Bruno Mars opened the 2016 American Music Awards, fresh off of his new album release; he sang an energetic rendition of the titular song “24K Magic,” complete with ’90s-style tracksuits.
Co-hosts Jay Pharoah and Gigi Hadid greeted the audience at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, and Hadid joked, “Don’t worry guys tonight we do not have to deal with the electoral college, so … ”
“Tonight, it’s all about the music,” said Pharoah. Best-known for his impersonations from when he was on “Saturday Night Live,” dropped a Jay Z impersonation early on, while Hadid did her best Melania Trump impression. He also impersonated John Legend and later, Donald Trump saying, “I love Bruno Mars. I don’t know what color he is so I can’t deport him.”
Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer presented the first award for Pop Rock Duo or Group, which went to Twenty One Pilots.
Nina Dobrev and Julianne Hough presented Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album, which went to Drake for “Views.” Drake was nominated for 13 awards on Sunday.
Drake gave a nod to Dobrev and said, “Me and Nina were on ‘Degrassi’ together — we’ve come a long way,” as he accepted his award. Drake also thanked the city of Toronto in his speech.
Row three of the audience, including Frankie Grande, Matt Bomer, DJ Khaled and Heidi Klum took on the most popular social media trend and did the mannequin challenge — Pharoah tried to join in, with mixed success.
Transgender model Gigi Gorgeous and singer Bebe Rexha welcomed Shawn Mendes to the stage to sing “Treat You” and “Mercy,” but first, Gorgeous had a message for the crowd. “Today marks the end of transgender awareness week, which celebrates people for who they are and who they’re meant to be,” she said.
Ciara took the stage and joked, “For those of you over 60, EDM is not a medical condition. Electronic music dance music is incredibly addictive and what we’re celebrating in this category.” The award went to the Chainsmokers, who thanked the AMAs for recognizing the EDM genre.
Miss America Savvy Shields and Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line presented the award for Collaboration of the Year, which went to Fifth Harmony and Ty Dolla $ign for “Work from Home.”
T.J. Miller and Olivia Munn presented Favorite Country Song, which went to Tim McGraw for “Humble and Kind.”
Pharoah recreated Taylor Swift’s popular Apple Music commercial, complete with a blonde bob and a treadmill, before presenting a new Apple Music commercial with Drake. In the new commercial, Drake is in the weight room working out with a trainer, but when his trainer steps out for a moment, he hits play on Swift’s “Bad Blood” and dances and lip-syncs before getting distracted during a bench press and falling over.
Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper and actress/musician Teyana Taylor presented the award for New Artist of the Year, which went to Zayn. He thanked his family for their support, and was embraced by Hadid, his girlfriend, as soon as he got off stage.
Chrissy Teigen took the stage to introduce her husband John Legend to the stage and bragged that the singer has written about her before: “What can I say? I am very inspiring.” She also referred to the election and said everyone needed some love during this “f***ing s***storm.” Legend sang “Love Me Now” against a backdrop of photos of people embracing each other.
Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun presented Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist, which went to Drake. Drake thanked fellow nominees Future and Fetty Wap during his acceptance speech. Bella Thorne and Rachel Platten announced Justin Bieber onto the stage. Bieber sang “Let Me Love You” and looked casual in a t-shirt and khakis as audience members cried and took videos on their phones.
Rebecca Romijn and Heidi Klum presented Top Soundtrack, which went to Prince’s “Purple Rain” — the third time the album won an American Music Award.
Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson accepted the award on his behalf and gave a touching speech, saying, “He is still one of the world’s most respected and loved artists, but what he told me was he wanted to be known as the world’s most prolific songwriters and with 984 titles to his credit and counting, he has done just that. In the words of Prince, ‘With love, honor and respect for every living thing in the universe, separation ceases. And we all become one being, singing one song.’ On behalf of Prince, our wonderful friend, teacher and brother I humbly accept this award.” Nelson choked up toward the end of her speech as she held up her late brother’s trophy.
Matt Bomer introduced his “American Horror Story” co-star Lady Gaga onto the stage, who performed “Million Reasons.” Gaga sat in the middle of a field onstage and looked like a cowgirl in a suede studded outfit as she sang.
Mark Cuban and Idina Menzel presented Favorite Country Duo or Group, which went to Florida Georgia Line, who thanked their fans and thanked God, saying they never want to take their success for granted.
Zoe Saldana presented Favorite Alternative Rock Artist, which went to Twenty One Pilots — their second of the night.
Pharoah claimed that Kanye West could not come but sent him written rants, and read them aloud with lots of grunts, “Huh, I invented McDonalds — huh! I’m a better writer than Dr. Seuss, huh. I’m Jupiter’s third moon and Gargamel. The rest of you are Smurfs.”
A clip played of Robert Downey Jr. performing with Sting just before Downey took the stage. The actor joked that he wanted that clip played every time he got on stage. He presented the Award of Merit to Sting and talked about the singer’s music and charity work: “Everyone knows him knows he cares.”
Sting took the stage to perform “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” “Message in a Bottle” and “Every Breath You Take.”
After he sang, he said, “It’s important for me to acknowledge the very real debt I owe to American music. After all, American music lit the musical spark in my young mind.” Sting alluded to the presidential election and said, “The spirit of welcome and inclusion is what made this country the greatest in the world.” He added, “While I may be an Englishman in New York, my musical soul is all American, thank you.”
Nicki Minaj, DJ Khaled and August Alsina took the stage to perform “Do You Mind,” and they were quickly joined by Future and Rick Ross. During the song, DJ Khaled reminded the audience several times that it is currently the no. 1 record in the country
Blake Jenner and Hailee Steinfeld presented Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, which went to Selena Gomez — her first American Music Award.
“Most of you knew a lot of my life whether I liked it or not and I had to stop because I had everything and I was absolutely broken inside,” she said. She continued, “I don’t want to see your bodies on Instagram. I want to see what’s in here … If you are broken, you do not have to stay broken.” The camera panned to Lady Gaga, who appeared to be crying, as she held her hand over her heart.
Jenny McCarthy and former AMA winner Donnie Wahlberg presented Artist of the Year, which went to Ariana Grande. It was Grande’s third American Music Award. She said she was trying not to cry as she thanked her fans, family and colleagues.
Model Hannah Davis introduced Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamar onstage to close out the show and perform “Don’t Wanna Know.”