(L-R) Erica Campbell of Mary Mary, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tina Campbell of Mary Mary, and CeCe Winans speak onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on October 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Frederick M. Brown (Getty Images)

Real talk? We knew what the 2018 American Music Awards were gonna be about before the first statuette had even been awarded. The intention of the evening was made clear the second it was announced that Taylor Swift only needed three more wins to unseat the much-beloved late, great Whitney Houston as the female artist with the most wins in AMA history.

Spoiler alert: She won all four awards she was nominated for—including Artist of the Year, which has us wholly confused. And after seeing her tepid opening performance, the only logical explanation for her beating out Beyoncé & Jay-Z for Tour of the Year (hers was purportedly the highest grossing, but whatever) is that Trump was rallying her base—that is, prior to her Monday announcement that she intends to vote Democratic in the midterms. (To her credit, she has improved voter registration, and once again encouraged the audience to vote during her last acceptance speech of the night.)

But it was the performances we really tuned in for; and from beginining to end, we killed it. This was especially true for the ladies—starting with Tracee Ellis Ross’ comedic and cardio-heavy song-and-dance medley. (How you gon’ outperform Swifty’s opening number, though, Tracee?)

Tracee Ellis Ross performs onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards.
Photo: Frederick M. Brown (Getty Images)

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Moving on: Just in time for cuffing season, Ella Mai got the crowd adequately “Boo’d Up” (not this writer’s jam, but I admittedly bopped along with the audience); Khalid and Halsey showed us what the kids are into these days; Latina Camila Cabello continued her banner year with a lovely ballad; and Mariah Carey and J.Lo both let us know they’re still firmly in the game (and hopefully, Mariah knows J.Lo now).

Cardi B performs onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards.
Photo: Frederick M. Brown

But the best performances of the night were both high-octane. First, Cardi B staged a full-on Afro-Latina technicolor street party to perform “I Like It Like That.” Later in the telecast, Ciara effectively reminded us why she was once touted as Janet Jackson’s successor with a perfectly percussive rendition of “Level Up.” Granted, I’m still trying to wrap my head around “yummy all in your tummy” as a viable pop lyric, but Ciara did that.

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For the optics alone, Cardi impressed us—but also nailed her adorably over-the-top performance like a seasoned pro, continuing to prove her naysayers wrong. But then, Ciara leveled up an already flawless routine with an appearance by Missy Elliot, so ...

Good thing there’s room for both to be great (we’re talking to you, Cardi and Nicki stans).

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Missy Elliott (L) and Ciara perform onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards.
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images for dcp)

And in a wisely gospel-focused tribute to Aretha Franklin, the 2018 American Music Awards ended with a medley of gospel classics. Gladys Knight, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans, Ledisi and Mary Mary all took the stage to sing arrangements made famous by Franklin on her 1972 double-platinum album, Amazing Grace. The performances were, of course, stellar, but honestly, if the Aretha montage that preceded it didn’t tear you up, you should just head straight to church, because you’re already lacking soul.

Clockwise from top left: Erica Campbell (L) and Tina Campbell of Mary Mary; Gladys Knight; Ledisi; CeCe Winans; Donnie McClurkin (center) perform onstage during the 2018 American Music Awards
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images for dcp), (Cece Winans) Frederick M. Brown (Getty Images)

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Oh, yeah, some people other than Taylor won awards, too. For instance, Offset and Cardi took home his-and-hers statuettes, thanks to his win with Migos (Cardi actually took home three). The highly controversial and recently slain XXXTentacion won a posthumous award for Favorite Album, Soul/R&B for 17, which his mother accepted on his behalf. And while the Shiggy Challenge couldn’t keep Drake from being shut out (it clearly just wasn’t God’s Plan this year), black and brown folk took home wins in over half of the 29 categories—including a win for the Kendrick Lamar-helmed Black Panther soundtrack.

In fact, we even came through in the country category this year, as newcomer Kane Brown brought home not one, but three crystal statuettes in the category, including Favorite Album and Favorite Song.

Kane Brown poses in the press room during the 2018 American Music Awards.
Photo: Matthew Simmons (Getty Images For dcp)

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Did your faves take home wins? If you skipped the telecast and let us do the watching for you, here are the categories in which we took home AMAs this year (for a full list of the night’s winners, look here):

Favorite Artist - Rap/Hip-Hop
Cardi B

Favorite Male Artist - Soul/R&B
Khalid

Favorite Song - Pop/Rock
Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug, “Havana”

Favorite Duo or Group - Pop/Rock
Migos

Favorite Album - Soul/R&B
XXXTentacion, 17

New Artist of the Year
Camila Cabello

Favorite Male Artist - Country
Kane Brown

Collaboration of the Year
Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug, “Havana”

Favorite Music Video
Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug, “Havana”

Favorite Album - Country
Kane Brown, Kane Brown

Favorite Song - Country
Kane Brown, “Heaven”

Favorite Song - Rap/Hip-Hop
Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)“

Favorite Female Artist - Soul/R&B
Rihanna

Favorite Song - Soul/R&B
Bruno Mars & Cardi B, “Finesse”

Favorite Artist - Latin
Daddy Yankee

Top Soundtrack
Black Panther: The Album, Music From And Inspired By