Live-Blogging The 2011 American Music Awards: We Could Have Had It All (But Then Adele Had To Go Have A Vocal Cord Hemorrhage)


Welcome to Sound of the City’s liveblog of the 2011 American Music Awards, the annual salute to the most popular popular music that exists in the American wild this year. While Lady Gaga and Adele and Beyoncé are absent, this year’s show apparently has one performance that will cost $500,000 to pull off, as well as a David Guetta/Nicki Minaj outing that is heavy—heavy in the weight sense, not in the “societal import” sense because c’mon we’re talking about King Of Eurogloss David Guetta here—and appearances by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Katy (sigh) Perry, Kelly Clarkson, and other notables from the Hot 100. Come join us for the next three hours, won’t you?

7:54 p.m. Just in time for us to get started, Katy Perry is posing with her terrible pink haircut on the preshow. It’s an omen!

7:55 p.m. Taylor Swift just said “I’m so excited” in the most un-excited way to appear on television in the past 365 days.

7:56 p.m. In this two-minute interview so far Swift has said “excited” at least four times. Maybe five.

7:57 p.m. Just in case you were wondering, it’s 52 degrees in Los Angeles right now. You don’t need to be all shivery, everyone on TV.

7:58 p.m. Oh this cub red carpet reporter who just cut off Mary J. Blige is going to have his face handed to him later this evening.

8:00 p.m. This is a hostless show, by the way.

8:00 p.m. Many pounds of speakers part to reveal David Guetta atop a pile of video screens. This is your face of pop music in 2011, everyone.

8:01 p.m. And Nicki Minaj’s string of not rapping at awards shows continues. If this was Twitter, I would append a #sigh to that statement.

8:02 p.m. Minaj is a legit exciting performer. Swaddling her in C3P0 gear and Autotune is like turning her into a character in the pop-music version of “Harrison Bergeron.”

8:04 p.m. YAY “SUPER BASS”

8:04 p.m. Cut to an audience member recording this with her cell phone. Is that an awards-show first?

8:06 p.m. Opening credits time! Let’s play “count the number of people who could have been on this 10 years ago.” I count six? Also, hahaha,

8:07 p.m. Here’s Queen Latifah’s every-awards-show reminder that she has a very powerful manager.

8:07 p.m. This show features the biggest stars of the year? Does that mean Lady Gaga and Adele are going to have a surprise run-in?

8:08 p.m. Maroon 5 wins the first award of the night, for Favorite Pop/Rock Group, alternately titled “Favorite Song That You Hear Like Half A Measure Of And It Gets Stuck In Your Head In A Way That You Half-Love And Half-Hate.”

8:10 p.m. Now “Moves Like Jagger” is in my head. Thanks everyone.

8:11 p.m. Um. That commercial. Was that… Dolly Parton… singing Chris Brown… and getting Autotuned?

8:13 p.m. There’s something entirely appropriate about an ad starring Dr. Dre that’s all about “waiting for a very long time.”

8:16 p.m. Taylor Swift Gets Surprised By Her Popularity, Volume XXXVIII

8:16 p.m. Sean Kingston has recovered enough to introduce Justin Bieber’s “I’m Yours… at Christmas” performance.

8:18 p.m. A bunch of green fluorescents standing on their ends = the Christmas tree field of the future. Like, maybe four or five years from now?

8:19 p.m. At least Beiber is dressed like a Nike-branded candy cane. Licky!

8:20 p.m. The hostless nature of the show is giving it a sort of space-age feel. But at least the lady from The Band Perry is wearing a drapery dress that tethers the proceedings to the 20th century.

8:21 p.m. Who will continue this block of labored midtempo performances? Katy Perry? Drake? LMFAO slowed down??

8:23 p.m. That I associate “If I Die Young” so strongly with American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina is either a sign of my out-of-touchness with country radio or a sign that she has a better voice than Kimberly Perry.

8:25 p.m. Was this Sprint commercial touting its unlimited data plan supposed to make me feel uneasy about how much of my life is spent with my head in my phone? Because, man.

8:28 p.m. “Fitty” Cent. Calling Chris Brown “The Main Event.” Oh, inappropriately deployed boxing metaphors.

