AMAs Feature Small Live Audience as The Weeknd, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Dan + Shay Win 3 Awards Each

The Weeknd
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Weeknd accepts the award for favorite soul/R&B song.

The fan-voted show, hosted by Taraji P. Henson, included memorable performances from Bell Biv DeVoe, Billie Eilish and Jennifer Lopez with Maluma.

The 2020 American Music Awards, like most things in 2020, was visibly affected by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Host Taraji P. Henson was joined at Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater for the live ABC broadcast Sunday night by a limited audience of invited guests in small groups from the same families, she said, explaining that they were socially distanced and tested for COVID-19. The small crowd, wearing masks in the balcony, was shown applauding and cheering throughout the show. The audience, while significantly smaller than ones for awards shows prior to the pandemic, was still somewhat of a rare sight in a year that's featured numerous audience-free and virtual events and comes as L.A. County has imposed new restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

Earlier in the show, Henson referenced the months people have spent at home amid the pandemic, saying she was "happy to be off the couch and in some real fashion."

"It has been a long year and now that 2020 is coming to end, it’s time to remember that it’s one country," she said. "We need to heal and love on each other a little more. We’re gonna have some fun, embracing our neighbors and coming together with music."

At the end of the night, Henson reminded the audience that, despite the divisive election that recently took place, the U.S. is one country and urged people to "stay safe," a message also shared by two-time winner Doja Cat.

After accepting the award for favorite country song for their collaboration with Justin Bieber, "10,000 Hours," Dan + Shay's Dan Smyers addressed the rough 2020, calling it "the toughest year ever."

"We haven’t been able to be together in person," he added. "I just want to say that music has such an incredible power to unify us, music has power to change lives, to save the world. So to all of our fellow artists and nominees, everybody creating art at home, thank you for doing what you do."

Dan + Shay later won collaboration of the year for their work with Bieber, beating out high-profile nominees like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's hit single "WAP," Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande's "Rain on Me," and Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé's “Savage Remix.”

And Henson introduced Lil Baby's performance of "Emotionally Scarred" by saying that it highlights the difficulty of the current year.

Taylor Swift, the winner of the night's top prize, artist of the year, wasn't in attendance, as she explained in a video acceptance speech that she was busy rerecording her earlier albums in the studio where she originally recorded them. Swift also won two more awards: favorite music video for her Folklore track "cardigan" and favorite female pop/rock artist. With her wins, Swift breaks her own record twice: She's won the most awards in this category, with six, and has now racked up 32 AMA wins over the course of her career, the most wins by any artist.

Going into Sunday night's show, Roddy Ricch and The Weeknd had the most nominations for the fan-voted awards show, with eight nods each.

The Weeknd, wearing bandages that covered his entire face apart from his mouth and nose, got off to a strong start, accepting the first award and dedicating it to Prince, noting he'd last accepted the award from the late musician. He returned just a few minutes later for a pyrotechnic heavy performance, accompanied by Kenny G on "In Your Eyes," followed by "Save Your Tears." He later won favorite soul/R&B song for "Heartless" and favorite male soul/R&B artist.

Ricch, who didn't appear to be present at this year's show, won one award, for favorite rap/hip-hop album for Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial.

Megan Thee Stallion, who went into the night as the most nominated female artist this year with five nods but only took home one award for her work with Cardi B on "WAP," performed "Body," off of her recently released debut album Good News. Henson is one of a number of stars making cameos in the video for the song.

Megan's performance began with her delivering a body-positive message as close-up images of her flashed on a video screen. She soon took the stage wearing a sparkly black outfit and began her performance atop a staircase, then descended it to join a group of dancers wearing similar black ensembles and sporting masks, for the rest of the song. At the end of the track, she ascended the staircase once again.

The show featured two throwback performances: Nelly, accompanied by Country Grammar guest Cedric the Entertainer, for a medley of the title track, "E.I." and "Ride Wit Me" and an energetic medley of "Do Me" and "Poison" from Bell Biv DeVoe.

Dancing and singing in front of a backdrop meant to look like a graffiti-covered outdoor basketball court, Bell Biv DeVoe performed both songs amid red and blue flashing lights. Henson was shown dancing amid cardboard cutouts of famous musicians in the audience during "Do Me" and the band was joined by two sweatshirt- and mask-clad dancers for "Poison."

