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Hello, Kitty: Ranking the AMAs' 16 Performances

Lyndsey Parker
Yahoo Music

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Miley Cyrus performs at the American Music Awards.

When it comes to the American Music Awards, let's face it: It's all about the performances. And this year's AMAs were no exception. But will anyone be talking about the 15 performances at this Sunday's AMAs that weren't Miley Cyrus dueting with a crying, creepy robot-cat? Let's rank all of the performances and find out...

1. Miley Cyrus
The only duet that received more attention at this year's American Music Awards than Lady Gaga and R. Kelly's (more about them in a bit) was Miley, in a kitty-printed bikini, singing "Wrecking Ball"…with a lip-synching, weeping, animatronic space-cat. If there's anything bigger on the Internets than Miley Cyrus, it's cats — so, basically, the Web exploded during this performance. The tweets, memes, and GIFs came fast, furious, and furry. And that extremely GIFable cat literally got Miley's tongue at the very end of the song. Meow!


2. Lady Gaga & R. Kelly
If there were ever a strong case to be made for R. Kelly shooting about 50 more chapters of "Trapped in the Closet" starring Gaga, it would be their wonderfully wackadoodle performance at the 2013 AMAs. Their recent "SNL" performance of ARTPOP's best track, "Do What U Want," was just a basic disco twerkout, but their AMAs duet had a whole (seemingly JFK/Marilyn, Clinton/Lewinsky-inspired) plot about President Kelly and his torrid affair with a leotarded secretary. It was all very awesome, further proof that Gaga can do whatever she wants.

3. Ariana Grande
How refreshing! An AMAs performer who didn't have to rely on a backing track, yards of exposed skin, or any gimmicky staging to make an impression. This mega-talented Favorite New Artist-winner simply sang — and kept it classy — and she managed to upstage most of the night's pop tarts in the process.

4. Justin Timberlake
Yep, this is what true talent looks like, people. Those impressionable One Direction boys should check out this tour de force by the ex-boy band heartthrob with "The Tennessee Kids," and dream that they can have a career like JT's in 10 years.

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Justin Timberlake performs at the American Music Awards.

5. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
The energy in the room elevated so high the ceiling couldn't hold it, when these AMAs favorites hit the stage for "Can't Hold Us." Macklemore can always be counted on for a rousing performance, and he definitely didn't disappoint Sunday.

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Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform at the American Music Awards.

 

6. A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
How interesting (and awesome) that many of the standout performances of the night just came down to great singing and songwriting. Less proved to be more when Lady Xtina joined buzz band A Great Big World for a tastefully understated piano duet.

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Christina Aguilera performs at the American Music Awards.

7. Jennifer Lopez
Remember when J.Lo fell flat on her ample posterior, literally, when performing "Louboutins" at the 2009 AMAs? Well, she didn't stumble, literally or figuratively, this year. Performing a special tribute to late salsa star Celia Cruz, J.Lo wasn't quite at Celia's level, but she did sing live and dance up a storm, and her performance was one the most colorful and exciting of the night. And that metallic bodysuit? ¡Muy caliente!

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Jennifer Lopez performs at the American Music Awards.


8. One Direction
Wow, was this a surprise unbilled performance by Mumford & Sons? Nope. It was the all-grown-up, cleaned-up-nice, above-mentioned One Direction, warbling their mature, very mom-friendly new single, "Story Of My Life." Looks like this boy band is well on its way to becoming man band. Hey, maybe Harry Styles can become the next Justin Timberlake, after all.

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Harry Styles of One Direction performs at the American Music Awards.

9. Imagine Dragons
Hey kids! Look! Actual guitars! Whoa. Yes, sadly, rock is a rarity on awards shows nowadays; Imagine Dragons had to hold it down for the entire rock genre at this year's AMAs (unless you count the acoustic guitar that Justin Timberlake strummed, or presenters Joan Jett and Dave Grohl). But with copious clouds of dry-ice fog, a roaringly radioactive lead vocal, and a Fleetwood Mac-does-Tusk-style drum solo, the Nevada band definitely rocked it.

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Imagine Dragons performs at the American Music Awards

10. Katy Perry
Katy channeled a little bit of Madonna's "Nothing Really Matters" video (and a lotta a bit of Culture Club's "Miss Me Blind" video) for her Japanese-themed opening performance. It was a lovely way to kick off the show…although the poor stagehand that had to hurriedly sweep away those 100,000 or so cherry-blossom petals might not have thought so.

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Katy Perry performs at the 2013 American Music Awards.

11. Kendrick Lamar
Compton's finest gave a strong, if straightforward, performance of "Swimming Pools," but on a night of great singing and great gimmickry, it was hard for him to float to the top.

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12. Luke Bryan
The king of "bro country" bro'd it out pretty entertainingly during this pleasant performance. If only we'd been eating a catfish dinner while it aired.

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13. Florida Georgia Line & Nelly
Summer is over, but "Cruise" just won't go away. (It even won Favorite Single this year.) Luckily this performance was saved by a fun mashup with Nelly's old hit "Ride Wit Me." Because, come on: "Ride" > "Cruise," any day of the week.

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Nelly performs "Ride Wit Me" alongside Florida Georgia Line at the American Music Awards.

14. Rihanna
RiRi won the Icon Award (bizarrely presented by Bill Maher) for her many years of hard service singing songs other people wrote and posting photos of her behind on Instagram. But her underwhelming performance of the year-old (Sia-penned) single "Diamonds" didn't shine all that bright. Somehow Miss Fenty managed to be totally upstaged by her own mother, who made a cute cameo onstage and was later described as "adorable" by Justin Timberlake.

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15. Pitbull & Ke$ha
Oh, what hath Rednex (or Avicii) wrought? Remember Rednex's "Cotton-Eyed Joe" from 1994? There were shades of that that country-EDM novelty sound in the aforementioned Florida Georgia Line/Nelly duet. Pitbull and Ke$ha continued the trend with their "Timber" performance, complete with Ke$ha rocking Jessica Simpson's old look in a pair of shredded Daisy Dukes. It. Just. Didn't. Work.

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Pitbull and Ke$ha perform at the American Music Awards.

16. TLC & Lil Mama
When word broke out that TLC would be performing their signature song "Waterfalls" with special guest Lil Mama filling in for the late Left Eye, we were ready for a real red light special. But Lil Mama became winded about 10 seconds into the song's rap interlude, and the performance was less a sad celebration of Left Eye's legacy and more just…well, sad. Lil Mama should have stuck to the rivers and the lakes that she's used to.

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