7:40 p.m.: Twenty-minute countdown to the start of the American Music Awards. Who will be the big winner? Lady Antebellum and Eninem are the leading nominees. Will Justin Bieber be artist of the year?
8:06 p.m.: Rihanna opens with an a capella expanded chorus of her part of Eminem's “Love the Way You Lie,” while she sits in a tree. She then goes into “What’s My Name.” That may be one of the strangest segues ever: to go from a song about being an abuse victim to singing, with a few open-thighed stripper moves thrown in, about wanting a boy to work her over. Now, with the help of a few backup singers, she's performing “Only Girl in the World.” She may not be, but we’re guessing she’s lip synching since there are parts when we hear her voice but the microphone is nowhere near her mouth. Am I the only one who’s tired of performances on awards shows turning into medleys? Can’t we just do one song anymore? It doesn’t make it any more of an “event” if you stitch three seemingly disparate songs together whose only common thread is the singer.
8:10 p.m.: Usher wins the first award of the night for favorite album ("Raymond v. Raymond") and basically thanks his new management team. Yawn.
8:14 p.m.: The Black Eyed Peas win the award for best pop/rock act, making the third time they've won the award. They win over Lady A and Train. Where are the rock bands? Is Will.i.am's hat made of legos? Awesome! They're trying to each get a word in as they get played off. Please, most of us can't remember any of their names beyond Fergie and Will.I.Am.
8:20 p.m.: Pitbull is wiping the floor with Enrique Iglesias as they run through "I Like It," complete with a drum and fife corps. Where's Lionel? I want him instead of a weak Iglesias imitation.
8:25 p.m.: Miley Cyrus is trotting out the oldest trope in the world to signify she's "serious, y'all." A black gown that covers her up totally--I've never see less of her-- and candles, lots of them, in a darkly lit performance of "Forgiveness and Love" that you practically need night vision goggles to watch. It's a lovely song but she can't sell it no matter how much she tries; she just doesn't have enough life under her belt yet. But hey, she's comporting herself damn well during her parents' divorce, so I'm sending her nothing but positive vibes.
8:30 p.m.: Ditty Dirty Money are performing "Coming Home," I feel like I'm watching Tony Orlando & Dawn 2.0. Again, another dark stage. Maybe it's just my slingbox, but does Ditty look more and more like Arsenio hall every day? I'm really not feeling this song, although I loved the audience shot of what I believe was one of Ditty's sons bopping along.
8:35 p.m.: A very restrained Taylor Swift wins country female. She's rocking bangs and straight, long hair. She looks absolutely beautiful. Do you think she's nervous every time she starts to give an acceptance speech now that someone will jump up and interrupt?
8:37 p.m.: Kid Rock, whose promoting his new album, "Born Free," performs a lovely, acoustic tribute to his hometown, "In Times Like These," as slides of high points and low points in Motor City history play. It's Seger-ish, though the other Bob would have given it a bit more of an edge. We're liking the kinder, gentler Kid Rock. He's reinventing himself in a way that seems totally authentic to us.
8:47 p.m.: Shakira is a no-show to claim her top Latin artist win. Daddy Yankee was also nominated. We didn't know he was still around....The Black Eyed Peas are now performing "The Time (Dirty Bit)." If the song didn't include "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" from "Dirty Dancing," it really wouldn't have anything going for it. (Am I the only one who can't hear that song without thinking "No one puts Baby in a corner?") At least the performance featuring dancers with boxes on their heads is amusing.
8:58: Katy Perry is singing "Firework," one of the best songs from "Teenage Dream." She's in a long dress. I'm betting my cat that the skirt will be off before the end of the performance or fireworks will shoot out of her crotch. A boys choir sang the opening. Oh, there goes the skirt. I'm so glad I get to keep my cat. She's trying hard, but it's a really tepid performance, despite the guys doing semaphore with big sparklers in the background. She just seems really tired, as in physically exhausted, not tired in an "oh snap" way.
