Kelly Rowland defends Chris Brown, tells booing crowd to ‘chill out’ at AMAs ceremony

Kelly Rowland onstage at the 2022 American Music Awards. (Photo: ABC)

Kelly Rowland doesn’t tend to be a very divisive or controversial figure in pop music. But when the Destiny’s Child star found herself in the awkward position of having to accept the Favorite Male R&B Artist trophy on behalf of the absent (and definitely divisive and controversial) Chris Brown at Sunday’s American Music Awards ceremony, she wound up confronting the protesting audience.

A little background here: Brown was not only expected to attend Sunday’s AMAs, but also perform a tribute to another divisive and controversial artist, the late Michael Jackson, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Jackson’s landmark Thriller album. The day before the awards, Brown posted a seven-minute Instagram video — captioned only with “U SERIOUS?” — of him rehearsing an elaborately choreographed medley of Jackson’s “Beat It,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Billie Jean,” and “Thriller,” claiming in the post’s comments that his Jackson tribute had been called off at the last minute. “WOULD’VE been the ama performance but they cancelled me for reasons unknown,” he wrote. (A representative for the AMAs did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.)

So, Brown was a no-show at Sunday’s AMAs, presumably in protest, leaving presenter Rowland to accept his award. When audience members began booing after she announced that Brown had won Favorite Male R&B Artist over Brent Faiyaz, GIVĒON, Lucky Daye, and the Weeknd, she seemed taken aback and even annoyed by the strong reaction.

“Excuse me — chill out,” Rowland scolded, sternly pointing a finger at the rowdy crowd. She then continued: “But I wanted to tell Chris, thank you so much for making great R&B music. And I want to tell him thank you for being an incredible performer. I’ll take this award, bring it to you. I love you. Congratulations. And congratulations to all the nominees in this category.”

Among the highlights of the 2022 American Music Awards ceremony, held Sunday, Nov. 20 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, were Pink’s roller-skating opening number and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” tribute to Olivia Newton-John; Favorite Female Latin Artist winner Anitta’s duet with surprise guest Missy Elliott on “Lobby”; a powerful performance of Song of Soul winner “Break the Bough” by Americana artist Yola; and the emotional speech by Best New Artist winner Dove Cameron, who is bisexual, in which she dedicated her award to the “queer community at large” and honored victims of this weekend’s shooting at LGBTQ+ Colorado nightspot Club Q.

The ceremony climaxed with Lionel Richie being presented with the lifetime-achievement Icon Award by Smokey Robinson, after which Stevie Wonder and Charlie Puth performed a Richie medley and were joined by Ari Lennox, Muni Long, Melissa Etheridge, Jimmie Allen, Yola, Robinson, and Richie himself for a sentimental performance of “We Are the World,” which Richie wrote in 1985 with the above-mentioned Jackson.

The night’s big winner was Taylor Swift, who swept all six of her categories, including Artist of the Year and Album of the Year — thus breaking her own AMAs record and bringing her total wins tally to 40. For a full list of 2022 American Music Awards winners, click here.

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