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American Music Awards: Three reasons to watch, three reasons to avoid

November 20, 2009 |  5:03 pm


It's hard to imagine that this is finally happening. A music awards show without Kanye West and/or Taylor Swift will go down on Sunday night, and right here in our hometown.

The American Music Awards are set for a live Sunday night broadcast -- tape-delayed for the West Coast. Set to air at 8 p.m. on ABC, expect at least 20 music performances, and the occasional fan-voted award to be handed out at the gala at downtown's Nokia Theatre. 

In a tradition started last year by Pop & Hiss, here's three reasons to tune in, and three reasons one may be better off catching up on those episodes of "The Mentalist" you have on your DVR.

Reasons to watch:

1. Rihanna. Her "Russian Roulette" stands as one of the starkest, bravest, toughest singles to be released in 2009. The fact that it came from one of the world's biggest pop stars, and sounded more fit for a horror soundtrack than a dance floor, only added to its mystique. Even if it's not the song she'll be performing Sunday, it instantly catapulted Rihanna from a singles artist to a serious force to be reckoned with. 

2. Lady Gaga. In terms of unpredictable pop stars, no one, perhaps, can top one Mr. West. But the man who should have been Gaga's touring partner is a bit MIA at the moment, and likely won't grace an awards  show again until the Grammys, if they'll have him. But in the absence of Kanye, Gaga can be counted on for some sort of spectacle, even if her award-show speeches won't be quite as off the cuff. Her recent video for "Bad Romance" was a sci-fi-inspired explosion of arresting images, and her last major TV appearance -- a performance on "Saturday Night Live" -- featured the artist completely breaking down her hits.

3. Because the Bears are on. This doesn't really apply to those of us on the West Coast, where the American Music Awards will air later than the rest of the country, but there won't be anything broadcast on the gala that comes close to the train wreck that is the 2009 Chicago Bears. Heck, you can slap Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood and 50 Cent together for a medley of Broadway hits of the '40s, and the three of them doing the foxtrot would make for more captivating television than the Chicago branch of the National Football League. 

Reasons to skip are after the jump.

1. In a week and a half, Grammy nominations will be announced. And that's really the official start of music award season. Yes, the Country Music Assn. Awards are nice and all, but true awards show bickering and griping shouldn't start until Dec. 2, when the Grammy noms are unveiled. This is like a preseason warm-up.

2. One of the biggest music stories of 2009 is not scheduled to be present. Swift just cleaned up at the CMAs, and she's on track to score a number of Grammy nominations, including album of the year. But she's not on the performance roster for the AMAs. The country superstar may very well end up with 2009's top-selling album, and her absence is a glaring omission, especially considering she has six nominations.

3. There's no suspense. At the very least, the Grammys are good for some head-scratching (see Herbie Hancock, 2008, album of the year). Additionally, one of the more fun -- and still somewhat surprising Grammy categories -- is best new artist. But the American Music Awards are based largely on data from Nielsen SoundScan, meaning the public has already voted for these artists with their dollars. There will be no Ledisi to come out of nowhere at the AMAs. Imagine taking "American Idol" winners Carrie Underwood,  Kelly Clarkson and David Cook, placing them together in a new "best of the Idols" category, and asking the public to vote all over again. That's sort of what the American Music Awards are like.

Bonus reason to skip: Love him or hate him, Kanye and his award antics are the only moments that actually feel somewhat random at these awards galas. Kanye, we miss you. Awards shows just won't be the same with you gone.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Rihanna performs in 2008. Credit: Kevin P. Casey / For The Times


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