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American Music Awards: Remember when they mattered?

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez hit the red carpet at the AMAs. Photo: Courtesy ABC

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez hit the red carpet at the AMAs. Photo: Courtesy ABC

Even though the American Music Awards have always lived in the imposing shadow of the Grammys, there was a time, back when Dick Clark truly ran the show, that the awards meant a little something and even fostered events such as We Are the World.

But now they’re just a glorified People’s Choice Awards (*see Explanation of Convoluted Voting below).  

Anyway, for those who care, Taylor Swift was the big winner with three AMAs (Artist of the Year, Best Country Female Artist and Country Album). The excitable country princess said one of the smartest things of the night to her fans…she thanked them not only for remembering her lyrics, but “for caring about lyrics.”

In a year of “Party Rock Anthem”s and various virtual concoctions, she makes a valid point.

The show aired live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. A list of winners is at the end of this post, but first, let’s take a look at some high and low lights.

Let’s Make a Deal Award: Dear Maroon 5. Congrats on your first-ever American Music Award. I’m sorry it wasn’t for one of your decent songs, like “This Love” or “Makes Me Wonder,” but if it had to be for the worst song you’ve ever recorded, how about this: Now that’s you’ve won an award for and performed the ingratiating “Moves Like Jagger” on the AMAs, how about I never have to hear it again until the Grammys?

Who Knew The Jetsons Were Still Cool? Award: To Justin Bieber, for his Elroy-esque space suit getup during “Under the Mistletoe.” At least there was something to distract from his strained performance of the weakest track on his otherwise solid Christmas album.

The Why Oh Why? Award: So Chris Brown is a blond again. Wasn’t a good look the first time. Hasn’t improved this time. But hearing him sing for once (“All Back”) instead of being Auto-Tuned into the ground was…oh, wait, there it is, the inevitable electronic vocal manipulation on “Say it With Me.”

Most Sincere Acceptance Speech: For those ready to throttle Taylor Swift the next time she feigns shock at being popular, let’s all appreciate J. Lo for acknowledging her publicly tumultuous year: “It’s been up and down and exciting and overwhelming and so many things…I’m grateful for all of my blessings.” She then delivered a portion of her speech in Spanish – fitting, since her award was for Best Latin Artist. That almost makes up for…

Most Egregious Product Placement: Surely someone will want to make a trunk joke about that car (I refuse to name the brand) that turned J. Lo’s performance into an unnecessary obstacle course. Personally, I’d like to “Drop Dead Diva” it and wake up looking like J. Lo. But, more importantly…honey, it’s just shameful that you can’t even properly lip-sync “la la la la la la la.” Paging Britney for some lessons!

Most Hilarious Display of Artist Aggravation: Enrique Iglesias motioning to turn down his ear monitor before yanking it out of his ear. Darlin’, do you seriously think anyone is listening to your voice? You’re eye candy. The end. (Oh, and hi, Ludacris!)

Best Performances By Artists Who Actually Sing. In Key.: Kelly Clarkson, God bless you. Not only did she look classy in a shape-enhancing red dress, Clarkson also showcased her artistry with a swing version of “Mr. Know It All,” complete with standup bass. You could almost hear Simon Cowell saying, back in the days when he wasn’t forced to say nice things because he’s responsible for the financial future of a talent show winner, “You took a risk tonight and it paid off.”

Also worthy of praise was Katy Perry’s vulnerable rendition of “The One That Got Away,” though the cotton-candy hair was a tad distracting. Perry also was awarded an achievement AMA for being the first female artist to score five No. 1 singles from one album.

Most Painful Performance(s):

Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic turned in a pinched rendition of the song. Photo credit: Courtesy of ABC.

Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic turned in a pinched rendition of the song. Photo credit: Courtesy of ABC.

OneRepublic finally has a song that isn’t completely cringe-inducing (“Good Life”) and Ryan Tedder sings it as if his vocal cords are tied in a bow.

Then there was the assembly of, J. Lo and, inexplicably, Mick Jagger (via video, though that doesn’t excuse his participation) on “Hard.” What was going on there? Glow-in-the-dark J. Lo, a monotonous, robotic chorus…I can’t be the only person to find that whole performance a steaming heap of garbage. Am I?

2011 AMA Winners

Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift

Favorite Country Album: Taylor Swift, “Speak Now”

Favorite Pop or Rock Male Artist: Bruno Mars

Favorite Pop/Rock Album: Adele

Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist: Beyonce

Favorite Latin Artist: Jennifer Lopez

Sprint New Artist of the Year: Hot Chelle Rae

Favorite Female Pop Artist: Katy Perry

Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album: Nicki Minaj‘s “Pink Friday”

Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group: Lady Antebellum

Favorite Soul/R&B Album: Rihanna‘s “Loud”

Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj

Favorite Country Female Artist: Taylor Swift

Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group: Maroon 5

Favorite Contemporary Inspirational Artist: Casting Crowns (from Atlanta)

*Explanation of Convoluted Voting: This actually makes “The X-Factor” make sense by comparison, but here’s the deal, straight from the source. Get our your abacus:

American Music Awards nominees are selected from both BigChampagne’s Ultimate Chart and Mediabase. The Ultimate Chart is a ranked list of the most popular artists and songs based on a weighted combination of music sales, radio and TV broadcast, internet streaming and video viewing, and incorporating additional online metrics, including activity on social networks. Mediabase monitors more than 1,800 radio stations in 180 U.S. and Canadian markets, 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week and provides vital airplay and programming information to more than 1,700 affiliate radio stations and every major broadcast group. Winners are chosen by public vote online. 

