The 50th American Music Awards belonged to three very different artists: Pink, Lionel Richie and Taylor Swift.
But the Ticketmaster-crashing Swift was the only artist who really mattered in music in 2022 who was present at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday night.
The 32-year-old superstar was rewarded with the night’s biggest haul — six awards, including Artist of the Year — extending her record number of AMAs to 40.
But as decorated as she was, Swift didn’t perform.
That left Pink as the biggest female pop performer on the night, and she deservedly opened the show with her new single “Never Gonna Not Dance Again,” roller-skating in to get the party started in fun, infectious fashion.
But Pink’s second performance, singing “Hopelessly Devoted to You” in tribute to the beloved late star Olivia Newton-John, was a bit of a disappointment. Although she sounded fine, it wasn’t the perfect song for her, and a medley with other songs and other singers would have done more justice to Newton-John.
The tribute to Richie that closed the show was far more fitting, providing the emotional and musical highlights of the night.
First there was ageless Motown legend Smokey Robinson introducing Richie, bringing the kind of class and classic pedigree that was missing for most of the show. Then Richie — newly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — stepped up to give a very earnest speech as he accepted the Icon Award, encouraging young artists to strive to inspire future generations.
But the best was saved for last when Stevie Wonder(!) and Charlie Puth performed a joyful medley of Richie’s hits — from “Three Times a Lady” and “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)” to “Brick House” and “All Night Long (All Night).” It all ended with a star-studded “We Are the World” that made it feel like 1985 all over again.