But as anyone watching the show will tell you, the actual awards ended up taking a backseat to the night's many performers, who incited Twitter trends and plenty of head-scratching as the evening wore on.
In case you were watching The Walking Dead or Sunday Night Football, here's what had us asking, "What just happened?"
Katy Perry's Geisha ensemble
Like Madonna before her, who donned a similar costume at the 1999 Grammy Awards, Perry kicked off the show in full-on geisha attire, complete with kimono, makeup and parasol, causing the Twitter-verse to again ask if it's ever really okay when Americans don the traditional get-ups of other cultures for entertainment sake?
Pitbull owns the night
Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP
Lady Gaga and R. Kelly team up for a presidential "Do What U Want"
The ARTPOP promotion may well be remembered as the moment Lady Gaga gave in to her inner Broadway diva once and for all. For her AMAs performance of "Do What U Want," Gaga assumed the role of a humble White House secretary, used and abused by President R. Kelly. (Those are three words we've wanted to type for a long time.) A JFK-Marilyn riff? A race-flipped Scandal homage? Whatever it was, it was the most wildly inventive performance of the night.
Bill Maher presents Rihanna with the first ever AMA Icon Award
JT snaps back at Sarah Silverman
TLC gets a new L
More than a decade after the death of Left Eye, the remaining members of TLC – Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas – took to the stage to perform "Waterfalls" with Lil Mama filling in. But even after all this time, the move still felt too soon.
Miley Cyrus's cat backdrop
Just when we thought we couldn't see Cyrus do anything stranger than twerk, she performed "Wrecking Ball" alongside the image of an animated, lip-syncing cat. Ironically, the star has said in the past her tears in the song's music video were caused by the death of her dog, Lila. The source of her animated cat's tears remain unknown.