The 2018 American Music Awards

So the American Music Awards have moved! They’re in October now! I do not have an explanation for this, other than that they wanted to make the eligibility period as short as possible I guess?

The AMAs are one of the more existentially funny awards shows – they’re transparently a way for ABC/Disney to have an in-house awards show 1, and they consist of roughly seven billion categories, but have one of the smallest pools of nominees out there – you see the same dozen or so names over and over and over again, category after category 2.

They are, as such, interesting in the main – it is always interesting to see where the business concerns of the awards show are willing to align themselves, and since the AMAs are 100% business concern, with literally no other covering 3, they are in and of themselves a fascination. This year they are slightly less tedious than in years’ past, which is something of a relief. I mean, relatively, because this is also a particularly awful field of nominees.

Nevertheless, here are the rightful winners.

Favorite Artist – Electronic Dance Music

You know, every year there’s someone in this category who I kind of almost like. This year that person is Marshmello. Thanks, Marshemello, for keeping this from being impossible.


Favorite Artist – Contemporary Inspirational

Lauren Daigle has been declared the rightful winner every single time I’ve covered an awards show that she was nominated for an award within. I want this to be different, but it isn’t, because MercyMe are pretty bad, and Zach Williams is even worse.


Favorite Artist – Latin

There are pluses and minuses to the “only three nominees per category” thing that this particular awards show does. One of the primary pluses is that these are super-easy to consider – there’s only three of them, you don’t get bogged down. The minuses, however, are in a category like this, where I have to make a very finely-considered choice between J. Balvin and Daddy Yankee, which requires me to devote a whole bunch of my thinking brain to two guys that are….fine. Like, they’re not bad. They’ve both made songs I like. It’s not even a problem. It’s just that I have no ability to quantify which one is more fine. In the bigger categories, I can just find a different outlier and go with that. In this one, the odd man out is Reggaeton snoozefest Ozuna, so that’s just right out. So it goes.


Favorite Artist – Adult Contemporary

P!nk is pretty much the only option here, as Ed Sheeran and Ed Sheeran’s Living Photocopy Shawn Mendes definitely are never going to be worthy of anything ever as long as I live.


Favorite Artist – Alternative Rock

Imagine Dragons has been nominated for the AMA for Alternative Rock artist every single year I’ve been doing this except the first one. This is astonishing for a couple of reasons, 1) they are not a rock band 4 and 2) they are godawful. Panic! At the Disco continue to exist, which I also find dismaying. Thus it goes to Portgual, the Man.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portugal, the Man

Favorite Song – Soul/R&B

I have nothing in particular to say about Ella Mai. While I admire the pandering to the sort of old people that would admire the throwback-y vibe and video to the Bruno Mars/Cardi B song, “Young Dumb and Broke” is actually a great song that does a better job at pandering in a satisfying fashion.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Khalid, “Young Dumb and Broke”

Favorite Album – Soul R&B

It seems almost impossible to believe that Ctrl is still out here getting nominated for awards, but the AMAs are in a weird spot in the year, and it definitely deserves the nomination, so I’m happy to see it.


Favorite Female Artist – Soul/R&B

I still have nothing in particular to say about Ella Mai. Rihanna is fine, but most of her interesting work is in the sort of, y’know, existing-as-a-famous-person-in-public realm, rather than the musical realm. I still really like SZA.


Favorite Male Artist – Soul/R&B

You know, at various points I would have found this category much more difficult. Bruno Mars has basically taken himself out of the running. Khalid is interesting, and has a great voice, but it remains to be seen what’s going to come from that. The Weeknd has sort of fallen into the lane I feel like he’s going to remain in for some time now, where he’s not as wildly good as he started out being, but he’s still better than, say, Bruno Mars and Khalid.


Favorite Song – Rap/Hip-Hop

Given that two of the nominees here are perhaps the two most irritating songs of the past 12 months, this really seems to be paving the way for “Bodak Yellow” here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)”

Favorite Album – Rap/Hip-Hop

This has no such savior as the “song” category, so I’m forced, once again, to consider some things much more than I’d like. I guess Lil Uzi Vert’s album isn’t as bad as the other two.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lil Uzi Vert, Luv is Rage 2

Favorite Artist – Rap/Hip-Hop

Given that my opinions about these three in the “songs” category can pretty much be extended to all of the work they made within the eligibility period 5, so this one is rather predictable.


Favorite Song – Country

This is doing no damage to my “pop music fans are into the worst country music” argument, quite frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I guess it’s Kane Brown? I guess? For “Heaven”?

Favorite Album – Country

I don’t actually like “Heaven,” the above-mentioned song, and it’s worth mentioning down here because as I was listening to these albums to figure out which one of them was the one I’d like the most of the three of them, I got furthest into the Kane Brown album before I bailed on it, and “Heaven” was a song that I didn’t even notice as it played, which means that this field is literally competing against zero. Like, something that was even a little bit positive would get more notice.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kane Brown, Kane Brown

Favorite Duo or Group – Country

Hilariously, clicking the link to Lanco on the American Music Awards of 2018 Wikipedia page takes you to the page for the airline, because the Wikipedia editor that entered all of the AMA information didn’t bother to check his links. I’d correct it, but it’s 1) funnier this way and 2) the only entertainment it’s at all possible to get out of this category, so I’m hopeful that it’s still there by the time you’re reading this.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lanco, but mostly their Wikipedia page.

