The American Music Awards paid tribute to ailing R&B legend Luther Vandross Sunday night, bestowing two R&B awards on the singer, who was not present because he is still recovering from a major stroke he suffered in April. The show from
the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles also featured a number of over-the-top performances from the likes of Ashanti, Britney Spears and Sean Paul, but was hampered by the absence of more than half the winners.
The three-hour telecast, hosted by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who kept the program moving with his frequent, playful put-downs of the stars, was opened by Spears. She floated down on a wire from the rafters in a gold overcoat, which she quickly shed to reveal a pink bustier, black vinyl thigh-high boots, black hot pants and little else. The singer’s performance of her current single, “Me Against the Music,” was accompanied by a troupe of brightly dressed faux punk rock dancers and a dizzying set that featured shooting flames, Vegas-style neon signs and a massive video screen.
Immediately following Spears’ extravaganza, Kid Rock appeared to be going for a more mellow vibe, walking onstage with an acoustic guitar to perform his cover of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Dressed in a black cowboy hat, leather jacket and black pants, Rock performed the first verse of the song, jumped up and joined his band for the throat-shredding chorus, during which a massive neon sign flashed the word “Love.”
One of the night’s first awards, for Favorite Soul/R&B Male Singer, went to Vandross. His mother, Mary, who was assisted to the stage by two men, was overcome with emotion as she thanked the audience and apologized that her son could
not attend (see “Luther Vandross Showing Steady Signs Of Recovery, Begins Singing Again” ). “I’m here to represent him and say thanks to all of you who made this possible,” she said. When Vandross won a second award for Favorite Soul/R&B Album later in the night, “The Shield” star Michael Chiklis gallantly walked to Mary Vandross’ seat and presented her with the trophy.
From 50 Cent, who won for Favorite Male Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and Album for Get Rich or Die Tryin’, to Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, many of the night’s biggest winners did not make it to the program, or, like Fleetwood Mac (Favorite Pop/Rock Duo Band or Group) and Justin Timberlake (Favorite Pop/Rock Album), had to check in via satellite from their European tours.
But, in an awards show rarity, host Kimmel had to apologize to Missy Elliott following a commercial break after it was announced that she was not present to accept her Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Female Artist trophy. According to Missy,
she was late to the show because someone stole her limo from her hotel, but she wasn’t about to miss out on her first AMA win. During her acceptance speech, the rapper broke a rule Kimmel made in his opening monologue forbidding artists from thanking God, as he suspected that “God doesn’t watch television, and if he does, he wouldn’t be watching this.”
Unlike the Grammys, which are voted on by industry professionals, the American Music Awards nominations are based on sales data compiled by SoundScan and industry trade magazine Radio and Records, while winners are based on ballots sent to more 20,000 record buyers.
If you attended the “American Idol” tour this summer, it was no surprise that fans had something to do with picking the winners, as “Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken took the Internet-voted Fans’ Choice award. The eternally humble Aiken joined “Idol” winner Ruben Studdard for a dual performance earlier in the show, with each man singing their own singles, then joining in with a gospel choir on the Lionel Richie-penned “Jesus Is Love.”
Other performances included Pink’s moving acoustic soul
rendition of her hyped-up dance single “Trouble,” Rod Stewart’s soft-shoe cover of the standard “My Heart Stood Still,” and Outkast’s electric, but separate sets. Andre 3000, dressed in a gold-and-black pilot’s uniform and backed by
dancing flight attendants and a jet with the words “Air 3000″ on the side, boogied through “Hey Ya!,” which gave way to Big Boi’s speed rap on “The Way You Move.”
Ashanti did a drenching take on “Rain on Me,” during which she was soaked by falling water. Hilary Duff performed a rock-edged medley of “So Yesterday/ “Girl Can Rock,” Metallica roared through the bare-bones blitz of “St. Anger” and Sean Paul sang a medley of dancehall hits.
Evanescence gave their first American performance since founding member and guitarist Ben Moody unexpectedly took leave from the group during its recent European tour (see “Evanescence Co-Founder Ben Moody Leaves Band During Tour”
). Dressed in a colorful poodle skirt, black tank top and sporting
flower-shaped tattoos on her forehead and neck, singer Amy Lee led the band through a powerful rendition of “Going Under.” During the pre-show, when asked what super power she’d like to have, Lee joked about wanting Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth because, she said pointedly, she just wants “people to be honest.”
Country spouses Tim McGraw and Faith Hill took home matching trophies for Favorite Country Male and Female Artists, veteran act Alabama won a record 23rd award and Linkin Park nabbed the Alternative Music Award.
Kid Rock, who set tongues wagging again by showing up with on-again, off-again girlfriend Pam Anderson — wearing a typically barely there dress — closed the show with drink in hand as he accepted the Favorite Male Pop/Rock Artist award “for the good guys.”
Winners of the 31st annual American Music Awards:
- Favorite Male Artist: Kid Rock
- Favorite Female Artist: Jennifer Lopez
- Favorite Band, Duo or Group: Fleetwood Mac
- Favorite Album: Justin Timberlake, Justified
- Favorite Male Artist: Luther Vandross
- Favorite Female Artist: Aaliyah
- Favorite Band, Duo or Group: The Isley Brothers
- Favorite Album: Luther Vandross, Dance With My Father
- Favorite Male Artist: 50 Cent
- Favorite Female Artist: Missy Elliott
- Favorite Band, Duo or Group: Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz
- Favorite Album: 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin’
- Favorite Artist: Linkin Park
- Favorite Artist: Celine Dion
- Favorite Artist: Ricky Martin
- Favorite Male Artist: Tim McGraw
- Favorite Female Artist: Faith Hill
- Favorite Band, Duo or Group: Alabama
- Favorite Album: Toby Keith, Unleashed
- Favorite Artist: Steven Curtis Chapman
- Clay Aiken
Michael Jackson International Artist of the Year
Coca-Cola New Music Award
- The Bomb Squad (New York)