Amanda Pendolino
November 19, 2012

What Made the 2012 AMAs Both Great and Lame (VIDEO)

The 2012 American Music Awards were jam-packed with live performances: Christina Aguilera, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Carrie Underwood, Pink, Psy, Linkin Park and others all took the stage for energetic, conceptual renditions of their hits, amid lavish sets, elaborate costume changes and well-sculpted dancers.

In Ryan Seacrest‘s tribute to the late producer Dick Clark, who created the AMAs in 1973, Ryan said the show aims to keep alive Dick’s vision of “letting the music speak for itself.” This strategy made for a well-paced show. In fact, if it weren’t for my sky-high gold heels, I never would have known that three hours had passed (it turns out that people stand up for all the performances at awards shows).

But more than halfway through the show, I was still expecting things to get going. Where were the memorable moments? What would go viral on Monday? If an awards show is comprised mostly of choreographed performances, it begins to feel choreographed.

I don’t want to invite Kanye West up on stage to ruin every awards speech, but the 2012 AMAs could have used a bit more spontaneity. When Justin Bieber won Artist of the Year and brought his mom on stage near the end of the evening, we finally experienced the unpredictability of a live show:

“This is my mom,” he said. “She’s little, but she’s beautiful.” As all the ladies in the audience swooned, Bieber displayed gratitude, speechlessness and, strangely, the candid lack of poise that I had been craving all night. Dare I say it – could the AMAs have benefited from longer speeches?

Perhaps I should take issue with the performances, which were mostly as expected. I enjoyed Pink’s acrobatics and Taylor Swift’s potential turn in a (gasp!) PG-13 direction, but the real highlight was Bieber’s acoustic rendition of “As Long as You Love Me,” which sizzled with emotion (those of you following his personal life in the tabloids probably read into it like I did). Still, I doubt we’ll see any of these clips go down in history.

Unless maybe you think Psy and M.C. Hammer have formed a collaboration that will stand the test of time…