8:29 p.m. It’s really too bad that Chris Brown got interrupted by the producer before he could put on the shirt he meant to wear.

8:31 p.m. So with “I Want It All” is Chris Brown trying to get all “The Beautiful Ones”-stylee? He probably had to move on from imitating Michael Jackson eventually.

8:32 p.m. Aw, someone gave Chris his shirt in time for the second song of his medley! Very thoughtful production assistants there.

8:32 p.m. Although maybe they should have saved a couple of people to watch the camera angles? Lots of weird shots from up top going on here.

8:32 p.m. Perhaps that is because the producers are worried his Michael Jackson imitation will extend to crotch-grabbing?

8:34 p.m. Nicki Minaj wins Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist. Kanye’s loss was probably sealed by the fact that the producers played “Otis,” and not something off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

8:35 p.m. Nicki Minaj wins Best Really Long Walk To The Winner’s Circle.


8:37 p.m. I love Kelly Clarkson so much. So much. And this olde tyme news homage is just making it even stronger.

8:38 p.m. And I am really liking this ragtimey change-up for “Mr. Know It All.” Also can I maybe get a dress like hers? Just to lounge about in.

8:40 p.m. Can we just have Kelly Clarkson play the rest of the show?

8:43 p.m. Or at least have her “fill in” for

8:45 p.m. Taio Cruz was just called one of today’s hottest music artists. Apparently we have time-warped back to early 2010 for the next few minutes.

8:46 p.m. Rihanna wins Favorite Soul/R&B Album. Somehow, it wasn’t announced that she was off humping something instead of being at the show.

8:47 p.m. Enrique Iglesias’s song: Like if “Tonight I’m Fuckin’ You” was vaguely uplifting and lyrically appropriate for students to sing along with on national TV.

8:49 p.m. Seriously, the way the lyrics of this song are straddling the line between describing a personal victory and talking about an orgasm is really impressive.

8:50 p.m. Ah, the producers managed to work “Tonight I’m [Lovin’] You” in there. And hey it’s Ludacris! Hi Ludacris!

8:51 p.m. So many green lasers this year. Is there some message being sent through them that we aren’t aware of?

8:53 p.m. This AMA divas retrospective should have been called “a look back on when women could wear pantsuits while performing.”

8:55 p.m. I mistook the Bruno Mars song playing underneath the Breaking Dawn trailer for a song by Bryan Adams for a second there.

8:59 p.m. Guessing Jennifer Lopez isn’t going to be hopping off any dancers this year.

8:59 p.m. Oh cool, Jennifer Lopez is making her own American Idol Ford ad.

9:01 p.m. Sorry, that’s a Fiat. Is Jennifer Lopez an upgrade or a downgrade from the Fader Fort? I can’t tell.

9:02 p.m. This is a good time to remind everyone that American Idol is a singing competition.

9:03 p.m. A cutaway to David Guetta, looking like he’s sucking a lemon.

9:04 p.m. That performance was only five minutes, yet it felt much longer. I also liked how they turned on the mic in time for J. Lo to breathe into it so you could be told that she was singing for real.

9:05 p.m. Nickelback. A nation cringes.

9:06 p.m. Lady Antebellum wins Favorite Country Band Or Duo Or Group. A nation yawns.

9:08 p.m. Jennifer Lopez again! I miss her fallow period, when her being in ads celebrating the fact that she was success stretched credibility way too far.

9:13 p.m. Has it been two years since Adam Lambert scandalized audiences by acting like a gay man? Because, you know, he is one?

9:13 p.m. Honestly it’s more scandalous of Lambert to say that Ryan Tedder never wrote a bad song. Perhaps that’s his two-years-later punishment.

9:14 p.m. I like to think that Kelly Clarkson is standing backstage smirking at Tedder’s attempts to hit all these high notes.

9:16 p.m. No better evidence for Timbaland’s decline than his going from shepherding FutureSex/LoveSounds to inflicting this midtempo tripe on the pubilc.

9:17 p.m. Ryan Tedder is the worst. The worst. That did not end soon enough.

9:17 p.m. Taylor Swift presenting Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album. I’m calling a “Super Bass” duet at the winner’s circle right now.

