Brutally honest ranking of every performance


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With a savvy mix of first-timers – Olivia RodrigoMickey Guyton, Måneskin – and veteran superstars including Jennifer Lopez and Carrie Underwood, the 2021 American Music Awards offered a performance lineup targeting multiple generations. 

In a twist this year, the AMAs brought some of the artists to their roots, as Underwood and Jason Aldean teamed up in Nashville, where they launched their careers, and Kane Brown performed from the HBCU Tennessee State University in his native state. 

As typical during a three-hour event, some acts captivated while others faltered.

Here’s how the all the AMA performers fared, from worst to first.

16. Coldplay and BTS, ‘My Universe’

What a technical mess of a performance. This was the first live performance for Coldplay and BTS on their sweet hit of affection, but if they’re always going to sound this awful, it’s OK if it’s their last. At least we knew the vocals were live, because they were off-key and overpowered the rest of the band. No amount of bouncing from eager frontman Chris Martin or the disciplined BTS could salvage this wreck, made even worse by goofy jumping around as flash pots exploded at the merciful end of the performance.

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15. Walker Hayes, ‘Fancy Like’

The journeyman country singer-songwriter capitalized on the dance craze that accompanies his No. 1 viral hit with a passel of limber-limbed hip-shakers following him around the stage. Punctuating the rudimentary ditty with “whoos” and venturing into the artists’ lounge in front of the stage to sing to his wife, Hayes made the most of what has all of the ingredients of a novelty song.   

14. Chlöe, ‘Have Mercy’

In a cutout-filled white outfit, Chloe Bailey, of Chloe x Halle fame (apparently you graduate to an umlaut upon going solo) traversed the stage with a troupe of female dancers. She also performed her debut single at the VMAs in September, but this time added twerking and a split as she threw off sultry looks.

13. Kane Brown, ‘One Mississippi’

Beamed in from HBCU Tennessee State University, the newly minted arena star presented his single released last summer, which rolls with more country elements than much of his crossover work. Fiddles and a clap-along chorus powered the mid-tempo chugger, as Brown, in a splattered-paint pullover and jeans, sauntered down the walkway to smack hands with fans in between lyrics.

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12. Tainy with Bad Bunny and Julieta Venegas, ‘Lo Siento BB:/’

The world premiere performance of the song from Latin music producer Tainy’s forthcoming album, “Data,” took a futuristic…

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