Rihanna to TLC: Ranking the American Music Awards Performances

Of the night's 16 performers, who rose above the rest?

Rihanna performs during the American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles.
Michael Tran/FilmMagic
November 25, 2013 9:05 AM ET

Among the 16 performances on the American Music Awards last night, some were diamonds and some were pretty rough. Justin TimberlakeRihannaMiley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and TLC were among the performers who covered pop, rock, rap and country – and even a few genre crossovers. How did they all stack up? Here's our take on each performance, from worst to best.

AMAs 2013's biggest winners & losers: who really came out on top?

16. TLC featuring Lil Mama, "Waterfalls"
Leading up to the AMAs, TLC announced they would perform with a surprise guest in the place of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who died in 2002. Naturally, it turned out to be Lil Mama, who portrayed Lopes in VH1's recent biopic CrazySexyCool and who replaced the late singer on a recent remix of "Waterfalls." Predictable guest aside, the performance wasn't a total scrub, but it suffered from the group's vocals being mixed low and the trio's overall low energy, other than the zealous 24-year-old's rap midway through. Rarely has a chorus seemed so prescient.

15. A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, "Say Something"
Although Aguilera looked serene and sang beautifully while A Great Big World pianist Ian Axel writhed with emotion, their performance stopped the show in an unintended way: It was a snoozer. Although it was sentimental, the song was slow and the ensemble's general dearth of movement, combined with sparse lighting, added up to a pleasant-sounding nonstarter.

14. Pitbull and Ke$ha, "Timber"
Pitbull fit right in as the host of the American Music Awards, but his performance of his country-rap-dance hybrid "Timber" seemed like a mixed metaphor come to life. To hammer home the crossover element, his guest Ke$ha wore cowboy boots and daisy dukes, and she flanked herself with Western-themed backup dancers. On the plus side, they had fireworks and when the camera panned the audience, Mark Cuban seemed to like it.

13. Katy Perry, "Unconditionally"
In another confusing clash of styles, Perry drew exclusively from Asian imagery for her performance of the Prism track "Unconditionally." The song's four minutes found her fluttering about the stage in a peach kimono, twirling with a purple paper umbrella and disappearing in a poof of smoke with her hands in a praying motion as if some higher being decided she'd had enough.

12. Miley Cyrus, "Wrecking Ball"
The star of Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball" performance was the skyscraper-tall space kitten that lip-synced every word of the singer's most emotional hit. It even cried diamond tears. Miley herself wore kitten-adorned undies and  focused on a moving vocal performance. In a final act of humility, she even let the kitten wink and stick its tongue to the side.

11. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, "Can't Hold Us"
In Miami for a concert, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis allowed their visages to be transported through time and space to L.A. for their performance of "Can't Hold Us." Macklemore began their performance with jumping jacks and never let his energy down for a minute. Performance-wise, it was a fitting bridge between Rihanna's and Jennifer Lopez's numbers, but in hindsight had trouble living up to either one of those.

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