American Music Awards: Miley Cyrus, a cat and other top moments

Posted at 6:53 AM, Nov 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-25 08:02:39-05

(CNN) -- Sunday night's American Music Awards seemed much tamer than many of the other awards shows lately, despite having the promise of host rapper Pitbull to ABC that "I hope you got that delay button ready; we're going to have a lot of fun."

But there were a few moments during the evening that had viewers buzzing. Here are a few:

1) Justin Timberlake epitomizes "crossover"

We will try not to drop the term "blue-eyed soul" here, but the former 'N Sync member nabbed not only favorite pop/rock male but also favorite soul/R& B male and soul/R& B album awards. Before presenting him with the latter award, comedian Sarah Silverman joked that the competition was between Timberlake, the son of the "dad from Growing Pains" (aka) Robin Thicke and Rihanna.

"Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, I can say this is the first time I have ever been racially profiled by a white woman," Timberlake joked during his acceptance speech.

2) J.Lo pays tribute to Celia Cruz

Jennifer Lopez seemed to embody the spirit of Cuban salsa queen Cruz, who died in 2003. For those who had forgotten that Lopez first got into the business as a dancer, she reminded fans as she also sang a medley of Spanish tunes made famous by Cruz. Add to that the multiple ruffled and fringed costume changes during the number, which also featured a stage full of fellow dancers, and it was a rollicking good time.

3) Lady Gaga and R. Kelly get "Trapped in the Closet"

If you aren't familiar with the rap opera that is R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet," we can't even begin to describe it to you, so get thee to Google. The AMA performance with Gaga on their collaboration "Do What U Want" was definitely reminiscent of that dramatic saga.

It appeared to be a play on the reported John F. Kennedy/Marilyn Monroe romance as Gaga played secretary to his "President Kelly" and stripped down to a spangled bodysuit. The pair sang their dialogue before actually launching into the song that they also so memorably performed on "Saturday Night Live."

It was ... interesting.

4) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis get political

Accepting the award for favorite rap/hip hop album, Macklemore used the opportunity to speak out against racial profiling.

"Due to the fact that we are in Florida tonight accepting this award, I want to acknowledge Trayvon Martin and the hundreds and hundreds of kids who are dying each year due to racial profiling and the violence that follows," the rapper said via satellite. "These are our friends, our neighbors, our peers, our fans, and it's time that we look out for the youth and fight against racism and the laws that protect it."

The pair later rocked the crowd with a rousing performance of "Can't Hold Us" with Ray Dalton.

5) Rihanna's mom presents her with an award

Monica Fenty couldn't have been prouder taking to the stage to give her daughter Rihanna the first-ever Icon Award.

"Rihanna, I'm so proud of you tonight," Fenty said. "I know the journey in your career has not always been an easy one, but tonight I applaud and admire you."

The singer, who performed her hit "Diamonds," seemed awed that she was receiving such an accolade so early in her career.

"My fans, I love you so much; you have no idea," Rihanna said. "I can't believe at 25, I am holding an Icon Award!"

6) Miley Cyrus and her crying cat

What to even say about this one?

By now, Cyrus is known for her outrageous outfits and controversial performances, so the scant cat-print two-piece outfit she rocked during her rendition of "Wrecking Ball" wasn't shocking. But the ginger kitten floating through space on the big screen behind her mouthed the words to the song and began crying what appeared to be diamonds was a bit disconcerting. Oh Miley, what does it all mean?

Honorable mentions should also go to TLC and the show's audience.

TLC brought "special guest" rapper Lil Mama along to perform their classic hit "Waterfalls." She recently portrayed the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in a VH1 biopic about the girl group and her appearance Sunday night left social media speculating whether she would be joining the group to replace Lopes, who was killed in a 2002 car crash.

The audience gets a special moments shout-out because they gave everyone a standing ovation. Literally everyone. At some points, the awards show began to feel like a presidential State of the Union address with so many standing Os.

There were some actual statues handed out during the show.

Taylor Swift set an AMA record with her third win for artist of the year. She also nabbed country artist female and favorite country album for her best-selling "Red." Ariana Grande was named new artist of the year, and Florida Georgia Line won single of the year for their song "Cruise" featuring rapper Nelly.

The American Music Awards was broadcast live on ABC from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

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