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The 10 Best Award Show Performances of 2017: Critics' Picks

Pink
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Pink performs on the side of the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE during the 2017 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Nob. 16, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Award shows serve primarily as an opportunity to recognize artists for their monumental achievements in any given year, but they also make a great platform to flex their abilities as live performers.

The best award show performances of 2017 didn't follow a specific pattern -- some brought top-dollar production to the stage, while others allowed the songs alone to carry their performances. From tributes to funk and country legends to feats of incredible physical dexterity, here are Billboard's 10 favorite award show performances of 2017. 

10. Little Big Town & Jimmy Webb, "Wichita Lineman" (CMA Awards)

Little Big Town didn’t need to dispense any visual fireworks during their heartfelt tribute to late country legend Glen Campbell; they simply let the timeless melodic beauty of “Wichita Lineman” speak for itself. The quartet remained planted behind their microphone stands and sang reverently, their rich, four-part harmonies rising atop a delicate piano accompaniment courtesy of the song’s original author, Jimmy Webb. The performance served as a tender send-off from one of Campbell’s closest songwriting partners and a group of artists he undoubtedly inspired.

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9. Missy Elliott, "She's a Bitch" (VH1 Hip-Hop Honors)

Missy Elliott has done more than enough to establish herself as a hip-hop legend since her emergence on the scene over 20 years ago; she never fails to surprise with her performance style or her style of dress. Her appearance at this year's Vh1 Hip-Hop Honors was no different: Sporting a silver alien dominatrix look, Elliott flawlessly hyped up the crowd with her rendition of her 1999 hit "She's a Bitch," and proved that she's still got it decades later.

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8. A Tribe Called Quest Medley (Grammys)

?“To all of those people who are pushing people who are in power to represent them: Tonight, we represent you,” Q-Tip told the Staples Center audience during A Tribe Called Quest’s 2017 Grammys performance. The rap legends tore through a powerful medley of “Movin’ Backwards,” “We the People…” and “Award Tour,” unleashing their signature funk flex and political overtones without sacrificing their anthemic quality. By dedicating the performance to their fallen brother Phife Dawg and welcoming Anderson .Paak to join them behind the drums, A Tribe Called Quest looked reverently to the fast while also passing the torch to the stars of the future.

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7. Camila Cabello, "Havana" (MTV Europe Music Awards)

?Camila Cabello has made quite a solo name for herself this year following her exit from Fifth Harmony at the end of 2016. Most recently, she released "Havana," a love letter to her Cuban homeland that serves as the lead single from her upcoming self-titled solo debut. Cabello performed the slow-burning Latin-influenced track in an elaborately staged, stunningly choreographed rendition at the MTV European Music Awards in November, proving that her talent has only grown since breaking out on her own. 

6. New Edition Medley (BET Awards)

During their 2017 BET Awards performance, New Edition proved why they rocketed to fame more than 30 years ago, racing through a medley of hits that demonstrated their expert choreography, pop sensibilities and irresistibly soulful vocals. As if that weren’t enough, the veteran R&B sextet then welcomed the cast of their biopic miniseries The New Edition Story to the stage to perform with them. Yes, you read that right: the new edition of New Edition performed with the old edition of New Edition. Try not to think too hard and just enjoy.

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5. ?Logic feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid, "1-800-273-8255" (MTV Video Music Awards)

Bounding across a stage adorned with the digits to his smash single, “1-800-273-8255,” Logic deftly led the crowd in a singalong to the infectious chorus as a string ensemble played behind him. The rapper could’ve carried the song alone with his dexterous flow, but Alessia Cara provided a healthy change of pace with a brisk, tuneful cameo, while burgeoning teenage star Khalid took the stage for a cathartic verse of his own, flanked by men and women in white shirts adorned with the words “You Are Not Alone.” “Thank you all so much for giving me a platform to talk about something that mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about,” Logic told the audience, and their applause indicated that his platform will only continue to get bigger.

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4. Diana Ross Medley (American Music Awards) 

?Nowadays, Diana Ross' name seems to be spoken more in hindsight than in the present tense. She's undoubtedly best known for her music in the '60s with The Supremes and her next decade-plus of solo smashes, but in recent years she's opted to hand the Ross spotlight to her daughter, noted actress Tracee Ellis Ross. Ellis Ross hosted this year's American Music Awards, and was the loudest one cheering in the audience upon seeing her mom perform a medley of her greatest hits before receiving a Lifetime Achievement award. Talk about a mother-daughter bond. 

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3. P!nk at the AMAs

?After nearly two decades since her debut, P!nk has solidified her spot among pop royalty for her unapologetic attitude and embracing of all things that scare her -- which, as we recently learned, includes extreme heights. For her performance at this year's AMAs, the pop rock icon scaled the walls of downtown Los Angeles's JW Marriott while delivering a captivating performance of "Beautiful Trauma," the title track off her newest album. The singer has attempted aerial stunts throughout her career, but she admits that her AMAs performance was "by far one of the craziest" things she's ever attempted. 

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2. Kendrick Lamar, "DNA." / "HUMBLE." (MTV Video Music Awards)

Cameras swirled around Kendrick Lamar, perched in the center of the VMAs stage and shrouded in red light, as Geraldo Rivera’s highly publicized denunciation of the rapper played ominously over the speakers. The sound bite kicked off an explosive medley of “DNA.” and “HUMBLE.,” Lamar rapping furiously as martial artists dueled and pillars of fire roared around him. A burly backing band lent the tracks a metallic edge, and as the crowd erupted in applause, it was obvious that Lamar had no reason to be humble anymore.

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1. Bruno Mars, "Let's Go Crazy" (Grammys)

?Bruno Mars is a multifaceted artist who continues to prove his talents every time he performs. At this year's Grammy Awards, the young legend proved to be a worthy artistic descendent of Prince with his tribute performance of "Let's Go Crazy." With a purple sequined suit and white guitar, Mars channeled the late legend's spirit with an electrifying performance that had the entire Staples Center enraptured. We'd like to think that The Purple One himself would be proud. 

<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/209121602" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href="https://vimeo.com/209121602">Bruno Mars Tributo a Prince. Grammys2017</a> from <a href="https://vimeo.com/bmhechos">BrunoM Hechos</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Billboard Year in Music 2017

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