The Good, the Bad and the Weird at the American Music Awards

For once, Miley Cyrus wasn't the pop star who gave the most controversial performance!

The American Music Awards aren't as prestigious as the Grammys, or as notorious as the MTV Video Music Awards. But the show does attract big-name artists. And whenever you gather a big group of headline-grabbers in the same room, history-making moments are possible! Here are five segments worthy of the water cooler: 

Most Unexpectedly Tame Performance: Miley Cyrus singing "Wrecking Ball"

In light of her last awards show performance -- a calculated assault on her former Disney image -- Cyrus' AMAs appearance was innocent as a kitten. And what do you know? A fluffy little kitten was projected on a screen behind her while she sang "Wrecking Ball." She wasn't naked, as she was in the video for the song, and she didn't flip off the audience, or smoke a joint, or get kinky with Styrofoam. You couldn't help but wonder if, at very least, the kitten's moving mouth might start sputtering profanities. But no. Shockingly, no. Watch here:



Most controversial performance: Katy Perry performing "Unconditional." 

This time, it was Perry who took some heat for over-stepping a boundary. Dressed as a sexy Japanese geisha, she belted out her latest single, while a troupe of acrobats in Kabuki makeup flipped and flew around her. Some viewers took to Twitter to accuse Perry of racism; others defended her. Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journall blogger explained why the performance was disrespectful: "While a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women -- a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, 'unconditional' worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy." Watch here:


Strangest Moment: Bill Maher introducing the new Icon Award, honoring Rihanna 

Whose idea was it to give the political-minded host of HBO's Real Time the job of introducing Rihanna? The two celebrities clearly didn't know each other, and she stood next to him like a girl who didn't know why she'd been sent to the principal's office. Watch here:


Cutest Acceptance Speech: Ariana Grande's fast-paced thank you's

When the 20-year-old Nickelodeon star won the award for Favorite New Artist (for her album Yours Truly), she and her voluminous hair extensions must have taken too long to walk to the stage. Pulling her acceptance speech out of her bra, she noticed that she had less than 10 seconds to talk. She proceeded to call out the names of those she needed to thank at such a rapid speed that she actually had time to spare. Watch here:


Strangest Attempt at a Political Message: R Kelly and Lady Gaga performing "Do What U Want" 

The R Kelly/Lady Gaga performance was a nice attempt at theatricality, but the theme didn't quite gel. Were they playing off the idea of the affair between John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, in a sort of bad-taste tribute to the 50th anniversary of his murder? Was it a nod to the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair? In either case, it didn't lead anywhere interesting. Watch here:

Jennifer Graham Kizer is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+.

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