LOS ANGELES — With last week's Vibe Awards and Tuesday's American Music Awards, the winter awards season is officially under way and so far there's no clear frontrunner heading into February's Grammys.
Comeback queen Mariah Carey swept the Vibe honors (see "Mariah Wins Big, Mary J. Gets Emotional At Peaceful Vibe Awards") and was the leading nominee heading into the AMAs, but she took home only one trophy while Green Day, Kelly Clarkson, the Black Eyed Peas and Destiny's Child scored two apiece.
Only one third of one of those multiple winners actually attended Tuesday's show, but her emotional acceptance speech made up for the absence of her groupmates.
"I miss my girls. Beyoncé and Michelle, wherever you are, I love you so much," a tearful Kelly Rowland said as she accepted the Favorite Band, Duo or Group: Soul/Rhythm & Blues award. "All of our fans, thank you so much for holding us down for so many years."
Destiny's Child, who recently parted ways to pursue solo projects (see "Destiny's Child Look Back With #1's Before Going Their Separate Ways"), also won the Favorite Album: Soul/Rhythm & Blues for Destiny Fulfilled.
While Tuesday's ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium featured a plethora of A-list performers — from Pharrell and Gwen Stefani to Hilary Duff to Rob Thomas — the actual presentation of awards sounded like a broken record of "So and so couldn't be here tonight."
Along with Green Day (Favorite Artist: Alternative Music and Favorite Album: Pop/Rock for American Idiot), Clarkson (Favorite Artist: Adult Contemporary Music and the T-Mobile Text-In Award) and the Black Eyed Peas (Favorite Band, Duo or Group: Pop/Rock; Favorite Band, Duo or Group: Rap/Hip-Hop), Eminem (Favorite Male Artist: Rap/Hip-Hop), 50 Cent (Favorite Album: Rap/Hip-Hop for The Massacre) and R. Kelly (Favorite Male Artist: Soul/Rhythm & Blues) were not on hand to collect their awards.
On the other end of the spectrum, Missy Elliott — who had a good excuse not to attend as she just had surgery on a torn Achilles tendon — did make the show, and even rolled through the press room in her pimped-out wheelchair after winning the Favorite Female Artist: Rap/Hip-Hop for the second year in the award's existence.
"Y'all are looking at me like I got a booger on my face," Missy joked as she used a crutch to stand up. "I wasn't playing no football or basketball. I was dancing, doing the wrong moves, so I'll be sittin' down for a minute."
Stefani also made it to the podium to receive her Favorite Female Artist: Pop/Rock award, but just barely. She had just performed "Can I Have It Like That?" with Pharrell when her name was called.
"What did I win?" she asked. "I guess whatever I won, I just want to say thank you to the fans, especially all my girls. Imagine what it feels like to be me all these years and have your support. It's just outrageous."
Mariah also collected her award, for Favorite Female Artist: Soul/Rhythm & Blues, just after opening the show with "Don't Forget About Us," although she found time to change clothes.
For the second year in a row, a country act won the Favorite New Artist, with Sugarland besting the Killers and Jesse McCartney. Will Smith, meanwhile, won Favorite Male Artist: Pop/Rock, beating out 50 Cent and Rob Thomas.
"There's a lot of darkness in the world, and I'm committed with all the strength I got to bring the light. ... It's hard sometimes," Smith said of his positive hip-hop backstage. "When you're committing to something almost counter-culture, you can't find any support." Smith added that he recently befriended 50 Cent, who he beat out for the award, and doesn't consider 50's "brilliant" rapping to be darkness because it's honest. "The darkness I refer to are the guys who think they're doing what the top guys are doing. ... Somebody who's smacking girls on the ass and trying to get paid."
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Other winners, selected through a telephone survey of about 20,000 Americans, included Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson and Brooks & Dunn in country categories, Mary Mary for Favorite Artist: Contemporary Inspirational and Shakira for Favorite Artist: Latin Music.
"Everything that's been going on with my music and the Spanish album getting played in so many non-Hispanic countries is something to celebrate," Shakira said.
As with all awards shows these days, however, all the celebrities went home winners thanks to the goodie bags. The AMA swag topped $30,000 this year, and included something truly out there: a plot of land on the moon.
"I've actually broke ground on mine," All-American Rejects singer Tyson Ritter joked. "Condos, of course. Gotta capitalize!"
"I'm building a Starbucks, so we'll get a monopoly going," guitarist Nick Wheeler added.
Travis Barker, meanwhile, has more personal plans for his land. "I'll go up there and just play drums like a mother----er," he said, with wife Shanna Moakler at his side. "We want to be buried together, so maybe on the moon."
Not all the artists, however, were impressed with the gift.
"I'm gonna sell it," Ginuwine declared. "'Cause I ain't ever goin' to the moon!"