American Music Awards: 6 of the Most Memorable Moments

8:41 PM 10/9/2018

by Allison Crist and Katherine Schaffstall

Tracee Ellis Ross 2018 American Music Awards - Getty - EMBED 2 - 2018
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Tracee Ellis Ross wears a bodysuit, gloves, belt and beret by Sergio the Expert, winner of Bravo's Styled To Rock

Hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross for the second year in a row, the 46th annual American Music Awards took over L.A.'s Microsoft Theater on Tuesday night.

Between Ross' emcee skills and timely quips from performers and presenters alike, the show certainly had its fair share of standout moments.

From Taylor Swift's first performance at an awards ceremony in three years to the lively and heartfelt tribute for Aretha Franklin, here are a few of the 2018 AMAs' most memorable moments. 

  • Taylor Swift's Performance of "I Did Something Bad"

    Taylor Swift opened the awards show with an explosive performance of "I Did Something Bad," marking her return to an awards show stage for the first time in three years. After swapping her metallic red carpet dress for a shiny black leotard, Swift began the song with a drawn-out introduction and a menacing chuckle.

    The dramatics didn't fade as the performance went on; instead, things were kicked up a notch thanks to the flames, lightning and giant snake in the background. Swift also made sure to perfectly pause after the line, "if a man talks sh—t then I owe him nothing." Overall, the rendition of the Reputation track made for a great follow-up to her fiery political statement from a couple days ago. 

  • The Opening Dance Number

    Ross kicked her hosting duties off with an opening dance number set to a mix of some of the year's most popular songs and a few throwbacks too, like Beyoncé's "Run the World (Girls)." 

    Donning a blinged-out grill, sequined jumpsuit and a floor-length Gucci coat from the Dapper Dan collection — which Ross said is just one of the many outfits from black designers she'd wear throughout the night — Ross danced against a backdrop of photos of women like Carol Burnett and Oprah. She also made sure to incorporate her sense of humor into the number, telling J-Lo, "I do not know how you do this all the time." 

  • The Political Moments

    A number of stars spent their time onstage discussing politics. While accepting the award for best soul/R&B artist, Khlaid said, "Shoutout, Beto." The comment was a reference to Beto O'Rourke, who is the current Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Ross later used her status as the host to encourage viewers to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

    Billy Eichner also got political by encouraging viewers to vote in the upcoming elections while presenting with Kathryn Hahn. "Young people of America, the biggest election of our lifetime is happening," began Eichner. "Please grab your friends. Tell them to vote." Hahn encouraged the message by repeatedly stating, "Vote."

    Eichner continued, "Now is the time. If you believe in equality for women, that's right. For people of color. For people in the LGBTQ community. If you believe that climate change is real and that we need to do something about it. Don't let anyone tell you your vote won't count."

    The comedian concluded the message by stating, "You can go to like Taylor Swift told you to," referencing the singer's recent Instagram post in which she encouraged fans to vote. Swift herself reminded viewers to do so while accepting the award for artist of the year. 

  • Ciara and Missy Elliott Perform "Level Up"

    Ciara and Missy Elliott teamed up at the AMAs to perform their collaboration "Level Up." The heavily choreographed performance reunited the collaborators, who previously released "1,2 Step" and "Lose Control" together. The singer, who was joined by a number of backup dancers and a drumline, continued the performance with her single "Dose." The performance inspired the audience members to get up on their feet and dance during the performance. 


  • Cardi B and Offset Supporting Each Other

    Like every awards show, this year's AMAs featured a number of entertaining camera pans to unsuspecting audience members. However, the best ones didn't catch any sneering or shocked faces, but rather, one of rap's hottest couples — Cardi B and Offset from Migos — continually showing their support for each other.  

  • Aretha Franklin Tribute

    The night concluded with a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans and musical director Rickey Minor joined forces to honor the late Queen of Soul.

    Following a video that highlighted some of Franklin's memorable moments at the awards show, Knight performed a rendition of "Amazing Grace." Knight, who was a friend of Franklin's, was followed by McClurkin's rendition of "Climbing Higher Mountains."

    Winan was then joined by a gospel choir to perform "Mary Don't You Weep (Pharaoh's Army)." Ledisi was next to enter the stage to perform "How I Got Over," which inspired many of the audience members to dance in the aisles.

    The tribute performance concluded with gospel duo Mary Mary's performance of "Let Is All Go Back."

    "We love you, Aretha," said Ross as the awards show concluded.