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Top 10 Most Memorable American Music Awards Moments

by WatchMojo 3 years ago in feature
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The AMA is never a dull experience, but these moments stand very clear in the mind of music fans everywhere.

In a room full of celebrities, it never hurts to set yourself apart from the pack. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Most Memorable American Music Awards Moments."

For this list, we’re looking at the most epic and controversial moments of AMA history.

Complementing her kitten-themed outfit, Miley Cyrus featured a feline guest for her show-ending performance of “Wrecking Ball.” At first, the controversial artist briefly appears on her own with dramatic lighting. And then a massive kitty appears, a cat that begins lip-synching the lyrics, but with a sad face. There’s also a bit of space imagery going on here, and Miley actually kills the vocals, but the standout visual is most definitely the cat. Visually, the moment gained Miley plenty of headlines, even if her mascot did little other than move its mouth a bit, shed a couple tears, and wag its tongue out at the end.

Over the years, Lady Gaga has become known for her standout style and show-stopping performances. For her red carpet arrival in 2013, she caused a stir by riding a giant mechanical horse, inspired by a classic Bianca Jagger moment of the late 70s, in which she rode a stallion inside Studio 54. While Gaga’s homage wasn’t completely random, perhaps she didn’t get the memo that Jagger didn’t actually arrive by horse, but rather hopped on inside. Even so, Lady G made quite the regal AMA entrance and stunned the public like she always does.

On the evening of January 28, 1985, the epic “We Are the World” was recorded in Hollywood upon the conclusion of the American Music Awards. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, the track featured over 40 artists, all in support of reducing poverty across Africa. And one year later, “We Are the World” unsurprisingly won the “Song of the Year” at the AMAs, and deservedly so. After a poignant interlude by Harry Belafonte, the performers took the stage, delivering an epic rendition and certainly one of the AMA’s most touching group performances.

At the time of this AMA moment, *NSYNC had only one studio album to their name, but they were on the cusp of releasing one of the decade’s most popular albums: No Strings Attached. Naturally, the opening sequence of their 2000 performance plays into the puppet theme, with the boys then emerging in real-life form. While the song itself would become a massive hit, it’s the choreography from the AMAs that had people buzzing, with a young Justin Timberlake holding it down. Of course, the aerial figures only enhance the theatrical nature of the performance, creating plenty of hype for *NSYNC and their new studio album.

Just a few weeks before this AMA performance, Taylor Swift released the single for “Blank Space.” And, of course, the music video also appeared online. So when Taylor reached the stage, there was already plenty of talk among her fan base. Supporting the elaborate stage visuals, Taylor went all in with her sassy interpretation, taking on the persona of her music video while exaggerating each and every moment. Of course, the acting struck a chord with the internet, while the stunts and style made it even more dramatic. Wearing a Yousef Aljasmi dress, Taylor served up an unforgettable moment with her crazy live show.

Seconds before the credits rolled during the 2011 American Music Awards, a television icon joined LMFAO for a wild and “WTF” moment. During a performance of the hit “Sexy and I Know It,” which features a bunch of cleverly-placed smiley faces, David Hasselhoff appears near the conclusion to show off his moves. And though The Hoff’s skills aren’t quite on par with the others, he’s certainly got the right attitude. Besides, it’s always nice to see an older male celebrity that doesn’t take himself too seriously. As a result, the party rock moment closed off the AMA’s with Hoff thrusting away like nobody’s business.

Before Kim Kardashian evolved into America’s great reality icon, there was the late Anna Nicole Smith. And when she introduced Kanye West at the 2004 AMAs, her strange behavior took a drastic turn for the worse as she slurred and mumbled away. Years later, a bodyguard testified that Anna Nicole was actually high on Ecstasy, which makes sense given the happy demeanor. Though Smith was already known for her strange on-camera antics, this awkward moment strayed heavily from the norm. With the introduction ending the way it did, it also raised concern for Anna, who would ultimately pass away just a few years later.

As the runner-up of American Idol Season Eight, Adam Lambert earned quite a bit of worldwide attention. And along with his dramatic performances, his sexuality also became a topic of pop culture conversation. So, with his first big TV moment after the reality series concluded, Lambert offered up a saucy statement with a highly sexualized AMA performance, one that featured simulated sex acts and plenty of interesting dance moves. The innuendoes had people talking, especially considering that Lambert wasn’t an established star. Even so, Adam went big and became yet another artist that pushed the boundaries on the American Music Awards stage.

When Guns N’ Roses won Favorite Heavy Metal Album at the 1990 AMAs, Slash and Duff McKeegan seemed a bit tuned up during their acceptance speech. Considering that Slash actually emerged with both a drink and cigarette, he perfectly fit the rock cliché. Despite the humble vibe, however, the loose manner of speech didn’t go over too well, even if the curse words were probably to be expected considering the band’s reputation. In retrospect, it’s not the craziest of awards show antics, yet it’s certainly a classic AMA moment, one that contrasts the more contrived reactions of other musicians.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

  • J. Lo Falls on Booty—2009
  • Kesha's Quirky Style—2010
  • Beyoncé’s Perfect Performance of "Single Ladies"—2009

It’s not too often that you’ll see a musical artist refuse a mainstream award but then again, Garth Brooks isn’t the typical mainstream musician. Point in case, when he rejected his “Artist of the Year” honor at the 1996 AMAs. Although he did it in the nicest possible way, the act could have backfired with a long-winded commentary on the industry and pop culture. Instead, Brooks thoughtfully explained his reasoning with only a few words and chose to leave the award on the stage. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating or having fun ala Guns n’ Roses, yet it’s always refreshing to see a superstar humbled by the honor and by the moment.

So, do you agree with our selections? What do you think is the most memorable AMA moment? For more musical Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.


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