9:02 p.m.: Rihanna wins the award for best soul/R&B female, but not before presenter Nicki Minaj gives a shout-out for her album, "Pink Friday." I know ever since Macy Gray wore an outfit with the name of her new album on the skirt we've lost any sense of decorum, but that is the height of rude. Guess what, Nicki? I know it's really, really hard to believe, but it's not all about you--or your stupid wigs.
9:04 p.m. Justin Bieber is performing "Pray," a message song from his new acoustic album. Very interesting that both he and Miley chose to do songs that address social concerns of the day. Their abilities and talents aside, it's a great message to send out to their young fans. I don't know why, however, Justin pretended to be playing the piano since the tinkling went on once he got up. We certainly won't take you any more seriously if you fake play the piano. It's like trying to look smarter by wearing glasses with no lenses in them. And, of course, you brought a choir with you.
9:06 p.m.: The first hour is history: The big nominees, Usher and Lady Antebellum haven't won or lost anything yet. There were a staggering seven performances in the first hour. The best was Kid Rock, but they were all fairly boring. Nothing noteworthy in the least. And Nicki Minaj managed to offend me with her shameless plug. Given the timing of the show--right before Black Friday--it's basically a huge old sales pitch to buy everyone's current album...with a beat. There's almost no correlation between who plays and who wins.
9:14 p.m.: Brad Paisley wins best country male. Fairly mundane speech, although he notes it's the first time he's ever thanked his parents at an awards show.
9:16 p.m.: Bon Jovi, who has the No. 1 album in Europe, is performing its lackluster new single, "What Do You Got" before, you guessed it, seguing into "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "It's My Life." Doesn't "What Do You Got" sound exactly like Cinderella's "I'm Coming Home?" I don't know what the folks in the audience are seeing, but we're seeing lightning coming out of Richie Sambora's guitar. Or maybe it's just me. As regular readers know, I love Bon Jovi, but that felt pretty uninspired.
9:23 p.m.: Am I the only one mildly amused by the Ke$ha parodies in the Old Navy commercials?
9:29 p.m.: Justin Bieber wins the Breakthrough Artist award. As if he was really going to lose to a fan-voted award to Mike Posner or Travie McCoy?
9:31 p.m.: Okay, it doesn't compare with M.I.A's "I'm about to go into labor at any moment" performance at the Grammys a few years back, but we're loving that momma-to-be Pink is managing to give the highest energy performance of the night with "Raise Your Glass." Man, there's a lot going on here-- a skate ramp, major gymnastics, Dan from The Dan Band. All the dirty little freaks are loving it...me too.
9:40 p.m.: Ne-Yo is seemingly going through the history of love gone wrong in a very cinematic performance that intersperses live action with his videos and three songs. I love his old-school approach.
9:46 p.m.: It's a night for low-key performances. Taylor Swift is singing "Back to December" seated sedately at a piano, surrounded by trees and snow (it is December, after all). The straight hair is throwing us off a little. It's like it's a completely different person. She also sounds better than she normally does in live performances. Coincidence? Wait... shes now gone into OneRepublic's "Apologize." We bet you Ryan Tedder is calling her right now to try to set up a writing date.
9:51 p.m.: Justin Bieber wins best pop/rock male besting Usher and Eminem, whom Bieber says he's been singing since was 3. Bieber thanks Michael Jackson because "without Michael Jackson, none of us would be here." Uh, not really true, but sweet nonetheless. I know it seems like the end of western civilization for Bieber to be winning, but, again, these are fan-voted awards and no one dials/texts with the fervid passion of a tween--except for all those tea baggers who are voting for Bristol Palin on "DWTS."
9:59 p.m.: Christina Aguilera is performing a song from "Burlesque." If you're not near a TV, imagine "Stronger," since that's what the song sounds like. As far as outfits, think about her remake with Pink, Mya and Lil Kim of "Lady Marmalade." Next best thing to being there.
