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iHeartRadio Music Awards offer predictable thrills and plenty of Taylor Swift

iHeartRadio Music Awards offer predictable thrills and plenty of Taylor Swift
Justin Bieber performs at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on April 3 in Inglewood. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images for iHeartRadio / Turner)

The 2016 iHeartRadio Music Awards skimped on the unpredictable irreverence that makes any of these second-tier telecasts dedicated to peddling out fan-voted awards worth tuning in to.

What Sunday's telecast, taped live from the Forum in Inglewood and broadcast on TBS, offered was three hours of innocuous thrills — and, yes, plenty of Taylor Swift.

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Naturally Swift stole the night, taking home multiple trophies including the night's biggest honor, album of the year for her blockbuster pop coming-out, "1989."

But even when she wasn't onstage, it was all about the singer, with a near-obsessive number of close-up shots throughout the night. Her reacting to host Jason Derulo dancing to her smash "Bad Blood." Her response to Justin Bieber's performance (she barely clapped). Watching in awe as her boyfriend, EDM king Calvin Harris, was named dance artist of the year. And, of course, dancing with her girls. If Swift did something, anything -- even playing with flashing light keychains -- cameras beamed it to the audience of screaming fans.

That's the nature of these sorts of shows, where star power is often substituted for purpose.

Not that Sunday's show was without luster — Meghan Trainor, Iggy Azalea and Demi Lovato were among the performers — but Swift continued her streak as awards show centerpiece, and the night's biggest star never even performed.

Swift was handed the night's first award, female artist of the year, and was honored by Justin Timberlake, who presented her with the inaugural tour award for her blockbuster "1989 World Tour" in a lengthy tribute that not even Bono and the Edge, presented with the innovator award (a quasi lifetime achievement honor) received.

But it wasn't all about Swift.

Bieber opened the show with a medley of tunes from his comeback album, "Purpose," and like Swift he went home with multiple awards, including male artist of the year, fan army and dance song of the year for his Skrillex and Diplo collaboration, "Where Are You Now."

Former One Directioner Zayn made his debut performance on an awards show with a solid showing from his breakout post-1D solo album, "Mind of Mine," which recently debuted at No. 1.

Rising rap star Fetty Wap was named best new artist, which felt odd after his rocky performance, in which he was grossly out of sync with the track he was lip-syncing to as he fumbled with pulling his microphone out of his sweatshirt.

Lovato and country star Brad Paisley teamed up for a surprise collaboration of her single "Stone Cold," and Nile Rodger's reprised Chic's "Le Freak" during DNCE's performance of "Cake by the Ocean"

One of the night's best performances came courtesy of Chris Brown, who delivered a rousing four-song medley of tunes from his latest album. It was a highlight even if his acceptance speech for R&B artist of the year award did little to soften his oft-troubled image.



"I tend to not have a filter sometimes, and I go off on a lot of people," Brown told the audience. "But the music stays the same direction, positive."

For more music news follow me on Twitter: @gerrickkennedy

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