The 2017 MTV EMAs went down Sunday (Nov. 12) night in London, with Rita Ora hosting and an eclectic slew of artists performing. Here’s our ranking of all the performances, from worst to best.
14. French Montana and Swae Lee
French Montana brought Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee and a massive troupe of dancers to the EMAs for “Unforgettable,” but unfortunately, the performance didn’t really live up to the song title, seeming a bit rote.
13. David Guetta, Charli XCX and French Montana
The superstar DJ didn’t really do a lot of deejaying at the EMAs, focusing more on handclapping than the boards during “Dirty Sexy Money.” French Montana popped up for a second and Charli XCX sounded great, but in the history of Charli XCX hooks, the one for this song is far from her most memorable.
The live broadcast cut to Trafalgar Square for U2 to perform its new song “Get Out Of Your Own Way” from upcoming album Songs of Experience. Bono’s voice was on point as always, but the song was a bit sleepy and repetitive for the otherwise high-energy night of performances.
11. The Killers
The Killers are a reliable live act, but Brandon Flowers’ vocals seemed a bit lost in the mix during their EMAs performance. And it didn’t help that single “The Man” is… not one of their best efforts.
10. Clean Bandit, Zara Larsson, Julia Michaels and Anne-Marie
Clean Bandit brought Julia Michaels, Zara Larsson and Anne-Marie to the EMAs — as well as an orchestra wearing weird bird-nose masks. The medley of “I Miss You,” “Symphony” and “Rockabye” was solid, a straight down-the-middle performance.
9. Rita Ora
Rita Ora pulled double duty at the 2017 EMAs, hosting the awards show as well as performing not one but two songs, “Your Song” and “Anywhere.” Her voice was in fine form and her color-coordinated backup dancers were a nice visual choice, especially at the end when the bird’s eye view showed them circling her like a moving color wheel.
8. Liam Payne
He used to be in 1D, now he’s free. He’s also proven himself to be an able solo performer, delivering a visually arresting performance of debut solo single “Strip That Down” and proving he doesn’t need his bandmates to command the stage.
7. Eminem and Skylar Grey
Eminem — who was understandably surprised to win an EMA despite releasing just one song in the last year — opened the 2017 MTV EMAs with his surprise Beyonce collab “Walk on Water.” Queen B wasn’t in the house, but frequent collaborator Skylar Grey handled the hook in her stead and sounded fantastic filling in. If the studio version of the song underwhelmed, the live performance was an impressive showing for the new Em track.
Wearing a shimmery poncho over her now-signature nudie suit, Kesha belted Rainbow highlight “Learn to Let Go” with a wig-flipping furiousness. The moment toward the end where a rainbow river of light flooded the stage as her backup dancers, lying down, appeared to swim up against its current was an especially memorable touch.
5. Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato brought her impressive vocal acrobatics to the 2017 MTV EMAs, delivering her hit single “Sorry Not Sorry” as well as the title track of her new album, “Tell Me You Love Me,” and shooting off a few knockout, soulful vocal runs in the process.
4. Travis Scott
Performing atop a massive moving robotic falcon, Travis Scott injected a much-needed freshness to the lagging EMAs 90 minutes into the show. Rapping “Butterfly Effect” atop the animatronic bird, Scott stole the second half of the show.
Even though his performance was visually minimalistic, you couldn’t look away from Stormzy’s performance of “Big For Your Boots” — he spit his verses with a fiery dexterity that demonstrated why he’s one of the best British MCs in the game.
2. Shawn Mendes
You might think that a guy with a guitar would get lost in the shuffle of the 2017 EMAs, which was stuffed with eye-popping visuals and sophisticated stage set-ups. But Shawn Mendes really sold “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” strumming furiously and belting the chorus with an enthusiasm and palpable joy.
1. Camila Cabello
Camila Cabello’s performance of her Billboard Hot 100 No. 2 hit “Havana” was as irresistible as the song itself. She unfurled a multi-part stage show wrapping with a Busby Berkeley-esque bird’s eye view of backup dancers in swimwear moving in synchronization on top of a stage done up to look like a swimming pool. Her red ruffled bodysuit was a nice offbeat choice, and her vocals impressed as always.