Some of music's biggest names took over Los Angeles on Sunday night for the 2012 American Music Awards. The night celebrated acts like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj, as well as the show's 40-year history. But Bieber's presence was certainly felt throughout the entire show, where he scooped up several prizes and watched pals like Usher, the Wanted and Carly Rae Jepsen also own the broadcast.
Usher kicked off the night of dazzling performances with his Looking 4 Myself medley featuring, "Numb," "Can't Stop Won't Stop" and "Climax." Pyro, lasers and backup dancers helped Ursh set the party tone for the rest of the night. At the end of the performance, the camera cut to his protégé, Bieber, who sat in the audience with his mom and manager Scooter Braun just one week after he reportedly broke up (and sparked reconciliation rumors) with Selena Gomez.
Bieber then took home the first prize for Favorite Male Artist - Pop/Rock. Taking the stage, he told the room, "I want to say this is for all the haters who thought maybe I was here for one or two years, but I feel like I'm going to be here for a very long time." Later on, he won Favorite Pop/Rock Album for Believe and got quite a few kisses from Jenny McCarthy. "Wow, I feel violated right now," he joked.
Taylor Swift won for Favorite Country Female Artist, thanking her fans for supporting Red before the night became mostly about the performances than the prizes.
The AMAs focused on a flurry of A-list performances from artists of all genres. Carly Rae Jepsen sang "This Kiss" after descending from the rafters in a London-style telephone booth and kept the performance expectedly cutesy when she transitioned into "Call Me Maybe." She was followed by the Wanted, who performed their new single "I Found You."
Keeping up with the theme of medleys, Kelly Clarkson hit up some of her greatest hits, including "Miss Independent," "Since U Been Gone," "Stronger" and her most recent release "Catch My Breath," complete with glittering light show and pillow fight.
The award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album went to Nicki Minaj for Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. In a glamorous green gown, the feisty couture-laden MC said, "I would like to thank my beautiful Barbz." She also thanked God and, of course, her pals at Cash Money and Lil Wayne.
Ke$ha was the next big performer with her tribal and cult-inspired set for the Warrior track "Die Young." Wearing a sparkly bodysuit and knee-high boots, K tore up the stage with her eye-popping, glittering performance, which included her beating the drums.
No Doubt proved they might be the oldest performers of the night, but they could still keep it energy-filled with their performance of "Looking Hot." Keeping the spirit of the '90s alive a little longer, Linkin Park won for Favorite Rock/Alternative Music Artist. (They later took the stage to perform "BURN IT DOWN.") Swift was next to take the stage and put on a very theatrical performance of her Red song "I Knew You Were Trouble." It had a masquerade theme complete with chandeliers and masked dancers. And Swift even made a costume change from an innocent white dress to a naughtier corseted black-and-red number.
Later on, Nicki Minaj wore white fur and stood in a smoke-filled forest for her performance of the Re-Up track "Freedom." Usually known for the over-the-top, she opted to tone it down for the emotional track. To punctuate that vibe, she included a gospel choir to help close it out.
Pink paid homage to her "Try" video during her acrobatic performance of the song, where she fought, danced and tumbled through an onstage love affair.
Later on in the night, Bieber slowed it down for an acoustic rendition of "As Long As You Love Me," even throwing down lines from Big Sean's rap about a sometimes tumultuous relationship. Then he welcomed Nicki back to the stage when he picked up the pace for "Beauty and a Beat." Despite the headlines about his personal life, Minaj left in the line about Selena Gomez.
With her new album Lotus out, Christina Aguilera performed the album's intro surrounded by dancers, done up to look nude, giving off the impression they were petals on a flower. Then she transitioned to a trailer-park setting (recalling her video for "Your Body") for "Army of Me." She called her performance a "celebration of all of us."
After she closed it out, Pitbull took the stage with plenty of sassified backup dancers for "Don't Stop the Party," and Xtina came back out for "Feel This Moment."
Throughout the night, more awards got handed out, including Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist for Usher, New Artist of the Year for Carly Rae Jepsen, and David Guetta became the first-ever winner of the Favorite Electronic Dance Music Artist prize, calling the award in a taped message from Brazil a "big deal."
Swizz Beatz, Chris Brown and Ludacris brought some major hip-hop swag to the show for their rambunctious performance of Swizz's "Everyday Birthday." Before the end, Brown lost his shirt. Right after, keeping the vibe going, Nicki nabbed the prize for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist.
"Man, I've been busy," she said. "I could just eat you and kiss you and love you and hug you," she added to her fans.
Before the end of the action-packed night, the show also remembered some of pop's greatest, including the late Whitney Houston, and Stevie Wonder paid tribute to Dick Clark, who played an instrumental role as a producer on the AMAs for decades. "I was in awe of his star quality," Ryan Seacrest said before the music legend took the stage.
The night ended up being about Team Bieber. Manager Braun's latest signee, Psy, brought "Gangnam Style" to the show and was joined by MC Hammer, just days after the Korean sensation performed the track with Madonna in NYC. They mashed up the viral smash with Hammer's "2 Legit 2 Quit."
Oh, and by the way: Justin also won for Artist of the Year! With his mom by his side, he took the stage and was pretty shaken up and left a bit speechless over the win. "I want to thank just everyone. This is amazing. It's hard growing up with everyone watching me. As long as you guys keep believing in me ... I will always make you proud," he said.
What did you think of the AMAs? Let us know in the comments!