Favorite Female Artist – Country

You know, in years past, the problem with the Country categories is that the rollover in Country music is so low, and it tends to be the same set of people over and over (and over and over) for every awards show for several years. So we’ve largely rolled over a set 6, but it’s still pretty awful. I mean, I’m happy to see Kelsea Ballerini I guess? That’s a pretty bleak state of affairs.


Favorite Male Artist – County

This is the same situation as the albums category, but you can all rest assured that I don’t like Luke Bryan more than Luke Combs. I mean, I suppose I don’t like him less, either.


Favorite Song – Pop/Rock

In keeping with the spirit of this year’s write-up, I will point out that another of the things that happens here every year is that the “Rock” is utterly superfluous in this cateogry name. It’s all just pop music, guys. Anyway, I don’t love (or even much like) “Havana,” but up against “God’s Plan” and “Perfect” it might as well be “Hey” fucking “Jude”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Camila Cabello, “Havana” (f Young Thug)

Favorite Album – Pop/Rock

I’m reminiscing about the good old days when I had that Camila Cabello song to prevent me from deciding that I like Scorpion best of any given set of things. Remember those days? Those were good days.


Favorite Duo or Group – Pop/Rock

Hey, one of these is actually kind of a rock band! This means the “Rock” is not entirely superfluous every time! Also one of these (obviously not the same one) is actually good! That means I don’t have to go drink bleach!


Favorite Female Artist – Pop/Rock

Hey! Things are turning up! I don’t even have to settle for Camila Cabello in this one!


Favorite Male Artist – Pop/Rock

All of that is to say: at least none of the other categories have Post Malone in them. I mean, he’s going to continue to pop up, and it’s going to be infuriating every time because: no.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Drake. But big sigh at “Rightful” and at “Winner”.

Favorite Soundtrack

I’ll give a dollar to anyone who can tell me why Fate of the Furious is in here. A whole American dollar. The Greatest Showman was a valiant effort, but unfortunately total garbage. Black Panther had a pretty cool soundtrack.


Favorite Social Artist

I feel like the “Social Media” categories are in a nightmare reign for BTS, but I think that there could be other options soon. See, the logic is that BTS managed to be bona-fide pop superstars in America with little other than their rabid fans and their equally-rabid social media support from said fans. That means it’s de facto BTS, because they don’t have any of the non-online aspects of, say, Cardi B 7, Ariana Grande 8, Demi Lovato 9 or Shawn Mendes 10


Tour of the Year

Well, this one had two tours in it that I would attend, which is one more than this category usually features. I only considered going to see U2 very briefly, but I did consider it. I very nearly went to see Beyonce and Jay-Z, so that’s the one I suppose, in the most practical sense of “Rightful Winner,” I am once again going with the one I would have been most likely to see.


Video of the Year

While “Bodak Yellow” is the only actually good song here, the video is just kind of…there. The “Havana” video at least has the telenovela bit at the beginning that I quite like. The “God’s Plan” video is self-aggrandizing nonsense.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Camila Cabello, “Havana (f Young Thug)”

New Artist of the Year

It’s funny that this category, usually the market-stunt-iest category, is one of the strongest fields going. Camila Cabello isn’t really “new,” having done time in Fifth Harmony. Dua Lipa and Khalid are both people with extremely nice singing voices. Cardi B is probably here to stay, and doesn’t need to “come into” her material at all, like Dua Lipa or Khalid would.


Artist of the Year

Aaaaaand we’re right back to the misery. Taylor Swift hasn’t come up, but she is in several of these categories, and her output in the eligibility period is extraordinarily bad. I’m usually mildly positive on the Taylor Swift scale, but this last record was just awful. Ed Sheeran is execrable, although he’s better than Post Malone. Imagine Dragons’s singer made that cool documentary thing. That was neat. It’s probably better than Drake, so why not?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Imagine Dragons (but not their music)

That wraps it up for this one! I suppose next year at this time I’ll have to start tracking whether it’s the American Music Awards that make this field so dreadful, or whether it’s just that pop music itself is in a down period where it doesn’t much appeal to me! Whee!

  1. despite having what could accurately be called “minimal” record-selling-industry connections these days. 
  2.  sub to footnote 1, this is probably down to the record-selling interests Disney does have, lack of record label notwithstanding. 
  3.  that is to say, they lack the Billboard awards’ house-organ connection, the Grammys seriousness, or even, say, the People’s Choice Awards’ idea of a democratic winner 
  4.  I litigate this every time it comes up, but if you’re not a dedicated reader, the argument is this: they are not a band in any meaningful sense (ie the assemblage of people that are onstage or whatever bear little relationship to the music as it is played on their albums, as their album credits and, y’know, the actual sound of the actual music bear out), they do not play rock music in any meaningful sense (the music is not built on the interplay of the musicians, it does not feature the guitar/bass/drum lineup that typifies rock music, it is not played primarily in dynamics and texture, instead relying on the language of dance music – hooks, drops, godawful vocals, etc. – to make its point). There are rock bands that offer exceptions to rules, certainly (Suicide, for example, is one of the finest rock bands the world has ever known), but Imagine Dragons aren’t one of them. 
  5.  you know, one of these days I really should evaluate whether Take Care and Nothing Was the Same are actually good records, or if they just sounded better at the time. 
  6.  although Carrie Underwood persists, because it’s not like they send them out on an ice floe or whatever. 
  7.  who used to be on tv, after all 
  8.  who used to be on tv, after all 
  9.  who used to be on tv, after all 
  10.  fuck Shawn Mendes 

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