By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene blog

Follow me on Twitter: @ajclifestyle

24 comments Add your comment


November 21st, 2011
12:02 am

All I want to know is when did music stop being a requirement for this award? Don’t we already have hip hop and rap awards?


November 21st, 2011
12:04 am

The other thing I want to know is when did Justin B. lose his voice? He does not sound nearly as good as he used too.


November 21st, 2011
12:10 am

I completely agree with you on Kelly Clarkson, god bless her and her amazing voice, she nailed it and look FAB in the red dress


November 21st, 2011
12:57 am

Kelly was the only reason I tuned in and then tuned out immediately afterwards. Kelly is the only reason music mattered tonight on the AMA’s.


November 21st, 2011
1:19 am

Can anyone tell me who the blonde was singing with LMFAO at the end of the AMAs ?


November 21st, 2011
1:50 am


[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Swift Boat

November 21st, 2011
4:44 am

…and Kanye West didn’t win anything – Hallelujah

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]


November 21st, 2011
6:05 am

OMG. What the hell was that show. After watching the AMA’s I’ve come to 1 conclusion. The current state of American music is an absolute nightmare. With the exception of Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and the country band, The Band Perry (note: I don’t like Country music but at least they played their own instruments) , it was completely unwatchable and unlistenable. Does anybody know why they have so many back-up dancers with so many of these acts. I do. It’s to distract you from the fact that THE F$%^%KING MUSIC ABSOLUTELY SUCKS!!!. Most of these people aren’t even real musicians, everything is produced by a computer and can be done by anyone with the right software. Throw in a few backup dancers and you’re a star. What a freakin joke!!!


November 21st, 2011
7:31 am

Think about this…Disney is taking over American POoP music. All of these songs will be playing on a Disney radio station near you!


November 21st, 2011
8:21 am

Its just awful,.every bit of it,.awful,This will not be an era paople listen back onlike the 60s 70s 80s or 90s,.You have to be embarrased by our youth,.We need to start beating our children if this is the best they can do,.SERIOUSLY


November 21st, 2011
8:22 am

Its just awful,.every bit of it,.awful,This will not be an era paople listen back onlike the 60s 70s 80s or 90s,.You have to be embarrased by our youth,.We need to start beating our children if this is the best they can do,.SERIOUSLY

Kevin TVFirstLook

November 21st, 2011
9:50 am

Read our review – terrible, yeay. But we loved…and a few other performances.


November 21st, 2011
10:25 am

Wow what show were y’all watching?!i thought the show was awesome and i’m darn near 50 yrs old. I thought all the acts did a great job from start to finish i was impressed. Well done AMA’s.

Michael Jackson

November 21st, 2011
11:51 am

Couldn’t help but notice there was no award named after me. Hello, Mcfly, Greatest entertainer that ever lived here, most famous person to ever walk the earth here..Hello, bigger than Beatles and Elvis here..I’m the King of Pop people…show some respect. Da..Da…Chamone, Chamone, Chickchipitaaa!! Hee Hee!!


November 21st, 2011
12:09 pm

I only saw bits and pieces but for the most part liked what I saw. The Band Perry is not the only country artists to play their own instruments. And, would you be asking if they still mattered if a Pop or Rap group had won the all around entertainer. Taylor Swift is a completely amazing talented young woman. Learn more about her. She is really something. Kelly rocks too!! And J-LO….whoa!!

Got to admit...

November 21st, 2011
12:56 pm

You may not have liked JLo’s performance but it was high-energy and she looks great for a mother of twins. Now, only if she dressed like it…


November 21st, 2011
1:35 pm

Why do these “stars” have to have a contest on who can dress the most ridiculous? How can people take them seriously? I thought walking the red carpet was an HONOR and to dress like it’s Halloween just blows my mind. I just don’t get it–Katy Perry, Nikki Minaj, Lady Gaga.
And is it just me, or is Justin Bieber a girl? Every photo I see of him, he looks like a girl. Nothing hot or sexy about him. Sure I’m not a teen, but he doesn’t even look like a boy.


November 21st, 2011
2:05 pm

Nana – You didn’t read that right. They didn’t say that the Band Perry was the only country band to play their own instruments. They said, they didn’t like country music, BUT AT LEAST they did play their own instruments.

And, Taylor Swift sucks (musically speaking anyway).


November 21st, 2011
4:29 pm

Taylor Swift is NOT country & western…but (like most of these talentless “artists”) fake, manufactured, plastic pop (”country”). BeYOnce, JLO & Reanna, etc. are grossly over-exposed & equally under-talented!


November 21st, 2011
4:50 pm

OK?! why does these artist think that it ok to show most of their body on TV? JLo what is she thinking; would she like her dgt to dress like that; can’t she keep her clothes and still sing; the movements she did that anything. I like CA but that dress really. These artist are seem by children of all ages, many who adore these people yet they dress and dance like——–,anyhow please keep your clothes next time and watch the grinding keep it to the bedroom. Please!!!!!


November 21st, 2011
10:26 pm

Overall, I liked the AMAs, but I promised myself that I would not watch them again if Taylor Swift won for Entertainer of the Year. I just don’t get why she is still so popular. Yes, she can write songs, yes she seems to have a nice personality, but why is Country Music making her their new representative. Her music is not country, even though it was smart of her, and her production company to choose that genre. Because she is so likeable by tweens, and parents think she is this great role model, she now owns the country music, as a whole. If she had come out in the pop genre, like her music really is, she would have been gone before she could even sing about Drew.
I understand that this show is a popularity contest, but why are we teaching our kids that mediocre is great.