The 2016 MTV EMAs are in the books. The Weeknd, Bruno Mars and a host of other Hot 100 regulars made sure the European edition of the perennially star-studded award show hit just as hard overseas as it did in America just three months earlier.
The EMAs are a different beast from the VMAs, and this year’s show in Rotterdam brought out a decidedly different flavor of pop music. There was more dance, more rock, less hip-hop and much, much more of pop underdogs like Zara Larsson and Bebe Rexha. Did they make the most of their time to shine? Check out our picks for the 2016 EMAs’ best and worst moments.
In 2016, most award shows can be boiled down to two factors: awards won and killer live performances. The Weeknd delivered in both, so Abel Tesfaye demands inclusion in the 2016 EMA highlights. He took home the Best Video prize for his Daft Punk collab “Starboy” and continued to impress with his performance of the same song.
Also representing in the hardware and performance department was Green Day. Out promoting their new album Revolution Radio, the California band rocked out its new single “Bang Bang” before the Rotterdam crowd and closed out the show accepting the Global Icon award and performing its 2004 hit “American Idiot.” Rock bands may not enjoy the stature they did back when Green Day was starting out, but the tight performances from Billie Joe Armstrong and company proved they’ve still got time in the spotlight.
It’s a big month for Bruno Mars. On Nov. 18, the genre-spanning star will release his highly-anticipated new album 24K Magic and before the EMA crowd, its title track was brought to life. Mars and his crew did nothing but build anticipation for the new set of potential smashes.
DNCE is also releasing a new album on Nov. 18. The Joe Jonas-led group isn’t getting quite as much fanfare (it’s only their debut, after all) but their flashy EMA performance gave us plenty of reasons to stay tuned. We all know “Cake By the Ocean” and together with “Body Moves,” the DNCE hits medley proved we’ve got more than a one hit wonder on our hands.
Bebe Rexha hosted the show and for the up-and-coming American artist, that in itself was a triumph. Sure, it’s not the VMAs, but presiding over one of pop’s major award shows is a daunting task, and Rexha held it down. You might’ve lost count, but she worked 15 costume changes into her evening, which also featured a performance of her own “I’ve Got U”… which unfortunately brings us into our not-so-good moments.
If you’ve watched Sesame Street over the past 30 years, you (U?) might’ve noticed an uneasy similarity in Rexha’s performance:
What was up with the overall lack of hip-hop? We understand that award shows are at the mercy of who can show up, but how can one in 2016 have so little? We had projected Ty Dolla $ign, a brief G-Eazy spot and… at least the Weeknd’s music is hip-hop adjacent?
In terms of contemporary 2016 pop music, dance music received much more attention, but not necessarily for the better. What was up with the “Dutch DJ competition” skit? The EMAs’ attempt at humor was admirable, but the subject matter was precariously stuck in 2011. And especially in their home country — Afrojack, Tiesto and Martin Garrix are indeed from the Netherlands and are well-versed in dropping the bass, but the EMAs’ sketch struggled to find reason to make us laugh at this.