Music and energy keep things moving at American Music Awards


Music awards shows can blend together, given that there are so many. What separates the 2011 American Music Awards, airing Sunday, Nov. 20, on ABC, from the others is that they were created for TV, and fans choose the winners.

Dick Clark has always been the force behind the AMAs, which rely on what people want to listen to rather than having the industry set the agenda. For the fifth year, fans have voted online, and they gave the most nominations, in four categories, to Adele.

The 39th annual show, airing from Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, features Nicki Minaj opening and Katy Perry closing. Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez and Kelly Clarkson are among the other performers scheduled. The only caveat is that it's a live show, and the roster had changed in the weeks leading up to it.

When the AMAs started, Larry Klein, the musician and producer, was a gofer.

"There were Xerox machines, and I was collating scripts one page at a time," he says. "I was getting people cigarettes and sodas. I delivered scripts all over the city and had no idea of what L.A. was like and no idea of how to get around."

Today, Klein runs the show.

Unlike so many awards shows, this one has no host.

It's kept moving "by the energy of the music and the energy in the room," Klein says.

He brings artists together and figures out pairings, such as the Sarah McLachlan and Pink duet of "Angel" at the 2008 awards.

Among this year's duets to look for is Pitbull and Marc Anthony singing "Rain Over Me."Pitbull, who is up for favorite male artist in the pop/rock and Latin music categories, takes a break from recording -- in the closet of a friend's house.

"The recording can be done anywhere," he says.

With his songs charting in Europe, Asia and Australia, and already a megastar in Spanish-speaking countries, Pitbull vows to just continue to work harder. During a 20-minute interview, he frequently talks about learning -- learning from other artists, learning how they handle the business end and just broadening his business, which now includes low-calorie vodka.

Pitbull collaborates often and explains, "What you get out of that is you tap into their audience and vice versa. I think of it more as a university, and each collaboration is a class. You learn so much from each artist. I learn the way to record, and something about the business."

When he considers the AMAs, what he's most excited about is "to be around such walking empires and song brands.

"What I love at the awards show is to just sit there and observe and study everybody," he says. "You can tell who has longevity in the business as to how they handle their team."

Like most of those interviewed, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 is excited about whom he may meet at the awards.

"It happens all so randomly, and everyone under the sun will be there," Levine says. If he had the chance to meet anyone, "Paul McCartney would blow my mind," he says.

Maroon 5 will sing "Moves Like Jagger" with Christina Aguilera.

"It is hard singing on a stage with her because she is so good," Levine says. "I will have to flail my arms around and run around like a maniac."

Though it's a huge audience filled with music's top talent, Levine has played in front of 1 million people, and one of his first concerts was at producer Clive Davis' in front of Jay-Z, Missy Elliott and Smokey Robinson, so he doesn't give in to jitters.

"A huge crowd of people is a huge crowd of people," he says. "You know when you are in a club or when you are in an arena it makes no difference. It's like seeing a bear -- you act like you are taller than the bear. That's what performing is."

Justin Bieber, up for favorite male artist in the pop/rock category, also doesn't get stage fright.

"I just feel like I have been doing this for 37 years, so I don't get nervous," says Bieber, who's singing "Mistletoe."

He also doesn't get star-struck. If he could pick anyone to perform with, it would be Stevie Wonder.

Ryan Follese, frontman for Hot Chelle Rae, nominated for new artist in the pop/rock category, is completely amped up about the AMAs.

"We still are so used to playing such crap clubs and expecting nobody to come to the shows, and when we hear there is a 400-ticket presale, it's 'Are you kidding me?' It hasn't set in," Follese says.

Even for singers such as Pitbull, who plays to sold-out arenas all over the world, the AMAs are a thrill. Pitbull may not write a full acceptance speech, but he plans to tap out notes on his phone, just to remind himself.

"I always thank the same people," he says. "Those are the ones in the infrastructure and are always with me. It's not about winning the award. It's more of the experience and to be able to be in a room with so talented and powerful people, and to be able to absorb the energy and to apply it."

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