only Performance in my eyes that I will remember and will continue to talk about is the New Kids On the Block Backstreet Boys performance. Everyone else was either lip syncing, or couldnt keep up the dancing while singing, but our boys did both!!! They ended the show they way it is suppose to end!! Their performance was the best so all the other so called stars out there better had paid attention and take notes!! And if you want to hate on them so be it your making them famous, but haters can all SUCK IT!!!

Pleeeease!! Backstreet Boys and New Kids made the whole damn show!! A+

Todd no disrespect but you clearly have absolutely no taste in music. I cannot believe you gave Christina a C and Taylor a B i mean come on, christina can sing and what about the NKOTBSB, i totally agree with Lisa Neufeld, they absolutely saved that show, that was the best performance of the night and you gave it an F, were you actually listening to the performance because they did fantastic and the audience loved it. They can actually sing and dance not like a bunch of other "musicians" that are just lip singing and that use technology to save the show.
I guess that apart from the fact that NKOTBSB were beyond amazing, the other good thing about the AMA was that Bon Jovi sang and that Lady Gaga was not there, that made my night!

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