Jennifer Lopez and Maluma took the stage for a choreography-heavy performance of "Pa' Ti" and "Lonely," from the upcoming film Marry Me. The performance began with hands reaching out from behind prison bars as Lopez, sporting a sheer black ensemble and bathed in lights that looked like black-and-white bars, writhed around onstage as she sang before she was joined by Maluma. The two later sat opposite each other at a table before Lopez crawled over to him and he climbed on top of her. She then walked out from behind a set of bars and joined mask-wearing dancers for a chair-based dance routine before she and Maluma ended their performance seated back-to-back on chairs.

Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes kicked off the AMAs with a world premiere medley performance. Bieber began with "Lonely," singing to himself in front of a wall of mirrors, backed by just a piano. As he transitioned to "Holy," the set featured pink crosses that bathed him in rose-colored light and he was joined by dancers wearing masks. Mendes later appeared, sitting atop a platform and strumming a guitar as he sang "Monster." Bieber joined him and the two moved around each other onstage under a strobe light.

Later in the show, Mendes delivered a second, solo performance of "Wonder" in a dimly lit living-room set. He later left the room to perform the rest of the song to strobe lighting.

Henson took the stage at the top of the show dancing to a medley of "Let's Go Crazy," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," "Savage" and "WAP," before stopping during the last song and admonishing the dancers who'd accompanied her so far: "Y'all about to make me lose my job. This is family TV."

Billie Eilish delivered a world-premiere performance of "Therefore I Am," bathed in red light as she moved around a backdrop of red hallways and small rooms.

Other performances included brightly colored renditions of "Mood" by 24kGoldn with Iann Dior and "Baby, I'm Jealous," from Bebe Rexha featuring Doja Cat, in front of a backdrop meant to look like a rock formation; Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker rocking out while bathed in pink light; and stripped-down appearances by Dan + Shay, Lewis Capaldi ("Before You Go"), and Katy Perry and Darius Rucker ("Only Love").

Not all of the performances originated from L.A.: Dua Lipa, who accepted an award earlier in the night, performed "Levitating" from London. Lipa wore a sparkly blue ensemble for the dance-filled performance and was joined by maskless dancers in blue leotards. After some light changes and special effects, Lipa indeed appeared to be levitating above the theater.

BTS performed, to close out the show, and accepted their award for favorite pop/rock duo or group from their native South Korea. The superstar group also won favorite social artist for the third year in a row.

And Bad Bunny accepted his award and presented the first female Latin artist award to Becky G remotely, from his home in Los Angeles. Bad Bunny was originally set to perform with Jhay Cortez live for the first time at the AMAs but had to cancel after testing positive for COVID-19.

In her acceptance speech, Becky G paid tribute to immigrants, telling a story about her grandfather.

"When I first got started at 14, I did a cover and I said, ‘It all started when my grandpa crossed over, now one day I'm going to be a crossover.’ Today, I still carry that sentiment," she said. "I don't have to do the crossover because we are the crossover. When it comes to me and the decisions that I make in my career, I proudly wave both flags — Mexican and American. Like many, many children and grandchildren of immigrants, no matter where they’re from, we have learned from the ones before us what sacrifice and hard work looks like. I dedicate this award to all of our immigrant workers in this pandemic and the students and immigrant families. It’s because of my family that I stand here today."

Other noteworthy winners included Harry Styles, who won his first solo AMA prize for favorite album — pop/rock for his Fine Line. And Juice WRLD, who died Dec. 8 of last year, won his first AMA award posthumously in the category of favorite male artist — rap/hip-hop.

Presenters included Anthony Anderson, Cara Delevingne, Christian Serratos, Ciara, David Dobrik, Derek Hough, G-Eazy, Kristin Cavallari, Laverne Cox, Megan Fox, Paris Hilton and new Bachelorette Tayshia Adams.

The American Music Awards is produced by Dick Clark Productions, which shares a parent company with The Hollywood Reporter.

A complete list of the 2020 AMA winners follows.

ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Taylor Swift (WINNER)
Justin Bieber
Post Malone
Roddy Ricch
The Weeknd

NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Doja Cat (WINNER)
Lewis Capaldi
DaBaby
Lil Baby
Roddy Ricch
Megan Thee Stallion

COLLABORATION OF THE YEAR
Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber “10,000 Hours” (WINNER)
Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion “WAP”
DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch “Rockstar”
Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande “Rain on Me”
Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyoncé “Savage Remix”

FAVORITE SOCIAL ARTIST
BTS (WINNER)
Billie Eilish
EXO
Ariana Grande
NCT 127

FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEO
Taylor Swift “cardigan” (WINNER)
Doja Cat “Say So”
Future ft. Drake “Life Is Good”
Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande “Rain on Me”
The Weeknd “Blinding Lights”

FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – POP/ROCK
Justin Bieber (WINNER)
Post Malone
The Weeknd

FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST – POP/ROCK
Taylor Swift (WINNER)
Dua Lipa
Lady Gaga

FAVORITE DUO OR GROUP – POP/ROCK
BTS (WINNER)
Jonas Brothers
Maroon 5

FAVORITE ALBUM – POP/ROCK
Harry Styles Fine Line (WINNER)
Taylor Swift folklore
The Weeknd After Hours

FAVORITE SONG – POP/ROCK
Dua Lipa “Don’t Start Now” (WINNER)
Lewis Capaldi “Someone You Loved”
Post Malone “Circles”
Roddy Ricch “The Box”
The Weeknd “Blinding Lights”

FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – COUNTRY
Kane Brown (WINNER)
Luke Combs
Morgan Wallen

FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST – COUNTRY
Maren Morris (WINNER)
Gabby Barrett
Miranda Lambert

FAVORITE DUO OR GROUP – COUNTRY
Dan + Shay (WINNER)
Florida Georgia Line
Old Dominion

FAVORITE ALBUM – COUNTRY
Blake Shelton “Fully Loaded: God’s Country” (WINNER)
Luke Combs “What You See Is What You Get”
Morgan Wallen “If I Know Me”

FAVORITE SONG – COUNTRY
Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber “10,000 Hours” (WINNER)
Maren Morris “The Bones”
Blake Shelton (duet with Gwen Stefani) “Nobody But You”

FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – RAP/HIP-HOP
Juice WRLD (WINNER)
DaBaby
Roddy Ricch

FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST – RAP/HIP-HOP
Nicki Minaj (WINNER)
Cardi B
Megan Thee Stallion

FAVORITE ALBUM – RAP/HIP-HOP
Roddy Ricch “Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial” (WINNER)
Lil Baby “My Turn”
Lil Uzi Vert “Eternal Atake”

FAVORITE SONG – RAP/HIP-HOP
Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion “WAP” (WINNER)
DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch “Rockstar”
Roddy Ricch “The Box”

FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – SOUL/R&B
The Weeknd (WINNER)
Chris Brown
John Legend

FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST – SOUL/R&B
Doja Cat (WINNER)
Jhene Aiko
Summer Walker

FAVORITE ALBUM – SOUL/R&B
The Weeknd “After Hours” (WINNER)
Doja Cat “Hot Pink”
Summer Walker “Over It”

FAVORITE SONG – SOUL/R&B
The Weeknd “Heartless” (WINNER)
Chris Brown ft. Drake “No Guidance”
Summer Walker “Playing Games”

FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – LATIN
Bad Bunny (WINNER)
J Balvin
Ozuna

FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST – LATIN
Becky G (WINNER)
KAROL G
Rosalía

FAVORITE ALBUM – LATIN
Bad Bunny “YHLQMDLG” (WINNER)
Anuel AA "Emmanuel”
Bad Bunny “Las que no iban a salir”

FAVORITE SONG – LATIN
KAROL G & Nicki Minaj “Tusa” (WINNER)
Bad Bunny “Vete”
Black Eyed Peas X J Balvin “RITMO (Bad Boys for Life)”

FAVORITE ARTIST – ALTERNATIVE ROCK
twenty one pilots (WINNER)
Billie Eilish
Tame Impala

FAVORITE ARTIST – ADULT CONTEMPORARY
Jonas Brothers (WINNER)
Lewis Capaldi
Maroon 5

FAVORITE ARTIST – CONTEMPORARY INSPIRATIONAL
Lauren Daigle (WINNER)
for KING & COUNTRY
Kanye West

FAVORITE ARTIST – ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC (EDM)
Lady Gaga (WINNER)
Kygo
Marshmello

FAVORITE SOUNDTRACK
Birds of Prey: The Album (WINNER)
Frozen II
Trolls: World Tour

Nov. 23, 1:42 p.m. Updated with Bad Bunny canceling his performance after testing positive for COVID-19.