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American Music Awards provide plenty of pop

Justin Bieber is one of the night's big stars, as are Carly Rae Jepsen, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift and Pink.

November 18, 2012|By Gerrick D. Kennedy, Los Angeles Times
  • Justin Bieber accepts the award for favorite album, pop/rock, for “Believe” at the American Music Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Justin Bieber accepts the award for favorite album, pop/rock, for “Believe”… (John Shearer, Invision…)

The American Music Awards know their place in the landscape of music-related award shows.

The ceremony doesn't have the prestige of the Grammys or the cheeky irreverence of MTV's Video Music Awards — and certainly not the ratings of either.

PHOTOS: Full results: American Music Awards winners list

But where the show, which aired Sunday evening on ABC, excels is its ability to provide pop spectacle.

Splashy commercials leading into the program featured a simple tagline: "Your playlist goes live." And this is one award show where radio hits — not the trophies — seem to matter most.

"This is for all the haters who thought I'd be here for only one or two years," Justin Bieber declared as he clutched his win for favorite pop/rock male artist. "But I think I'm gonna be for a long time."

Before Bieber became one of the biggest stars on the planet, it was thought his success would wane when puberty hit.

Though the 18-year-old singer went on to be the night's biggest winner, taking home trophies for pop/rock album and the coveted artist of the year award, it was his sheer popularity that took centerstage.

PHOTOS: AMAs: Moments from the show

Each time he appeared, including a superb performance of his latest hits, the screams from the audience at the Nokia Theatre in downtown L.A. drowned out most of what he had to say.

Even Bieber's protégé, Carly Rae Jepsen, benefited from the name association. The singer had one of the year's most played singles with "Call Me Maybe," and though most people would be hard-pressed to name another Jepsen hit, she is on Team Bieber, which is one explanation for how she managed to win the new artist prize, besting One Direction.

The broadcast, which turned 40 this year, squeezed more than a dozen performances into its three hours, including impressive showings from Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Usher, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

PHOTOS: Celebrating 40 years of the AMAs

Stevie Wonder was on hand to pay tribute to the show's creator, Dick Clark, who died in April.

"It's a show about music, it's a show about celebration. Dick was all about music," AMA producer Larry Klein told the audience before the show. "This show is easy to dance to. Remember, it's a party."

As for the big bang finale, Psy's "Gangnam Style" shook the theater. But illustrating the here-today gone-tomorrow hits that the show has come to celebrate, his surprise guest was MC Hammer. Wonder if the Korean rap phenom can appreciate the irony.

Gerrick Kennedy


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