Though only eight performers rocked the stage at Sunday’s iHeartRadio Music Awards, it was still more than enough to fill out two hours’ worth of primetime entertainment, starting with Katy Perry tread milling on a giant hamster wheel, and ending with Bruno Mars digging into his back catalog (in track pants!). Here are the night’s eight performances, ranked from worst to best.
- Katy Perry, “Chained to the Rhythm”
Maybe it was exhaustion from the two awards shows (on two continents) at which she’s already performed her new single in the past month, but for her third go with “Chained to the Rhythm,” Katy Perry didn’t quite seem to have it, bringing a slightly lower intensity and sounding pitchy in spots. Still, the set design had its moments — the giant hamster and accompanying wheel being an obvious highlight — and the high-five with Halsey in the crowd was nice.
- Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You” / “Castle on the Hill”
Old hat for Ed at this point — he’s spent most of 2017 performing one or both of these songs at award shows, and though both the loop-built rendition of “Shape” and the full-band run through “Castle” were enjoyable, there wasn’t a ton new to recommend either. Gotta love that peerless Khaled intro, though — next time, let’s have that duo’s Miami adventures played in photo montage behind Sheeran’s performance.
Ed Sheeran performs onstage at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcast live on Turner’s TBS, TNT, and truTV at The Forum on March 5, 2017 in Inglewood, Calif.
- The Chainsmokers feat. Chris Martin, “Paris” / “Something Just Like This”
Of all the multi-song performances of the night, this one made the most sense — neither “Paris” or “Something” feels like quite enough on its own, but as two halves of a whole, it made for one of the night’s more satisfying (if not particularly challenging) performances. Nice of Chris Martin to keep showing up for these things, too, though he always was rock’s quintessential good sport.
- Thomas Rhett, “Star of the Show”
More of an elaborate pop production than country performances usually get at award shows, with Rhett sauntering his way through choreography (not his) and meta-set design on his way from his couch to the stage. Still, the performance mostly worked because of Rhett’s easy affability, making him seem like a star worthy of essentially being country’s sole musical representative at the night’s awards.
- Shawn Mendes, “Mercy”
Not quite worthy of the near-superhero billing given to him by Daya and Bebe Rexha’s intro, but Mendes does seem to get more self-assured at every awards show, and his performance of “Mercy” was certainly among the night’s strongest. Not sure what was going on with that psychedelic set, though.
- Big Sean, “Voices in My Head” / “Bounce Back” / “Moves”
Not the most show-stopping of performances, and the backup dancers that showed up late in the performance actually proved mostly unnecessary, but Sean himself was undeniably winning, keeping his three-song performance moving (semi-pun semi-intended) with impressive energy. Dude just seemed pumped to be there, and there’s certainly something to be said for that.
- Noah Cyrus feat. Labrinth, “Make Me (Cry)”
A little unpolished in delivery — this was Noah Cyrus’ first awards show performance, and the anxiousness definitely showed a little — but still charming in both its instrumental unpredictability and in Cyrus’ impressive pipes, big-upped with no small amount of gushing by big sis Miley before performance’s start. Don’t be surprised if the minor hit becomes a major hit not long after this.
- Bruno Mars, “Treasure” / “That’s What I Like”
Innovator may be something of a stretch for 2010s pop’s finest retro-fitter, but no doubt that whatever the ensemble, Bruno wears it well — including at these awards, where he made his medley of “Treasure” (a throwback at four years old) and new smash “That’s What I Like” work as seamlessly as his jacket-and-track-pants combo. Even if he’s not exactly radio’s first name in pushing things forward, he always makes the present a pretty OK place to be.