Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber were amply rewarded for launching one of the biggest singles in Latin crossover history with their uber-smash remix of "Despacito," which won Favorite Song Pop/Rock and Collaboration of the year.
The night of incredible performances began with a touching tribute to the first responders and heroes who've helped the nation weather a year of disasters, from flood and hurricanes to mass shootings, with Pink and Kelly Clarkson teaming up for the first time to perform R.E.M.'s iconic "Everybody Hurts." From host Tracee Ellis Ross' inspiring, funny opening monologue to Demi Lovato's woman-power-fueled "Sorry Not Sorry," the night frequently shone a spotlight on the power of strong women's voices.
Other performers included Nick Jonas, Hailee Steinfeld with Alesso and Florida Georgia Line, Shawn Mendes, Macklemore and Skylar Grey, Portugal. The Man, Zedd with Alessia Cara, Khalid & Imagine Dragons, Lady Gaga, a high-flying solo performance from Pink, Niall Horan, Clarkson, a medley from lifetime achievement honoree Diana Ross and the scream-inducing AMA debut of K-pop superstars BTS. The show also featured the TV debut of Selena Gomez and Marshmello's "Wolves," and Christina Aguilera's thrilling tribute to the 25th anniversary of Whitney Houston's soundtrack for The Bodyguard.
Before crushing it with Khalid during a confetti-blasted performance, Imagine Dragons took the first award of the night for Favorite Duo or Group Pop/Rock for their song "Thunder," with singer Dan Reynolds urging folks to unite and shouting out strong women and the LGBTQ community. "Peace, love equality for all!" Reynolds said.
Though he wasn't on hand to accept, Mars checked in from the back seat of a minivan to collect his Artist of the Year honor. Following in the footsteps of his former 1D bandmate Zayn, Niall Horan won New Artist of the Year trophy, while Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Song went to DJ Khaled's gang smash "I'm the One," Drake scored Favorite Artist Rap/Hip-Hop and Kendrick Lamar's DAMN nabbed Favorite Album Rap/Hip-Hop.
The Chainsmokers were handed Favorite EDM artist, Shawn Mendes earned Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist and Carrie Underwood took Favorite Female Artist Country. Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist went to Lady Gaga, who accepted the award from the stage of her show in Washington, D.C., sharing the honor with some her Little Monsters. "You fight like hell for what you believe in," she said of anyone who feels different or misunderstood. An on-tour Fonsi dedicated his win to his storm-ravaged home Puerto Rico.
In one of the show's more touching moments, three members of Linkin Park took the stage to accept the trophy for Favorite Alternative Artist. Missing, of course, was late lead singer Chester Bennington, who died in July at age 41. "We want to dedicate this award to him, to his memory, to his talent, to his sense of humor, to his joy," Mike Shinoda said of Bennington. "And remember you guys, all of your tonight whether you're a fan or an artist, I want you guys to take a moment to appreciate what you've got and make Chester proud."
Other winners included Little Big Town for Favorite Duo or Group Country, Beyoncé for Favorite Female Artist Soul/R&B, Coldplay for Favorite Tour of the Year, Shakira for Favorite Artist Latin, the Moana album for Top Soundtrack and Lauren Daigle for Favorite Artist Contemporary Inspirational.