All the 2016 MTV EMAs Performances Ranked From Worst to Best

Idris Elba & Green Day
Dave Hogan/Getty Images for MTV

Idris Elba presents the Global Icon award to Tre Cool, Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt of Green Day on stage at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on Nov. 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. 

A varied bill of performers led the way tonight at the 2016 European Music Awards, ranging from American rock chart-toppers to hometown-hero DJs to... uh, we're still not totally sure how to qualify Lukas Graham. They were present and accounted for, however, as were 11 other performers on the night, including one particularly notable double-play. Here are all of the performances at the 2016 EMAs, ranked from worst to best.

13. Bebe Rexha, "I Got You"

Our esteemed host for the evening made a valiant attempt to get maximal sexual chemistry out of extended flirtation with a gigantic furry "U," but mostly ended up coming off like a bad memory of a Wonder Showzen sketch.

12. Lukas Graham, "You're Not There" / "7 Years"

To summarize: Lukas Graham performed a song that wasn't "7 Years," and then performed a song that was "7 Years," and it might be the last time you hear either for a while. Credit to the band's namesake for rocking the loose-fit jeans on international TV, in any event.

11. Afrojack, "Used to Have It" / "Gone" / "Hey"

Afrojack gets the honorary hometown performer slot, though it's unlikely that even the Netherlands natives in attendance could've named any two of the three songs the DJ performed. Getting a marching band was pretty cool, but actually having guest rapper Ty Dolla $ign in attendance would've been much cooler.

10. OneRepublic, "Let's Hurt Tonight"

Ryan Tedder & Co. certainly brought the rains for their water-logged performance, earning them points for sheer physical commitment, if nothing else. Hard not to think the alt-dance euphoria of "Kids" might've made for more of a crowd-pleaser than this Mumford-y ballad of emotional masochism.

9. Shawn Mendes, "Mercy"

The former Billboard cover star began his latest single as a solo piano ballad, before a swelling backing band (and the trapezoidal laser-light show occurring directly above him) blasted the thing into near-EDM territory. Professional stuff from Shawn Mendes, but it's kinda hard to get past how the song is basically "Treat You Better" redux -- which was, in turn, basically "Stitches" redux.

8. Kings of Leon, "Waste a Moment"

A pretty good performance of a pretty good song, but has any band ever seemed to take less joy out of being rock stars than Kings of Leon? Every television performance seems like a gritted-teeth countdown until they can get back to their emergency whiskey stash in the dressing room.

7. Zara Larsson, "Lush Life" / "Ain't My Fault"

Playing two of the best pop songs of 2016 yet to escape the lower half of Billboard's Hot 100, Zara Larsson's performance wasn't quite as incendiary as the flames shooting off underneath her would have you believe, but it was pretty hot nonetheless. The Swedish Larsson's use of predominantly black backup dancers may read as a little questionable -- particularly in an award show without a single rapper besides G-Eazy on the bill -- but at least it wasn't as bad as Bebe Rexha's earlier attempts at twerking, anyway.

6. Green Day, "Bang Bang"

Introduced by Bebe Rexha as the Biggest Punk Band in the World -- close enough -- Green Day mostly lived up to the billing with an appropriately riotous performance (set against a countdown clock, presumably borrowed from Madonna's "4 Minutes" video) that carried the urgency of a band who just lost a Best Live award to Twenty One Pilots. Or maybe anything vaguely punk just seems to carry extra heft two days before the election, it's hard to tell.

5. Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha, "In the Name of Love"

Giving Bebe and Martin their Justin and Skrillex moment, the duo delivered their EDM crossover hit with a mostly analog performance, Garrix eschewing the decks to accompany Rexha on guitar out in front. It works better than you expect, largely thanks to Rexha's powerhouse vocal performance, though no one's gonna be clamoring to hear from Garrix's screamo band anytime soon.

4. DNCE, "Body Work" / "Cake By the Ocean"

Playing on an elevated set -- what Kanye hath wrought -- the Joe Jonas-led funk-pop quartet started off with a blistering performance of their latest single, before segueing into their trademark hit. Nothing revelatory, but undoubtedly high-energy, and probably will go a decent way to convincing viewers of DNCE's Real Bandness.

3. The Weeknd, "Starboy"

Emerging from underneath what appeared to be half of an interstellar golf ball, The Weeknd may have delivered the most exciting performance of the night, if only because it was of the most exciting song of the night. Could've used some more Bowie vibes, though, or a Daft Punk appearance -- even two dudes selected at random from the audience to have robot helmets plopped on 'em would've been something.

2. Bruno Mars, "24K Magic"

Bruno Mars transported his swag from the G-funk era of the music video to the boy-band half of the '90s for his performance tonight, with he and his performers dressing in separate Clinton-era throwbacks (Tommy Hilfiger! Joe Carter-era Blue Jays unis!) but moving as one across the EMAs stage. More convincing than the video, without trying nearly so hard.

1. Green Day, "American Idiot"

A stellar performance of one of this century's most inarguable future-classic-rock entries, complete with fake ending and more timeliness than any of us watching will be able to stand for another 48 hours. The little "subliminal mind-Trump America" maybe not have been totally necessary, but smoke 'em if you got 'em at this point.


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