The 2017 MTV EMAs went down this Sunday night (Nov. 12) — well, Sunday afternoon in the States — with Rita Ora as host, and performances from the Eminem, Camila Cabello and French Montana, a
Though Shawn Mendes was the most awarded artist of the night, taking home best artist, biggest fans and best song (the latter for “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back,” which he also performed), we here at Billboard have our own opinions of who the EMAs’ biggest winners and losers were. Here are our picks for the show’s 12 best and worst moments.
BEST: Rita Ora’s costume changes
They kept things interesting, certainly — whether host Ora was dressed in a colorful and glitchy dress that looked like an M.I.A. album cover, or in one that inexplicably had what appeared to be a plastic pitchfork dangling from the front. She had enough of them to do a little mini-runway show late in the event, jokingly advertising them as being available for a very reasonable prince on the Internet.
WORST: Where’s Beyoncé?
No disrespect to pinch-hitter (and songwriter) Skylar Grey, but when an Internet-quaking new superstar collab like Beyonce and Eminem’s “Walk on Water” nearly steals Taylor Swift Day’s thunder, it’s just not the same when only one of the two legends shows up for the song’s live debut.
BEST: Camila’s synchronized swimming
The evening’s most impressive choreography undoubtedly belonged to Camila Cabello’s “Havana” performance, the highlight of which featured a variety of dancers contorting on a stage made to look like a swimming pool from above, before Camila came strutting across it. A cutting-room-floor idea from Eminem’s “Walk on Water” performance, perhaps?
BEST: Tom Morello’s “Mother should I trust the government” t-shirt
Timely — though there’s never a bad time to rep for The Wall, really.
BEST: Eminem’s Best Hip-Hop acceptance speech
If it seemed incongruous to you for Eminem to win a major award in a year where his only official musical release dropped, uh, two days ago (Nov. 10), Marshall himself shares your confusion. “I’m not really sure how I got this, because I haven’t had an album out in a few years,” he offered upon receiving the statue. “I got one coming, though.”
WORST: What about Swae?
Though French Montana got an all-timer’s billing from Rita Ora before his performance of his smash hit “Unforgettable,” neither she nor anyone else bothered to mention that Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd was also in attendance. Pretty rough snub, considering that the Swae-sung hook is easily the most memorable part of the song.
BEST: “I love Jay Leno!”
Most of the jokes made by fictional British rapper MC Grindah (from the BBC Three mockumentary People Just Do Nothing) fell on deaf American ears, but his comment upon meeting Jared Leto — and Leto’s unamused reaction — was inspired enough to translate on both sides of the Atlantic.
WORST: Too much audience participation
Not a bad idea to let the folks at home know about who’s in the building at these award shows, but when you seem to be conducting interviews with an entire audience section as your show’s already starting to run long, it’s not exactly the smoothest cover for whatever must be going terribly wrong backstage.
BEST: Travis Scott’s demonic falcon
Simple enough: If you don’t feel like putting together Camila-level choreography, just perform from a nightmare-inducing metallic falcon with evil red eyes, hanging suspended 25 feet above the stage. Sure made Travis Scott’s “Butterfly Effect” performance more suspenseful than it would have been otherwise.
BEST: Coldplay’s Best Rock acceptance video
Like you’ve never heard the U.K. dream-mopers before: Performing a thrashing rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” with the lyrics changed to “THANK YOU EMAS MTV!” Who would’ve guessed Tom Morello would have such a heavy EMAs presence?
WORST: 30 Seconds to Mars winning Best Alternative
Over Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Lana Del Rey and the xx. Do we really need to point out that Leto & crew don’t even have the year’s most notable “Walk on Water” single at this point?
BEST: The George Michael closing
No time in a two-hour program for the usual spate of award show in-memoriam tributes, so instead the night closed with a flashback to George Michael’s performance of “Freedom ’90” at the first EMAs, letting the late pop great echo out over the closing credits. Couldn’t ask for a much nicer note to end on.