AMAs 2020: Less Zoom Screens, More COVID-Compliant Stages—Can You Feel a Brand New Day?

Taraji P. Henson speaks onstage for the 2020 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Taraji P. Henson speaks onstage for the 2020 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for dcp (Getty Images)

The time has come for the world’s largest fan-voted award show and you’re now reading the world’s largest award show recap site! OK, I may have made up the latter part of the sentence, but thanks for joining me! As per usual, I’m here to give you the Black-ass play-by-play. This time, it’s the 2020 American Music Awards (AMAs).

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Taraji P. Henson took over hosting duties for the night and didn’t skimp on the dramatic flair, honoring musical moments such as “Brand New Day” from The Wiz, Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”...she even did the “Savage” Challenge and broke into some “WAP” choreography to give us some Megan Thee Stallion energy.

If you’ve been paying attention, awards ceremonies have been evolving a bit during the pandemic. We started out with Zoom-screen acceptance speeches and pre-recorded isolated sets, but now, more and more celebrities are presenting and performing live onstage.

With the AMAs, they took it a bit further. There was actually a social distancing audience (made up of families who had been tested for COVID), too. “I’m just happy to be off the couch with some real fashion,” Taraji exclaimed. Taraji also made jokes about a cardboard cutout of Beyoncé sitting in the front row. She even went over to Cardbeyoncé and asked where her Ivy Park influencer box was.

Let’s get into some highlights of the night:

American Winners

As generally happens at most mainstream (read: white) awards shows, the Black artists once again won in what industry folks usually call the “Urban” categories. Mmmhmm.

The Weeknd took home Favorite Album - Soul/R&B award (After Hours), reminiscing on the time that the late Prince presented him with the same award in 2015. He also won Favorite R&B/Soul Song (“Heartless”) and Favorite Soul/R&B Male.

Doja Cat was named Favorite Female Artist - Soul/R&B and New Artist of the Year and she actually ended up singing the names of the people she wanted to thank in the acceptance speech for the latter.

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Laverne Cox presented the Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Song award to Megan Thee Stallion (who accepted the award live) and Cardi B for “WAP,” which totally tracks because that was definitely the hip hop song of the year. Taraji even brought some Cookie Lyon (Empire) energy and tried to steal Meg away from her current manager.

As for Black-ass non-televised trophies, Nicki Minaj was named Favorite Female Artist - Rap/Hip Hop and Roddy Rich scored the award for Favorite Album - Rap/Hip Hop (Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial).

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American Performances

Darius Rucker joined Katy Perry for a reimagined version of her song, “Only Love.”

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The Weeknd and Kenny G performed together (on a whole street instead of a typical stage) and the song definitely made me feel like I was in an elevator or waiting on hold for the next available representative.

Megan made her world premiere live performance of her single, “Body” from her debut album Good News.

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“I love my body. Every curve. Every inch. Every mark. Every dimple,” Meg began in the intro montage displayed on a giant screen (I think her girl Beyoncé would be proud of that one), immediately bringing the empowerment energy into the room.

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Bel Biv DeVoe (BBD) took the stage for a special performance, celebrating the first time they took the AMAs stage, which was 30 whole years ago.

“30 years ago, like, you know, in a nutshell we had no idea like 30 years later it would still be this big of a song,” BBD said in a statement regarding their historic performance, via a press release sent to The Root. “But I think we had more energy, our dancers had more energy, and I don’t think there is a TikTok dancer out there today that can match the energy of Poison.’ It’s not possible and if you think I’m lying, we challenge you right now, put it up.”

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Well damn...talk your shit then, OGs!

Nelly also celebrated a milestone—20 years since the release of his debut album Country Grammar. Cedric The Entertainer even recreated the comedic intro from the album, live on stage.

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Two young men that I had no idea existed named 24Goldn and Iann Dior performed “Mood,” which is my bad because that song has apparently been #1 for several weeks now.

Taraji, who is a huge advocate for mental health awareness, was proud to present Lil Baby, who performed his very relevant song, “Emotionally Scarred.”

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Doja Cat joined Bebe Rexha for their song, “Baby, I’m Jealous.”

For the complete list of winners at the 2020 American Music Awards, head to theamas.com.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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