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American Music Awards producer Larry Klein dishes on potential highlights of Sunday's show

November 20, 2010 |  1:18 pm


As one of the biggest record buying weeks (Kanye West!! Nicki Minaj!! Justin Bieber!! Robyn!! Ke$ha!?) in recent history approaches, it’s only fitting that the American Music Awards closes out the year, and butters up the populace for the Grammy nominations announcement next month.

The broadcast, in its 38th year, airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC. The East Coast will see the show live from the Nokia Theatre, which, bummer for us, means they're more likely to experience the (best) unplanned moments, such as Jennifer Lopez’s tumble last year, which was edited from the West Coast airing. The three-hour show is to feature 18 music performances -- and, of course, a few awards tossed in to make it official.

Pop & Hiss caught up with AMA producer Larry Klein on Friday during last-minute rehearsals for the show at downtown's Nokia, where he offered his thoughts on a few potential highlights.

1. Girl power. With the past year having a number of banner releases (even if they didn't perform so well) from some of pop’s biggest ladies, the show will showcase divas galore. Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Christina Aguilera and Rihanna all will hit the stage Sunday during the three-hour show. Rihanna, who just released her fifth disc, “Loud,” is slated to open the ceremony after making a rather triumphant post-Chris Brown performance last year.

“What Rihanna’s gonna open with, nobody has ever seen that before,” Klein teases. “They might have heard the song, but not like this, ever. This is her version, her way and I’m telling you it’s so dramatic, it’s so impactful. When they played it for me, I was salivating. It’s so phenomenal … so incredibly cool on every level.”

2. The performances.  The AMAs have always been about how each performer can top another, although it’s rather doubtful that anyone this year will grab as many headlines as Adam Lambert’s eyebrow-raising set last year. One of those planning to push the limits is Ne-Yo. The R&B crooner's high concept album hits stores the day after his AMA showing. He’s using his stage time to preview the album’s intricate story line.

“It was a little difficult [adapting the album’s concept for the performance]. We are trying to take a story that initially spanned 147 pages to 30 pages, and then had to break down to a four minute performance,” Ne-Yo said post-rehearsal. “It’s not easy at all. It’s confusing for us, and I imagine it can be somewhat confusing for the crowd, but I have faith in my choreographers, dancers and in myself that we can give you a trailer of the story and have people understand it.”

3. Oh, yeah, there are awards. In case you forgot –- which is easy to do –- there are awards to be doled out. Eminem and Lady Antebellum lead the pack with five nominations each, and phenoms such as Bieber and the “Glee” cast of course didn’t go ignored. But the winners and losers, decided by fans through an Internet vote, are less a concern than putting on a good show.

“I swear to you, yes I know it’s an award show. I don’t diminish that on any level; the American Music Awards is a heavy-duty award show. But my job, I think, is to give the public the best entertainment show that I can,” Klein said. “But we are a TV show.”

4. “Oh Oh Oh Oh, Oh Oh Oh Oh.” Brace yourselves. The Backstreet Boys are back, all right, and they will be joined by a fellow man-boy band. Klein is hoping folks will go crazy over the much-ballyhooed joint performance of the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block. The closer will be a tease for what’s in store for their recently announced summer 2011 joint concert tour.

“They have never been on TV together before, in their lives, and they are going to be doing it here,” Klein said, obviously excited by the prospect. “They are going to be doing a mash-up of their songs, going back and forth. How cool is that?"

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: The New Kids on the Block, left to right. Danny Wood, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Jordan Knight and Jonathan Knight, performed at Staples Centers in Los Angeles on Oct. 8, 2008. Credit: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times