10:03 p.m.: Lady Antebellum wins best country band.
10:05 p.m.: I'm more into the commercials than the show. LOVED the commercial for Michael Jackson's video game out on Tuesday and the Beatles/iTunes ad.
10:08 p.m.: Usher and Swedish House Mafia are performing "DJ Got Us Falling in Love." Normally, Usher can make any show a party, but even he's flat tonight...though I love watching him dance. Is there something in the water? No one has hit a home run, though we'd give Pink a triple. The crowd, however, seems to feel that Usher hit it out of the park.
10:13 p.m.: Avril Lavigne just described the acts in the best alternative category as "amazeballs." Oh my God...will that be Perez Hilton's lasting contribution to society? Someone actually wrote "amazeballs" into the script? Muse wins and one of the dudes thanks Charles Darwin. I feel like I should get that joke, but I don't. Is it an evolution or survival of the fittest joke? Feel free to chime in if you know.
10:16 p.m.: Train is performing "Hey Soul Sister" with girls from the audience joining them on stage. We can safely say these are not professional dancers. I love comeback stories like the one Train had this year, I just wish it had been with a good song. Hard to believe it's the same band that gave us "Calling All Angels."
10:25 p.m.: Michael Buble beats Train and Lady Antebellum for best adult contemporary artist. He thanks all his fans, "old, young, gay straight." Best acceptance speech of the night.
10:27 p.m.: Is this Ke$ha's idea of a conceptual performance? We can't tell if she has on a miner's hat or some weird helmet. We really don't think there's too much to mine here. Ke$ha may be many things, but an artist blessed with deep hidden meaning in her songs would not be one of them. I love how she makes sleeping in cars in "We R Who We R" sound like an aspirational goal. Oh look, she's playing guitar. She and Justin Bieber can form a fake band.
10:38 p.m.: Ah, here's a real band: Santana. Carlos is joined by Gavin Rossdale to perform T Rex's "Bang A Gong" from Santana's new album of classic guitar songs. We saw them perform this live in Las Vegas and Rossdale killed, so we have to believe these performances just aren't coming across on TV...or he's having a very bad night. I have a new nightmare--to be one of the people in the audience that the camera pans to who makes a complete ass of themselves playing air guitar.
10:40 p.m: Chris Brown, Trey Songz and Usher compete in best soul/R&B male, presented by Lady A, who, as they admit, "f*** up" their intro. Usher wins. I don't know what it would have meant if Chris Brown had won. It's too soon. Usher is wearing all black leather, like Elvis in the '68 Comeback Special. But, as he said, "Can't call it a comeback. I've been doing this for 18 years." Wow. Time flies.
10:48 p.m.: We're in the homestretch. Artist of the Year. Will it be Justin Bieber, Eminem, Ke$ha, Lady GaGa or Katy Perry? It's Justin Bieber. Remember, it's fan voted....We love that Usher, whose label Justin records for, picked him up. Eminem, who was the top nominee with Lady A, wasn't even in the house, we don't think (the only award he won was awarded off camera). Bieber just brought Usher up on stage. They make a lovely couple.
10: 52 p.m.: What does it say that the closing spot, the most exciting moment of the show, goes to the reunion of New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys. BSB Brian Litrell is badly warbling through "I Want It That Way," a song I still have a soft spot for. He sounds bad, but the rest of the BSBs sound good, as do their harmonies. New Kids look old, but sound okay on "Step By Step." However, aren't some of them old enough to join the AARP? The "Right Stuff" dance has not aged well. Quite honestly, this little preview of their summer tour is all I need to see.
10:58 p.m.: And we're done. You can say this about a dick clark production: it will end on time, if nothing else. The best performance of the night belonged to Pink, although that's not saying much in an evening of really blah appearances. Best dancer: Usher, hands (and feet) down. I feel pretty depressed about the state of pop music right now.
What did you think of the show?