Rihanna Opens American Music Awards With Island Flavor

Loud singer belts 'Love the Way You Lie Part II,' 'What's My Name?' and 'Only Girl in the World,' in nine-minute long set.

Days after dropping her fifth disc, Loud, Rihanna made a flamboyant statement at the American Music Awards on Sunday night (November 21).

Although the Barbadian singer, who was also nominated for Favorite Female Artist, recently admitted to MTV News that kicking off the show “is a lot of pressure,” the flame-haired songstress handled awards-show opening duties with aplomb and her typical sassy energy.

The singer opened the performance a cappella with “Love the Way You Lie Part II,” perched on a stylized tree hovering above a field of sable-colored blades of grass. After plummeting from the “tree,” which was actually a glowing spiked set piece, she emerged from plumes of fog and busted into “What’s My Name?” A lightning-quick costume change revealed her in a black-and-white bra top and boy shorts, her red hair twisted into tight curls as she gyrated to the beat of the calypso-tinged jam. She belted the track solo until dancers in fringed skirts invaded the stage for a dancehall–themed breakdown.

Rihanna then kicked up the island theme, as drummers pounded away and more dancers rocking tribal-themed garb hit the stage for “Only Girl in the World.” The drummers encircled the Ri and the strobe lights kicked on as she rocked the bridge, jamming alongside the musicians with sultry abandon. Flames shot up from the back of the set as about a dozen dancers helped her wrap up the high-energy, cross-cultural performance. All the characters left the stage to allow Rihanna to return to the large spiky set-piece and end as she began, crooning the final notes solo. The star-packed audience rose for a standing ovation.

While Rihanna is still in her early twenties, the songbird is five albums deep into her superstar career. Even with a towering stack of hits behind her the Loud singer has said she’s amped to unleash her latest effort, which she pegs as a collection of tracks that really sum up what she’s all about.

“I can’t believe it’s the fifth album already,” she told the BBC in October. “That’s insane to think about. … I’ve never been this excited about anything I’ve done creatively, and this is just the perfect Rihanna album: Every song is tailored to me.”

She also wanted the record to reflect her signature style, not just crank out standard-issue pop jams.

“I wanted songs that were all Rihanna songs that nobody else could do. I didn’t want the generic pop record that Ke$ha or Lady Gaga or Katy Perry could just do and it’ll work. I wanted a song, or songs, that were Rihanna songs, that only I could do, had that little West Indian vibe to it, had that certain tone, a certain sass and a certain energy.”

What did you think of Rihanna’s performance at the AMAs? Let us know in the comments!