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American Music Awards Recap: Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake win big as Miley Cyrus steals the show with crazy 'Wrecking Ball' performance

by Carolyn Menyes   Nov 24, 2013 23:44 PM EST

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The American Music Awards 2013 took place Sunday night (Nov. 24) in Los Angeles. Mr. Worldwide himself Pitbull hosted the ceremony and featured countless performances from some of the biggest names in music. Awarded by fan votes, the trophies given out that night were easy to predict. Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake, both of whom have had huge years and can boast massive fanbases, were among the big winners of the night.

Things kicked off, however, not with some dalé from Pitbull but with a geisha-inspired performance of "Unconditionally" from Katy Perry. With an elaborate Japanese set, which featured cherry blossom scenes, a garden and plenty of backup dancers bordered on offensive along racial lines but still managed to set the stage for big time performances - something the AMAs needed after slumped ratings for the 2012 ceremony.

As with many music-centered award shows, performances stole the spotlight from the actual trophies themselves. One Direction and Ariana Grande took control at the beginning of the AMAs, with vocally strong performances of "Story of My Life" and "Tattooed Heart" (respectively). Bolted to success by the power of the tween, these acts proved that even the biggest teen idols can actually have talent.

Mid-show was absolutely dominated by the highly sexual, presidential-influenced performance of "Do What U Want" from Lady Gaga and R. Kelly. Beginning with a short sketch, wherein Gaga took Kelly's lunch order of "Italian," the duo soon did a highly sexualized dance atop the presidential desk. Gaga puts her all into her performances, and the AMAs showcase was just the latest in big, bold statements from the Artpop songstress.

The end of the show, of course, was stolen by Miley Cyrus, who was chalked up to close out the ceremony. She took on her No. 1 single "Wrecking Ball" and did so in typical fashion for that single: with a simple, emotional performance. However, this one was different. Ripped straight from the Internet's wet dream, a massive kitten floating in space mouthed along to "Wrecking Ball" with Cyrus, who was wearing a kitten bathing suit. Orbs flew past around Cyrus' head on the screen and it was all some sort of amazing fever dream. You can't make this stuff up, kids.

Unfortunately, not all the performances could dazzle. Pitbull and Ke$ha were cringe-worthy in all the wrong ways with "Timber." Ke$ha showed up wearing some sort of denim adult diaper, backup dancers wore something between an Indian costume and a burlap sack and Pitbull was just sleazy as all get out, slapping women's bottoms.

Most disappointing was the performance of TLC. With the help of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes imitator Lil Mama, the former powerhouse girl group lip synced their way through their performance of their smash hit "Waterfalls," looking less like a well-oiled machine and more like a group trying to reclaim their glory days. It was quite the shame. TLC were better than this in their heyday and still have that potential in 2013.

Other performances included energy packed sets from Imagine Dragons, Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez, who salsa danced her way through a tribute to Latin music icon Celia Cruz. Kendrick Lamar gave a solid showing of "Swimming Pools" and A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera brought high emotion with "Say Something."

And then, there were plenty of trophies given out. Taylor Swift was the clear winner of the night, winning three trophies on television (including Artist of the Year) in addition to one non-televised award (Favorite Pop/Rock Female). She was demure in her acceptance speeches, thanking fans and bringing high energy to the stage.

Justin Timberlake also won huge, taking home three American Music Awards. Though he never seemed to take the night too seriously, the "Take Back The Night" singer made light of the evening, having fun and remarking that it was weird that people tweeted their votes.

Rihanna, who won Favorite Soul/R&B Female was a big winner in another way. After giving a dazzling performance of "Diamonds," she accepted the AMAs first ever Pop Icon Award for her massive success in both sales and to the music industry. In a particularly touching moment, Rih's mom Monica presented her the award, and viewers got some insights into Rihanna's earliest days as a singer.

Other award highlights include Ariana Grande winning Kohl's New Artist of the Year, and a rushed acceptance speech so she could fit everyone in in 10 seconds. One Direction won two awards, and Florida Georgia Line won he first ever Single of the Year award for "Cruise."

After a mediocre 2012 ceremony, the AMAs came back in full force in 2013, with big time performances, huge wins for the most famous names in music and total gif-worthy moments (we see you, Justin Timberlake). Chalk this ceremony up for a win.

Check out the full list of AMA winners from the telecast below:

Favorite Pop/Rock Male: Justin Timberlake
Favorite Soul/R&B Female: Rihanna
Favorite Country Album: Taylor Swift, Red
Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
Favorite Alternative Artist: Imagine Dragons
Favorite Latin Music Artist: Marc Anthony
Favorite Pop/Rock Album: One Direction, Take Me Home
Kohl's New Artist of the Year: Ariana Grande
Favorite Soul/R&B Male: Justin Timberlake
Favorite Country Female: Taylor Swift
Single of the Year: "Cruise," Florida Georgia Line, feat. Nelly
Favorite Soul/R&B Album: Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience - The Complete Experience
Favorite EDM Artist: Avicii
Favorite Country Male: Luke Bryan
Favorite Pop Rock Duo/Band/Group: One Direction
Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift
Pop Icon: Rihanna

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