The 2019 American Music Awards were doing double duty on Sunday night. First, they had to honor and award the year’s new music and best artists. But they also took on recapping the past 10 years of music, crowning their artist of the decade, Taylor Swift, and dipping into nostalgia throughout the night. Even the red carpet seemed to feel a little bit like an earlier era. There were the new and decidedly 2019 artists like Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, and Megan Thee Stallion, but there was also Ciara, Christina Aguilera, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers and Green Day.
Swift, who won big at the fan-voted awards show, delivered the ultimate throwback when she performed early songs from her expansive catalog. Initially, it was up in the air whether or not Swift would be able to perform any of her older music all. An ongoing ownership feud between Swift and Scooter Braun, who owns the masters to her first albums, caused a great deal of controversy in the weeks leading up to the awards. After a very public and somewhat ugly debate about the issue, Swift was ultimately given permission to perform classics from her discography. But her performance of ”Love Story” wasn’t the only moment of the night that felt like being transported back into 2010.
There was also a Jonas Brothers performance, and while they were admittedly singing new material, the last time the Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift were sharing a stage together, the Jonas Brothers had bangs and Swift didn’t. The return of the Jonas Brothers, a Disney Channel creation turned into three solo careers, two celebrity marriages, and one reality TV show wasn’t even the most 2010’s part of the evening.
Kesha, who was recently able to start making music again after a years-long legal battle against her former producer and accused abuser Dr. Luke, performed her new single, “Raising Hell” with Big Freedia. She also sang the classic early aughts bop, “Tik Tok,” a song that predates the app of the same name by nearly a decade. Once the opening notes started playing, the entire audience at the AMAs started singing along word for word.
And finally, the show reached heights of nostalgia beyond the 2010s, into the late 1990s. First, Green Day performed. Much like the Jonas Brothers’ performance, it was clear this was part of their return, but it was nonetheless wild to see the punk stylings and spiky hair of a band whose last major album was released in 2009. Then there was a Shania Twain performance that meshed the past and the present. While she was belting out the 1997 hit “I Feel Like a Woman,” Post Malone was going wild in the crowd, dancing to Ms. Twain’s country twang like he was hearing the song for both the first and 1000th time.
In a year when nearly everything is reboots and reflections, it only makes sense that the world’s largest fan-voted based award show is sunk its teeth in the sappy nostalgia we can’t seem to get enough of.