(Reuters) – The American Music Awards rings in its 40th year on Sunday, with top nominees like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj battling for the top trophies and Stevie Wonder leading a tribute to the show’s late founder, Dick Clark.
Variety is the key to this year’s three-hour ceremony from Los Angeles, with performers including Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, 1990s ska-punk band No Doubt, alt-rockers Linkin Park, country-pop darling Taylor Swift, Korean Internet sensation Psy and British-Irish boyband The Wanted.
“The AMAs reflects pop culture, which is all forms of music, all genres, pop, rock, country, hip hop, alternative … all these things that normally don’t together. It’s our job to make it flow,” producer Larry Klein told Reuters.
R&B star Rihanna, 24, and Minaj, 29, tied for the most nominations this year, with four apiece, and will battle each other in the hotly contested female pop-rock category.
Rihanna will also face stiff competition for the top award of the night, the artist of the year accolade, where she will compete with Bieber, Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and Drake.
The new artist category is expected to be a tight race between rapper J. Cole, indie-pop band fun., Australian singer Gotye, British boyband One Direction and Canadian popstar Carly Rae Jepsen, who will also be performing on Sunday. The ceremony will be shown live on ABC Television.
Unlike the Grammy Awards, which are decided on by music producers, songwriters and others working in the industry, the American Music Awards are determined by fans.
“It’s the public who watches, who decides, who votes. This is an awards show where the public decides the nominees and winners, so our shows are more about pop culture,” Klein said.
This year sees a new category for the growing electronic dance music market, which Klein said he couldn’t ignore. DJs David Guetta, Skrillex and Calvin Harris will compete for the trophy.
REMEMBERING DICK CLARK
This is the first time Klein will be running the show without the input of influential music and TV producer Dick Clark, who died in April at the age of 82. Clark created the American Music Awards in 1973 as an alternative to the Grammys, and Klein said his absence felt bizarre.
“Last year, he loved the show, he was very happy. He loved LMFAO when they closed the show, it was all a fun party of music, dance music, Dick loved it,” Klein said.
Clark, who also hosted “American Bandstand” and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” will be remembered on Sunday in a tribute led by Wonder and “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.
“I wanted to make it classy, elegant and meaningful, with something that truly summoned the relationship that Dick had with so many people,” said Klein, who has been involved in the show since its inception.
Klein said the show will look back on its 40-year history, showcasing some of its most memorable moments. Klein’s personal picks included performances from late singer Michael Jackson, funk-pop star Prince, and Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ rendition in 2009 of “Empire State of Mind.”
“I was very close to Michael Jackson, so every time Michael was on the show, it always made me happy. The Prince number we did was outrageous, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys…it really was epic, it was just extraordinary,” Klein said.
With more than fifteen individual performances, or “mini-shows” scheduled for Sunday, Klein said audiences can expect surprises.
“Live TV is the best, it’s unpredictable. Without a doubt there will be some unpredictable moments, I promise you,” the producer said.