Over the years, the most influential and celebrated artists in music history have graced the American Music Awards stage to perform their biggest hits. Founded by Dick Clark in 1973, the AMAs are the world’s biggest fan-voted award show. Everyone from Aretha Franklin to Britney Spears has hosted, and Michael Jackson holds the record of most AMA wins by an artist.
The 46th annual show, hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross, will feature performances by Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and many more. Panic! At The Disco will pay tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
To celebrate the 2018 event, which will air live tonight at 8 p.m. EST on ABC, we rounded up 10 memorable performances from the AMAs over the years.
In 1985, the world experienced a “revolution” in music, and we’re obviously referring to Prince, who had recently released his now iconic 1984 album, song and film of the same name, “Purple Rain.”
Prince spent a lot of time on stage that evening, picking up several awards, and delivering a performance that exemplified an artist who would leave his mark on the world.
During his acceptance speech for Favorite Pop Album, a humbled Prince said, “for all of us, life is death without adventure, and adventure only comes to those who are willing to be daring and take chances.”
In 1992, “The Bodyguard” soundtrack was the number one album in the country.
When Whitney Houston performed a powerful rendition of “I Have Nothing” at the AMAs in 1994, one has to wonder if it was difficult for her to disconnect from her “Bodyguard” character Rachel Marron at that moment in time. Houston was the big winner that night, taking home eight awards.
Houston will forever be remembered for her undeniable talent, the passion she poured into her music, and how she made every note that she sang seem effortless.
In 2000, the popular boy band *NSYNC brought their hit single “Bye Bye Bye,” from their chart-topping album “No Strings Attached,” to life. You have to give the boys credit for truly committing to the theme of their album. Not only did larger-than-life puppets of each member appear onstage to the tune of “Pinocchio” classic “I’ve Got No Strings,” a snippet of their song “No Strings Attached” plays as the boys rise up to stage from below, and break into action.
In 2005, Jay-Z signed a then-unknown Rihanna to his record label, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 2007, the two joined forces on what would become her second No. 1 single, “Umbrella,” and she performed the fan favorite during her first ever AMAs performance. Rihanna enchanted the crowd with her powerful vocals backed by an orchestra, and then segued into a duet with Ne-Yo on their hit song, “Hate That I Love You.”
You simply cannot have a memorable AMAs performances list without Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” anthem on it. In this supercharged performance of her number one single, Queen Bey calls out “single ladies, where you at? Put your hands up!” at which point the crowd goes wild. Although the performance closely mirrors the music video, Bey’s titanium roboglove is noticeably missing.
In 2009, Lady Gaga reissued her debut album as “The Fame Monster” and acquired a world of little monsters in the process. During her first AMAs performance, she proved that she’s an entertainer in every sense of the word.
By 2009, Janet Jackson was already an AMAs veteran — her first nomination and win was in 1987, and her work only continued to blossom. Jackson is known for giving fans what they want: a medley of her career-spanning hits. During her performance, she ran through several songs, including “Control,” “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” “Miss You Much,” “If,” “Make Me,” and “Together Again.”
With her “Hannah Montana” days behind her, Miley Cyrus truly “came in like a wrecking ball” in 2013 with her number one single. During her performance, the singer showed off her raw vocal talent while a digitally animated cat mouthed the words on the screen behind her.
Swifties know that 2014 was a year for their girl. For starters, Swift dropped the massively successful album “1989,” which won Favorite Pop/Rock Album the following year. She also opened the 2014 show with the world premiere performance of her chart-topper, “Blank Space,” and the theatrical performance incorporated several creative aspects from her record-breaking music video. The following year, “Blank Space” also won AMA Song of the Year.
America loves a good comeback story, and in 2015 Justin Bieber asked for forgiveness by closing the AMAs with a medley of hit songs off his album “Purpose.” His performance also included getting drenched with rain — a metaphor for being cleansed of his sins — and by the end, he was more emotional than he’d been in some time.