9:19 p.m. DO IT. COME ON.

9:21 p.m. The one-two punch of “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and Lil Jon is giving this performance a quality that could be described as “the weird kind of timeless.”

9:22 p.m. See also the sax snaking around Marc Anthony’s voice.

9:24 p.m. 2011: The Year Pop Songwriters Just Stopped Writing Bridges (see also “Love, We Found”)

9:25 p.m. The “fuckin’… oops” from Guns N’ Roses’ acceptance speech all those years ago is rememorialized! If it happened this year it probably wouldn’t have caused all my ninth-grade classmates to make fun of me. I mean… oh, you know what I mean.

9:30 p.m. THE AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS AWARDS (midway point):
Best Performance: Kelly Clarkson
Best Performance (Looking Surprised Even Though She Really Isn’t Edition): Taylor Swift
Most Awkward Shoes: Nicki Minaj
Worst Attempt To Coattail-Ride Off “I’m Yours”‘ Success: Justin Bieber
The “Louboutins” Award For Schadenfreude Nostalgia: Jennifer Lopez

9:32 p.m. Katy Perry trying to turn tonight into Pink Sunday. Have I mentioned that I detest Katy Perry?

9:33 p.m. Katy Perry’s dress is the sartorial equivalent of a mullet worn by someone who wanted “spaceman in the front, prom in the back.” You’d think Heidi Klum introducing her would have resulted in her not wearing such an auf-able outfit.

9:35 p.m. More lasers. I thought the whole idea of the AMAs was that each performer was allowed to get creative with their stage setup?


9:37 p.m. Congratulations, Katy Perry, for gaming the SoundScan system. For this you get an award.

9:37 p.m. “Thanks for letting me be a Chamillionaire…” Oh, Katy said “a chameleon this year.” Don’t worry, Katy, we still know that you’re a shrill try-hard underneath.

9:39 p.m. The band that’s been getting pushed all show won the award decided by texting and tweeting! We did it, everybody!

9:40 p.m. (By which I mean Hot Chelle Rae won Best New Artist.)

9:40 p.m. (Eh, at least they got Katy Perry off the stage.)

9:46 p.m. Jennifer Lopez wins the Favorite Latin Music Artist award and does the Taylor Swift Surprised Thing.

9:47 p.m. She’s thanking God and calling this year “amazing.”

9:47 p.m. She had to rifle through her purse to remember to thank her kids?

9:48 p.m. Nice of the director to cut to Selena Gomez after Jennifer Lopez spoke Spanish. Because get it????

9:49 p.m. Let’s hope that Alanis Morrissette introducing Mary J. Blige doesn’t mean that Jagged Little Pill II: The Swallowing Continues Part One is on the way.

9:50 p.m. Mary J. Blige reclaiming pantsuits! REMEMBER THE ’90S YOU GUYS

9:51 p.m. This song is not terrible, but this performance seems to be missing a fundamental bit of glue.

9:52 p.m. Also, why would you dedicate a performance of a song called “Mr. Wrong” to someone who just died?

9:53 p.m. Ellie Goulding: The blonde Jessie J.

9:54 p.m. Robin Thicke should really be singing.

9:54 p.m. Beyoncé isn’t not at the American Music Awards because she’s pregnant. She’s not sick, blonde Jessie J. She’s at her DVD premiere.

9:56 p.m. Is Lady Gaga’s Google Chrome ad using scenes from the real cut of the “Edge Of Glory” video?

10:00 p.m. One hour to go, everybody! Here’s Bruno Mars!

10:01 p.m. And now the obligatory performance of “Moves Like Jagger.” You know, there are large swaths of Maroon 5’s catalog that I don’t mind at all. Not crazy about their ripoff of “The Flame,” but when they’re operating in the Smarmy Hall and Oates mode they are totally fine. This song, though? Aggravating. From the whistling on down. It does have a bridge, which is nice I guess given the lack of structure so many pop songs have these days, but it’s such a weak Xerox of other songs of theirs.

10:03 p.m. Taylor Swift’s into it, though.

