The top trending topic to emerge from last night’s American Music Awards was, as is typical for awards shows in 2015, Nicki Minaj. She didn’t say anything controversial; she didn’t give a risqué performance; she won a few trophies and accepted them with smiles and shout-outs. But during Jennifer Lopez’s opening medley, Minaj was captured on camera in the audience giving a look that didn’t seem entirely fawning. The Internet then did what the Internet does, immediately collaborating on a work of metafiction entitled—per Vibe’s headline—“The Internet Thinks Nicki Minaj Wasn’t Pleased With J.Lo’s Performance of ‘Anaconda.’” Swiftly, Minaj dismissed the gossip with the
word of the year crying emoji on Twitter, saying her face was being taken out of context.
I’d go on about this episode as a classic example of the perils of modern pop fans’ hunger for intra-celebrity beef if I didn’t instead want to wonder aloud whether there’s any beef between Alanis Morissette and Demi Lovato. Their performance of “You Oughta Know” is my pick for most memorable moment of the award show because it was a little odd, inscrutable … off, somehow. The AMAs are, of course, not a place for the odd or inscrutable. Its winners are decided by public vote, its focus is unrepentantly mainstream (no jazz legends as respectability boosters, here), and it gives out awards like “New Artist of the Year Presented by Kohl’s” and “Collaboration of the Year Unleashed by T-Mobile.” It is, more than anything, a place where stars can broadcast the pure, uncut versions of the narratives they are trying to spin about themselves.