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BTS Got That Superstar Glow at This Year’s AMAs

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Artists and fans gathered together at the 49th annual American Music Awards (AMA) to celebrate the latest and greatest up-and-coming artists, singles and albums of the year on Nov. 21. Hosted by Cardi B, the event was held at and televised from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. It presented a unique mix of live and pre-taped performances due to the ongoing pandemic. 

The show opened with a live performance from Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak and their hit song “Smokin Out The Window,” which kicked off the perfect mood to start the momentous occasion. Later on, Coldplay shared the stage with BTS at their first world premiere performance of their heartfelt song “My Universe,” which BTS previously mentioned was dedicated to their fans, also known as ARMYs — who they consider their universe. 

Shifting away from sentimental vibes, rapper Tyler the Creator brought the best live visuals for the night with his song “MASSA” that instantly captivated the audience with his hard-hitting lyrics and an emotional connection to the song. Olivia Rodrigo — who led the awards show with nominations in seven categories — delivered a moving performance for “traitor” that was accompanied by a live ensemble and a flowery stage. Her young talent was clearly recognized, earning her the New Artist of the Year award by the end of the night. 

Photo provided by American Music Awards @amas/Instagram

To hype up the show, Chlöe brought an alluring and dynamic performance of “Have Mercy,” which earned her praises for her wide-ranging vocals and commanding stage presence. While “Have Mercy” recently found itself trending on TikTok, the video-content app, Giveon’s “Heartbreak Anniversary” had already been a long-time favorite of TikTok creators. Due to the ever-growing popularity of his song, Giveon was able to perform at the AMAs and belt out his impressive high notes. 

Photo provided by American Music Awards @amas/Instagram

The AMAs made sure to acknowledge the tragic deaths of concert-goers during Travis Scotts’ Astroworld concert that took place at Houston three weeks ago. As said by presenter and Grammy-winning musician Brandy, “Now that we can be together at concerts again, let’s fully recognize the precious gift of enjoying live music. It can bring us together, it connects us with all of our emotions, it can bring us joy, and when needed, it can help us heal. So please be safe.” 

The night saw many well-deserved wins. To name a few, “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat and SZA won Collaboration of the Year. Joined by Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion is one of the two top winning female artists at this year’s AMAs, with Doja Cat winning Favorite Female R&B Artist and Favorite R&B Album (“Planet Her”) and Megan Thee Stallion winning Favorite Trending Song (“Body”), Favorite Female Hip-Hop Artist and Favorite Hip-Hop Album (“Good News”). 

Bad Bunny was named Favorite Male Latin Artist and won Favorite Latin Album for “EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO.” Kali Uchis won her first AMA award with Favorite Latin Song for her hit single “telepatía.” More notably, Taylor Swift took home Favorite Female Pop Artist and Favorite Pop Album for her album “evermore,” which earned her her new title as a 34-time AMA winner after breaking her own record for most AMA wins of all time. 

Among all other big names and wins, BTS dominated the night by winning every award that they were nominated for — Favorite Pop Duo or Group (their third consecutive win), Favorite Pop Song (“Butter”) and Artist of the Year award (their first win). 

It was hard not to hear the uproar of cheers and love that filled the stadium from BTS’ ARMY. Even just the mention of BTS by presenters activated a chain of exciting reactions throughout the crowd. The South Korean boy band has become the world’s biggest musical act and have left their mark across the globe by dominating charts and trends worldwide and captivating the hearts of millions with their inspiring message of hope behind their songs. Despite their achievements, BTS still struggles to find their place within the Western music industry because they are labeled as “outsiders” and “foreigners.” 

Photo provided by American Music Awards @amas/Instagram

More recently, the 64th Annual Grammy Awards faced harsh criticism after BTS had only been nominated for one category being Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the second year in a row. However, BTS has continuously broken records after records for their best-selling albums and songs and even helped boost the music industry’s revenues to $21 billion alongside other mainstream artists like the Weeknd. Although their current summer songs “Dynamite” and “Butter” are sung entirely in English, they should not have needed to adhere to the English language to be acknowledged by the American music industry. 

This calls into question what the recording academy constitutes as “Grammy-worthy” if the number of sales and streams are not the focal point. If these are the criterion that they look for, it is contemptible of them to disregard “Butter” for being the top song of the summer, breaking records on Youtube, Spotify, the Guinness World Records and being the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 non-consecutive weeks.

It is fair to say that even a non-BTS fan can agree that BTS deserves all of the awards they are nominated for, if not more. While some refuse to recognize the accolades surrounding BTS and their hit songs, the AMAs came through to appreciate their hard efforts, earning itself a nod from ARMYs worldwide. 

“Four years ago, we gave our first-time-ever TV live performance at this stage, AMAs, it was ‘DNA.’ We were too excited and nervous at the time, and it’s been a long and amazing ride since then,” the boy group’s leader RM said when receiving the Artist of the Year award. “But nobody could have ever bet on the odds of us standing here and receiving this award. Except you ARMYs.”

Before closing the show with their ground-breaking performance of their hit single “Butter,” RM continued, “Seven boys from Korea, united by our love for music, met the love and support from all the ARMYs all over the world. This whole thing is a miracle. Seriously, we’ll never take this for granted.”

Annabella Johan is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ajohan@uci.edu.