10:03 p.m. Oh dear, Christina Aguilera is back in “styling herself like Dee Snider” mode.

10:04 p.m. Adam Levine walks to the other side of the stage to perform “Stereo Hearts” with Gym Class Heroes. He’s diverse, people.

10:06 p.m. The AMAs really missed an opportunity by not having a livestream of Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez singing along running for the whole show.

10:14 p.m. 17 performances, Vanessa “Lachey” just announced. Weren’t there supposed to be 18?

10:15 p.m. The introduction for John Legend: “He’s a music legend, and not just in name only.” Do they have fifth graders writing this copy?

10:16 p.m. At least whoever wrote Legend’s intro for Drake had the sense to quote Jon Caramanica.

10:18 p.m. All I can think about during Drake’s performances is when the swooshes on his gloves are going to start glowing in the dark.

10:19 p.m. You’d think the guy who is on the verge of selling more than 700,000 records in a week would get a little more screen time than Jennifer Lopez. Oh, American Music Awards, you and your favor-trading are so crazy, never change.

10:20 p.m. I guess you have to watch Modern Family to get this joke.

10:22 p.m. Are ABC’s censors going to bleep out “feces” in the new song? That’s pretty much the most pressing question of the next 38 minutes.

10:26 p.m. Intro copy for Daughtry kind of eliding the fact that Daughtry’s “overnight success” was aided by a certain insanely popular TV show.

10:28 p.m. Two things about this performance: 1, Chris Daughtry sounds pitch-shifted, in the way that top 40 stations used to “sweeten” records that they felt were too slow; 2, is this his attempt to rewrite “Say It Ain’t So”?

10:30 p.m. Lots of pyro. It is probably very hot on that stage.

10:32 p.m. Ann Powers just noted that there hasn’t been one mention of the Occupy movement on the show at all. Perhaps… hahahahahahahahaha just kidding.

10:33 p.m. Dave Greenwald, who’s backstage at the show, said that Robin Thicke mentioned Occupy in the context of the NBA lockout. Hmmmm.

10:38 p.m. Jenny McCarthy in her “glasses-wearing author” guise reminds me of Serious Tara Reid.

10:40 p.m. I’m going to guess that watched the Sesame Street episodes featuring Mummenschanz a lot as a kid.

10:41 p.m. If this song is “going hard,” then I’ll just stay right here at home.

10:42 p.m. Virtual Mick Jagger, moving like the guise of himself that was in the “Dancing With The Streets” video. 2011: The year that nobody was embarrassed by anything.

10:43 p.m. Well, that song won the “Santana/Gavin Rossdale Award Arguing In Favor Of The Generation Gap.”

10:43 p.m. 10:43 p.m.: The American Music Awards’ first mention of Adele, the biggest star in music in 2011. I know she’s on the DL at the moment, but really?

10:49 p.m. Artist of the Year time.

10:49 p.m. Please don’t let Katy Perry win.


10:50 p.m. The fans are the reason for the season.

10:50 p.m. Taylor should stop straightening her hair for the American Music Awards.

10:51 p.m. She can’t believe this happened! Even though it’s happened so many times before! Did someone give her a can of Jolt right before she went on stage?

10:52 p.m. Maybe the producers pumped some sort of drug into the room to get everyone for the Old Navy-sponsored LMFAO performance because now Lionel Richie is acting all cray too.

10:53 p.m. 3-D glasses? To watch a live performance? OK, now I’m definitely thinking there’s a mass drugging going on.

10:54 p.m. Every day they’re shufflin. But where is Shufflebot?

10:55 p.m. Well there’s Shufflebot. And there’s… Justin Bieber? In Zubaz? OK, sure.

10:56 p.m. I’d think The Situation would be more appropriate of a special guest on the “I work out” song.

10:57 p.m. I will never be unable to unsee the lulz underwear in HD. Never. Talk about your occupational hazards.

10:58 p.m. But you know at least I didn’t see them in 3-D.

10:58 p.m. I also appreciate how this song samples the deep breath from Nice N’ Wild’s “Diamond Girl,” or something that sounds similar to it.


11:00 p.m. I… I have to go. I mean the show’s over, too? But however better to close it out, by being forced to run away.

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