Nov. 21, 2011— -- Less than two weeks after scoring the top prize at the Country Music Association Awards, Taylor Swift took home the night's biggest honor, artist of the year, at the American Music Awards, which aired live on ABC Sunday night.
The award was Swift's third of the evening -- she had previously won favorite country female artist and favorite country album -- but she appeared shocked when her name was called for the big prize.
"This is the craziest thing that has ever happened to me!" an incredulous Taylor said. "Fans, please never change. I can't believe this is happening to me!" Repeating "Oh my God" numerous times, Taylor thanked her fans profusely, as well as her friend Selena Gomez, whom she called "the little sister that I never had."
Adele was also a three-time winner on Sunday night's telecast, but two of her awards -- favorite adult contemporary artist and favorite pop/rock female artist -- weren't given out on camera. On camera, she won for favorite pop/rock album for her multi-million-selling smash "21", but sadly wasn't able to be there to accept it, since she's recovering from vocal cord surgery.
Nicki Minaj picked up two awards, for favorite rap/hip-hop artist and favorite rap/hip-hop album for Pink Friday, and also had the honor of opening the show. Wearing a curly pink bob, a voluminous green gown and heels so high she could barely walk across the stage, Nicki choked up at her win for favorite rap/hip-hop album.
"This one could actually make me cry," she said. "I can't believe this is happening," telling her fans, "Chase your dreams! I never thought that this would be possible." She added, "Shout-out to all the female rappers, past, present and future!"
Nicki also thanked Taylor Swift, whose viral video of her rapping along to "Super Bass" Nicki credits with making that song a hit. Taylor and Selena Gomez were actually shown in the audience Sunday night rapping along to "Super Bass" as Nicki performed it as part of her opening number.
Other winners included Rihanna and Beyonce -- both of whom accepted their awards via video message, since they weren't there -- plus Lady Antebellum, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars and Hot Chelle Rae, who was named Sprint New Artist of the Year. In addition, Katy Perry was given a special award of achievement for being the first woman ever to score five #1 hits from a single album. The only other artist who had ever done that was Michael Jackson.
However, the American Music Awards was really all about the live performances -- 17 in all, including over half a dozen artist collaborations. In fact, watching it was like attending a concert called "2011: The Year in Pop Music," with nearly every big artist and hit of the year represented.
The closing number was an over-the-top performance by LMFAO, who turned the Nokia L.A. Live Theatre into a giant dance club with a medley of "Party Rock Anthem" and "Sexy and I Know It" that featured guest appearances by Justin Bieber and David Hasselhoff, numerous men ripping off their pants, showers of confetti and a giant inflatable zebra.
Of note, Adam Lambert returned to the AMA stage Sunday night for the first time since his scandalously sexy performance on the show in 2009 caused him to be banned from the network for a brief time. "Has it been two years already? Time flies," he remarked wryly.