The melding of two pop music eccentrics produced more weirdness Sunday as Lady Gaga and R. Kelly expanded their song “Do What U Want” into a little story at the American Music Awards.
After the “Saturday Night Live” performance where Kells toted her around like a gunnysack and did pushups atop her prone self, Gaga borrowed from her duet partner’s playbook to structure the song around bizarre spoken vignettes, “Trapped in the Closet” style.
The Chicago R&B star played, of all things, the president, demanding lunch from his secretary in the Marilyn Monroe wig. What is he hungry for? “I want that Italian!” he said to the former Stefani Germanotta. “I want that Italian! I want that Italian!”
And feast on her he did, as the music swelled and Gaga dashed to his prefab Oval Office, sang the salacious lyrics and acted out a tawdry assignation as dancers followed her moves. After a while of that, Kelly barked a line worthy of Sylvester and Rufus: “Who put these pictures on Instagram??!!” And our little play continued with a reporter badgering the Crooner in Chief until he stormed off, leaving Gaga to wrap it up.
It was the oddest display in a night of stupefying spectacle, perhaps meant to make us forget the inconsequential awards and boring speeches:
- Miley Cyrus, modestly attired by her standards, sang “Wrecking Ball” while zooming through space next to a giant kitten echoing the lyrics word for word. And they say cats are untrainable.
- Countrified mashups were a theme of the night. Line dancers swirled during Pitbull and Rihanna’s “Timber” duet, and Florida Georgia Line’s performance of “Cruise” with featured artist Nelly segued into the rapper’s signature song “Ride Wit’ Me,” a.k.a. the Honey Nut Cheerios jingle. “Cruise” went on to win single of the year.
- Perhaps the most adored figure of the night was the least famous: Rihanna’s mother, Monica Fenty, who spoke haltingly but lovingly as she presented an Icon Award to her daughter. Accepting a trophy minutes later, Justin Timberlake was moved to remark, “Can we talk about how cute Rihanna’s mom is?”
- First-time host Pitball joked that AMA stood for “A Miracle, America,” that he got this job. While not all that funny, he was an engaging presence throughout, keeping things moving with poise and polish.
In other news … Taylor Swift was Kanye-free.