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American Music Awards 2014’s 20 Best and Worst Moments

The verdict on Taylor Swift, One Direction, 5SOS and everything from Pitbull’s “Fireball” to Waka Flocka Flame

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift performing at the 2014 American Music Awards.

Kevin Winter/Getty

The butts have it! The 42nd American Music Awards brought out booty, booty, booty, rockin' everywhere — as well as the latest crop of teen pop, a few doses of punk attitude and even more reasons for us to love Taylor Swift. Though there were technically awards given out, the real victors were the folks that gave the best performances. See who really went home a winner! 

Selena Gomez

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Recording artist/actress Selena Gomez performs onstage at the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Kevin Winter/Getty

Best: Selena Gomez’s Heart Wants…a Human Centipede?

So Selena Gomez was totally singing about Justin Bieber, right? That's what all the talk has been about regarding the former main Bieb squeeze's live debut of her tear-jerking power ballad "The Heart Wants What It Wants." But as titillating as the background of the song may be, the background visuals flashing behind Gomez's performance were way more mind-blowing. The dramatic floor-to-ceiling projections included seraphic wings that transformed Gomez into an angel and slow-mo exploding flower vases that spread a gory splatter of red petals. But the image that is probably most vividly emblazoned in our minds is the final one — the shadowy silhouette of a man pressing his palms against a fogged-up pane of glass — which resembled not only Justin Bieber but also, more disturbingly, the poster for The Human Centipede.

DJ Mustard

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 25: Producer DJ Mustard performs onstage during day 2 of the 2014 Life Is Beautiful Festival on October 25, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic)

FilmMagic/Getty

Best: DJ Mustard’s T-Shirt

Fergie went full "L.A. Love" for her performance, wheeling a lowrider on the stage, borrowing YG and emerging from a crazy Ken Kesey-gone-Day of the Dead bus. Though the architect of the song, DJ Mustard, rolled out in a T-shirt and chain, probably how he does California every day.

Ariana Grande

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Singer Ariana Grande performs onstage at the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/AMA2014/Getty Images for DCP)

Christopher Polk/Getty

Worst: Ariana Grande Doesn’t Go Big

How would you like to immediately follow that Lorde performance? Ariana Grande already had her work cut out for her, on a night where Taylor Swift is waving flaming roses. Grande turned her giddy, oversized "Problem" inside out, crooning it as a mellow cabaret act, which wasn't exactly the best defense. Her saxophone pal was part Kenny G, part Tim Cappello of Lost Boys fame. All that was missing was the sound of wine glasses clinking.

Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Recording artists Jennifer Lopez (L) and Iggy Azalea perform onstage at the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Lester Cohen/Getty

Best: Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea Bring Up the Rear

With the emergence of Iggy Azalea in 2014, one had to wonder: Would her AMA performance with Jennifer Lopez be the moment the booty baton was passed? In short, no. Because while Lopez, who at this point is sort of the Rock Raines of Rump (hey, they both relied heavily on their backsides), certainly played nice with Iggy, it was clear that this was her performance. She got to hit all the contortionist high spots, and was the beneficiary of the best production moments. When she and Azalea did share the stage, it was still clear who was in charge. Then, just to further cement her status, Lopez closed the show solo, strutting and shaking her way across the stage before backing it up to Pitbull to send the show home.

AMA

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Actresses Danai Gurira (L) and Lauren Cohan speaks onstage during the 2014 American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Worst: And the Winners Are…in Tiny Text!

Wondering who won Single of the Year, Favorite Country Group or Favorite EDM Artist? First off, what's wrong with you? Secondly, don't worry, so were we — since none of those awards were handed out during the show itself. Instead, they were relegated to a blink-and-you-miss-it mention during the AMAs' closing credits. They sacrificed the likes of Katy Perry — who won Single of the Year and Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist (ouch?) — as well as Beyoncé, Florida Georgia Line and Calvin Harris. In favor of. . .well, we're not exactly sure what. And look, no one is pretending that the AMAs (or most self-congratulatory gatherings, for that matter) aren't basically just a series of choreographed performances periodically interrupted by acceptance speeches and strategically placed products, but "Awards" is in the title of the show; it would've been nice to at least pretend the hardware actually meant something.

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