Taylor Swift opened the 2018 American Music Awards with “I Did Something Bad” on Tuesday night (Oct. 9), making it clear from the first note that she did not come to play. Standing with her back to the screaming audience at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles atop a pile of dancers stacked like rocks inside a large metallic U shape, Swift slowly turned and delivered the cutting lines, “I never trust a narcissist/ But they love me,” as she slowly turned around to face the cameras.
With the group of male dancers up on their feet, Swift sang about playing said narcissists like a violin as the men swayed at her command before dropping to the ground again. The ominous opening drew out the song at a snail’s pace as Swift — wearing a sparkly burgundy bodysuit and knee-high black boots — moved center stage, where she was joined by more than a dozen female dancers as the stage exploded into flames and smoke.
Stalking the stage while singing about keeping the upper hand on playboys, Swift also made it clear who’s in charge, commanding a massive stage lit up with flashing red lights and images of intense flames. By the final verse, the troupe of dancers were splayed out on the floor and Swift was confidently singing, “They’re burning all the witches, even if you aren’t one/ They got their pitchforks and proof/ Their receipts and reasons,” repeating the Salem trial warning as an enormous cobra head emerged behind her and she was lifted up on the dancer’s hands.
The fiery opening was Swift’s first awards show performance in nearly three years and the fifth performance on the show overall. The 19-time AMA winner went into the night up against Drake, Imagine Dragons, Post Malone and good friend Ed Sheeran for artist of the year. She’s also facing Sheeran in the tour of the year category as well as, U2, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé and JAY-Z and Sheeran one more time in the favorite album — pop/rock race. Her fourth nomination, for favorite female artist — pop/rock, pits her against Camila Cabello and Cardi B. By night’s end, if she wins three out of four, Swift could be the winningest female artist in AMA history.