So what if the big closing number of the 40th Anniversary edition of the American Music Awards was a song sung in Korean, and the big winner was Canadian? The fan-voted awards show, which aired Sunday night on ABC, still managed to pack a year's worth of hit songs in every genre into one blowout, three-hour telecast.
Justin Bieber was the night's big winner, in more ways than one. He took home the most prestigious award, Artist of the Year, as well as two additional trophies: Favorite Pop/Male Artist and Favorite Pop/Rock Album. He also performed two songs -- "As Long as You Love Me" and "Beauty & a Beat" -- and saw Carly Rae Jepsen, the fellow Canadian whose career he boosted to the top of the charts this past year, score her first major award for Favorite New Artist of the Year. On top of that, Justin's mentor, Usher , opened the show and took home his 8th AMA, for Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist.
At the podium for the first time, a defiant Justin announced, "This is for all the haters who thought that I was just here for maybe one or two years. I feel like I'm gonna be here for a very long time." At the end of the evening, the overwhelmed singer brought his date for the night, his mom Patti , up onstage, and told his fans, "As long as you guys keep believing in me, I will always make you proud."
Nicki Minaj, Justin's duet partner on "Beauty & a Beat," also had a good night, taking home two awards: Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop album for Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded . The rapper and newly-minted American Idol judge thanked her fans, who she calls "Barbz," saying, "You are so passionate and so inspiring. Thank you so much for voting your little fingers off. I could just eat you and kiss you and love you and hug you."
Some of music's biggest names won in categories that weren't announced on camera. Beyonce was named Favorite Female Soul R&B Artist, while Katy Perry was named Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist. Rihanna took the Favorite Soul/R&B Album for Talk that Talk . Adele was named Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist, while Maroon 5 won Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group. None of those artists were in the house, as it happened.
In the one rock category of the night, Linkin Park won Favorite Alternative Rock Artist for the fifth time. In the country categories, Taylor Swift was named Favorite Female for the fifth time, -- her 11th AMA overall. Carrie Underwood won Favorite Country Album for the fourth time for her current disc Blown Away. Every album she's ever released has won that award. Luke Bryan was a surprise winner for Favorite Country Male Artist, while Lady Antebellum three-peated in the Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group category.
Because it was the 40th Anniversary of the American Music Awards, the show's long history was celebrated through the night with a few classic clips here and there, including some 1975 footage of Michael Jackson and little Janet Jackson together, and a montage of Whitney Houston wins. In addition, Ryan Seacrest introduced a tribute to the late Dick Clark, creator of the American Music Awards. "Dick Clark loved the power of music and its ability to create pure joy," he told the audience, before bringing on Clark's friend of 49 years, Stevie Wonder . The music legend performed three of his hits -- "Master Blaster (Jammin')," "My Cherie Amour" and "Sir Duke" -- while a montage of Clark photos was shown behind him.
But there wasn't too much looking back, since the American Music Awards are all about what's happening right now this second in music. Here's a rundown of the performances, which were all over-the-top, with massive production values:
-Usher opened the show with a medley of three songs -- "Numb," "Climax" and "Can't Stop Won't Stop," while surrounded by lasers and many backup dancers.
-Carly Rae Jepsen did a medley of "This Kiss" and "Call Me Maybe," and descended from the ceiling in an old-fashioned British telephone booth.
-The Wanted sang their new single "I Found You" while standing in five individual frames with flames behind them, and dancers performing in front of them.
-Kelly Clarkson celebrated her new greatest hits album with a medley of her big singles. She started with "Miss Independent," which she sang while wearing an audition number, in front of silhouettes of three judges, noting her American Idol beginnings. Then she segued into "Since U Been Gone," "Stronger" and her new single, "Catch My Breath."
-Ke$ha gave a tribal-themed performance of "Die Young," backed by dancers wearing skull faces, and lots of drum pounding and choreography.
-Taylor Swift's performance of "I Knew You Were Trouble" was incredibly elaborate. The stage was designed to look like an elegant old-fashioned ballroom, and Taylor was escorted down a grand staircase while wearing a white gown and sparkly cowboy books by a masked man in a military coat. She sang as the other "guests" at the ball, all of whom were wearing masks, danced around her, and then, her white dress was ripped off, revealing a red bodice and black skirt -- perhaps a metaphor for Taylor's loss of innocence after getting involved with the guy who was "trouble."
-Nicki Minaj sang "Freedom" wearing white fur, standing in a winter scene with frozen trees. By the end of the song, snow was falling down and she was joined by an entire choir.
-Pink's performance of "Try" was astonishing: she sang the song while performing a complicated, physical and sometimes brutal dance with a male partner on a set that looked like a run-down hotel room. Glass shattered, flames burned everywhere and Pink was upside down, on the floor, on a bed...everywhere.
--Justin Bieber performed "As Long as You Love Me" acoustically, and it was difficult not to imagine he was thinking of his ex Selena Gomez as he sang the impassioned lyrics. His performance of "Beauty & a Beat" with Nicki was upbeat, with lots of choreography and a big set with video screens.
--Christina Aguilera sang a medley of songs from her new album, Lotus , surrounded by dancers and drag queens, some of whom wore bags on their heads with words like "Pig," "Loser," "Weird" and "Fake." Her performance was immediately followed by Pitbull performing "Don't Stop the Party," and then Christina joined him at the end for their collaboration "Feel this Moment," from his new album Global Warming.
-No Doubt sang "Looking Hot," and Gwen Stefani certainly was.
-Linkin Park sang "Burn It Down"
-Carrie Underwood gave a dramatic performance of "Two Black Cadillacs"
-Swizz Beatz performed a frenetic version of "Everyday Birthday" with Chris Brown , Ludacris and what looked like a hundred dancers onstage.
-South Korean rapper PSY closed the show with "Gangnam Style," and he was joined by a surprise guest -- MC Hammer , of all people -- as the song turned into a mash-up of "Gangnam Style" and "Too Legit 2 Quit."
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