Chris Brown was the big winner, but it was Kanye West’s night at the American Music Awards.
Instead of his typical tantrum – a trend West started four years ago when he lost the favorite new artist prize – the rapper claimed two trophies Sunday and called on his colleagues to up their game.
“It’s our responsibility as musicians to keep pushing each other,” West said. “We will be the new Beatles, the new (Jimi) Hendrix. I want to be Elvis.”
West was named favorite male rap/hip-hop artist and his CD, “Graduation,” won favorite rap/hip-hop album.
Brown took the night’s top honors – artist of the year – as well as favorite male artist in both the pop/rock and soul/R&B categories.
“I was shocked,” the 19-year-old crooner said backstage. “I’m so thankful and grateful. I thought Coldplay should have won the award, but I’ll take it.”
Brown’s gal pal, Rihanna – who wore chains and a leather corset to perform her love ballad, “Rehab” – was named favorite female artist in both the pop/rock and soul/R&B categories. Alicia Keys was another double winner: Her CD, “As I Am,” was both pop/rock and soul/R&B album winner.
The American Music Awards traditionally centers on its performances, and Sunday was no exception. The show featured high-energy sets from Miley Cyrus, Ne-Yo and Beyonce, though a pair of lackluster medleys opened the program at the Nokia Theatre. Christina Aguilera channeled Madonna and the New Kids on the Block channeled an earlier version of themselves as each sang their latest singles and greatest hits.
Pink’s new track, “Sober,” was awkwardly introduced by slurring rocker Scott Weiland, formerly of the Stone Temple Pilots. Also performing were The Jonas Brothers, the Pussycat Dolls, Coldplay and Annie Lennox, who won the Award of Merit.
“I never thought I would live to see the day that I could be 53 years old standing on a stage,” Lennox said as she accepted the trophy from Justin Timberlake. “It’s been an incredible journey. Music: my friend, my accompaniment through life.”
Other winners included Brad Paisley for favorite country artist, Taylor Swift for favorite female country act, and Rascal Flatts for favorite country favorite band, duo or group.
“I didn’t really think that I had a chance at winning,” Swift confessed backstage. “I thought, yes, it’s good to be nominated, but I honestly didn’t think I was going to win this award. I can’t believe that I did. I can’t believe that the fans did that for me. Everybody on MySpace, they’re the reason I am holding this award right now.”
Fans chose the night’s winners through online votes.