Photo courtesy of mctcampus.com
Last year Adam Lambert’s kiss at the American Music Awards sent the Internet tongues wagging, but this year it was Usher and his protege, Justin Bieber, who gathered the most attention at the annual music fete, held at downtown Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre and broadcast on ABC — albeit with less controversy.
The pair took home six trophies at the show, which celebrates the United States’ most popular musical artists. Bieber won four trophies, including Artist of the Year, while Usher, who signed the teen in 2008, received two, including Favorite Male R&B Performance. Bieber is the youngest artist to ever win Artist of the Year.
But the American Music Awards are usually short on drama and long on performance, and this year was no exception.
Sunday’s show attempted to hit many demographics and generations. Introducing Bieber, young singing sensation Willow Smith, son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, said, “I’m really lucky. He’s like my big brother.” For his part, Bieber thanked Usher, calling him “not only my mentor but my best friend and my big brother.”
Performances by an elder statesman of classic rock, Carlos Santana, was a look back, and a boy-band convergence featuring the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block rounded out the evening in an adult-contemporary mode.
After last year’s Lambert stunt, the AMAs were family friendly in 2010. Katy Perry, whose award-show antics once included descending to the stage in a suggestive banana, floated down from above a children’s choir looking more like the Virgin Mary. Even Miley Cyrus, who is a couple of days away from her 18th birthday and appears with midriff bared on the cover of her recent album “Can’t Be Tamed,” went the big-ballad route rather than with the more sexually suggestive image she’s been selling of late.
The joint performance of the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block was a tease for their recently announced summer 2011 concert tour.
Taylor Swift, who secured a third consecutive win as Favorite Female Country Artist, was typically gracious in winning. “I only want to thank the fans,” she said, smiling. “You guys get me and understand me.”
But the 16-year-old Bieber was the man of the evening. He was named both Breakthrough Artist and Artist of the Year, much to the delight of his fans at the Nokia, who shouted his name incessantly from the fan section of the theater.
Despite having one of the biggest-selling albums of the year, Eminem garnered only two wins, a true testament that heavy hitters are no match for nail-biting girls in front of their computers Tweeting about Bieber. After besting both the rapper and his mentor, Usher, in the Artist of the Year category, he too seemed to be in disbelief of his meteoric rise.
“I’ve been singing Eminem since I was like, 3,” Bieber said as he clutched a statue.