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A Fountain of Youth at the American Music Awards : Pop Music: Milli Vanilli, New Kids on the Block, Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson win a popularity contest.

January 24, 1990|DENNIS HUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For most of the time on Monday at the Shrine Auditorium, the 17th annual American Music Awards ceremony seemed like a teen version of the Grammys.

It's not that all the winners were teen-agers (only New Kids on the Block qualified there), but they were mostly favorites of teens.

The youthful onslaught was dominated by Milli Vanilli, the European dance-music duo that won three awards and drew loud shrieks from the legions of teen-age fans in the audience each time they walked on stage.

"This is for East Germany and West Germany," Milli Vanilli's Rob Pilatus, who grew up in West Germany, said in an acceptance speech.

Also drawing screams from the same contingent: young soul sensation Bobby Brown, dance divas Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson, rap hipster Tone Loc and the group New Kids on the Block.

Don't expect to find many of these artists heading for the podium next month when the Grammy ceremonies are held in the same auditorium.

Where the Grammys are designed to salute artistic excellence in music, the American Music Awards is strictly a made-for-television popularity contest. The awards are based on the results of a national survey of 20,000 music fans.

But that distinction didn't seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the winners.

"This award means a lot to me," an excited Bobby Brown, 20, said backstage after the first of his two awards--one for pop-rock male vocalist and one for best soul album. "The fans vote for this award. They buy the records. They keep us employed. The fans have spoken."

In this flurry of youthful winners--a contrast with the mostly veteran, fortysomething artists who have been nominated for this year's Grammy awards--relatively youthful performers such as Randy Travis, 30, seemed almost like oldsters Monday.

Even though Travis must have accepted 100 awards at various shows since he became the dominant singer in country music in the late '80s, he still hasn't mastered the art of talking to the press.

Though his triple victory at the Shrine gave him three chances to explain what the awards mean to him, the best he could come up with was, "(The award) lets you know people still care."

Few of the evening's other reaction comments were much better. There's apparently a reason most of the young artists honored Monday are noted for their beats rather than their lyrics.

Offered Abdul, "I'm just a happy girl. It's just been wonderful."

Probably the high point of the evening was Prince's acceptance of an achievement award. His mere presence was notable considering that he rarely shows up at awards shows. He got the biggest applause of the evening.

You could hardly hear his acceptance speech over the roar of the crowd. "Music is like a new friend," said the soft-spoken star. "I tend to try to create something like I've never seen before."

Neil Diamond also received an honorary award for career achievement.

In all, 27 awards were handed out to the most popular artists in six broad categories: dance, pop/rock, soul, country, heavy metal and rap.

Off camera, there were some other notable achievements:

Most makeup: No, it wasn't Janet Jackson or Paula Abdul, who certainly didn't skimp in this department. This award goes to the New Kids on the Block. These guys were powdered to the hilt.

Biggest teen favorite: It was clearly the New Kids, who were mobbed by the fans who wandered around the fringes of the backstage area. Reportedly, fans swarmed all over their limo when they arrived at the Shrine.

Worst-behaved artists: Slash and Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses enhanced their bad-boy image by staggering around backstage, wineglasses in their hands. "But it was fine wine," said Slash. When the pair posed backstage near a podium for photographers, they stumbled backward, nearly knocking over the backdrop.

"Is there a bar back here?" asked Slash as he walked to an area to face the TV cameras.

Biggest entourage: Janet Jackson is the winner. Seven attendants scurried around backstage with her as she met the media. One was a makeup woman who was mopping her brow--she was overheated after a dance number--and touching up her makeup before she faced the TV cameras.

The complete list of winners in the 17th annual American Music Award competition:

POP/ROCK

Male Vocalist: Bobby Brown

Female Vocalist: Paula Abdul

Duo or Group: New Kids on the Block

Single Record: "Girl You Know It's True," Milli Vanilli

Album: "Hangin' Tough," New Kids on the Block

New Artist: Milli Vanilli

SOUL/RHYTHM & BLUES Male Vocalist: Luther Vandross

Female Vocalist: Anita Baker

Duo or Group: The O'Jays

Single Record: "Miss You Much," Janet Jackson

Album: "Don't Be Cruel," Bobby Brown

New Artist: Milli Vanilli

COUNTRY Male Vocalist: Randy Travis

Female Vocalist: Reba McEntire

Duo or Group: Alabama

Single: "Deeper Than a Holler," Randy Travis

Album: "Old 8X10," Randy Travis

New Artist: Clint Black

HEAVY METAL Artist: Guns N' Roses

Album: "Appetite for Destruction," Guns N' Roses

New Artist: Skid Row

RAP Artist: M.C. Hammer

Album: "Let's Get It Started," M.C. Hammer

New Artist: Young M.C.

DANCE Artist: Paula Abdul

Single: "Miss You Much," Janet Jackson

New Artist: Tone Loc

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