At the American Music Awards on Sunday (November 23), Miley Cyrus, celebrating her 16th birthday, broke character a bit, performing a saucy, seductive version of her new single, “Fly on the Wall”; Mariah Carey delivered a riveting rendition of “I Stay in Love”; and a barely lucid Scott Weiland ironically introduced Pink’s performance of “Sober,” calling her “one of the greatest artists of our time.” Later, Pink even joined Sarah McLachlan for a duet on “Angel.”
The New Kids on the Block and Christina Aguilera both performed medleys of their most beloved tunes. Justin Timberlake gave us a lesson on Annie Lennox, while Beyoncé rocked booty shorts and gyrated eagerly across the stage while suggesting we “put a ring on it.” Rihanna dressed up like GWAR and played on scaffolding, while the Jonas Brothers phoned in a performance of “Tonight.” The Pussycat Dolls pole-danced, and Jamie Foxx plugged the crap out of his upcoming album.
And, thankfully, Kanye West went on another one of his infamous, extraneous rants.
It all went down inside Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre during the 36th annual AMAs, hosted by the brilliantly offensive Jimmy Kimmel and decided, in part, by the public, who voted for the nominees on the show’s Web site.
It was an evening full of stars, confetti and Jonas Brothers sex jokes (“For a bunch of virgins, these Jonas boys are mowing through women like Madonna goes through the Yankees’ starting lineup,” Kimmel cracked). But mostly, it was a self-congratulatory night honoring American (and sometimes British) music. And West made note of it in his acceptance speech.
West, who releases his fourth LP, 808s & Heartbreak, on Monday, beat out Jay-Z’s American Gangster and Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III as his Graduation took home the award for Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Album. Here is West’s speech in full:
“I would like to thank everybody who accepted me trying to break new boundaries in music,” he said. “I wake up in the morning just thinking about which stereotypes I want to break. And, you know, we pushed the envelope with the last album, with ’Stronger,’ with records they thought wouldn’t play on urban radio, and it’s our responsibility as musicians to keep pushing each other and keep competing with each other.
“It’s a really great competition,” West continued. The win marked his first at the AMAs. “I see artists like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Chris Martin all in the same room, and we’re going to push this music to the point where it was like in the ’60s, in the ’70s, where you talk about Led Zeppelin and Hendrix and the Beatles. We will be the new Beatles, the new Hendrix. They say in every other industry, you’re supposed to do better than the past. Like, computers should get smaller and faster. But whenever you say, ’I want to be Elvis,’ they say, ’What’s wrong with you?’ But I don’t want to be Elvis.”
And two of music’s current heavyweights, according to ’Ye, won early in the evening: Rihanna edged out Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys for the Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist, and Brown won his first AMA for Best Pop/Rock Male, downing Usher and Kid Rock for the prize. Keys’ LP As I Am would later pick up an award for Favorite Pop/Rock Album, besting the likes of Coldplay and the Eagles, and another for Favorite Soul/R&B Album.
Other big winners Sunday evening included Taylor Swift, who was named Country Music’s Favorite Female Artist over Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood, and Rihanna, who took home another prism-like statuette for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist. Daughtry, one of the true “American Idol” success stories, took home the award for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group, winning over Coldplay and the Eagles. The Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Male Artist went to West, not Flo Rida or Lil Wayne. But Kanye wasn’t keen on keeping the award.
“I’m a fan of music,” said West, who performed “Heartless,” a cut from his new one. “I got my opinion. And I want to give this award to Wayne, for this year. If it was last year, this would have been my award. This year’s Wayne award; we’ll see what happens next year.”
The T-Mobile Breakthrough Artist Award, which fans voted on via text message, went to the Jonas Brothers — which was obvious before Ashley Tisdale revealed the results. The other nominees were Colbie Caillat, Flo Rida, Paramore and The-Dream.
The big honor of the evening, though, awaited Chris Brown. He was shocked when it was revealed he was the Artist of the Year; the other nominees included Wayne, the Eagles, Keys and Coldplay.
“I would have gave it to Coldplay,” he said, before thanking his fans and walking off the stage, clearing the way for closer Keys, who performed her hit “Superwoman” with cameos from Queen Latifah and Kathleen Battle.