Kanye West had nothing to complain about Sunday, as he picked up his first-ever American Music Awards and delivered a flawless, if subdued, performance of his new single, “Heartless.”
West was a double winner, collecting trophies for favorite male rap/hip-hop artist and favorite rap/hip-hop album for his CD, “Graduation.”
“I’d like to thank everyone who accepted me trying to break new boundaries in music,” West said after his first win. “It’s our responsibility as musicians to keep pushing each other. ... We will be the new Beatles, the new (Jimi) Hendrix. I want to be Elvis.”
Four years ago, West threw one of his first awards-show tantrums when Gretchen Wilson beat him for favorite new artist, beginning what has become somewhat of a tradition at awards shows — the Kanye outburst. Not so this year — he even offered his award for favorite male rap/hip-hop artist to Lil Wayne, saying it was more his year.
But the evening’s big winner was 19-year-old Chris Brown, who won three awards, including artist of the year honors.
“I would’ve gave it to Coldplay,” Brown said of the night’s big prize. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Besides West, other double winners included Rihanna and Alicia Keys. Keys’ CD, “As I Am,” was the favorite pop/rock and soul/R&B album. Queen Latifah and opera singer Kathleen Battle joined Keys as she performed her single “Superwoman.”
Rihanna, who wore chains and a leather corset to perform “Rehab,” was named favorite female artist in both the pop/rock and soul/R&B categories. Brown — her rumored boyfriend — won favorite male artist in those same categories.
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. 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, 18, confessed backstage. “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.