The late King of Pop won four of five categories in which he was nominated, topping out his AMA career total at 23 awards on Sunday in Los Angeles, The Associated Press reported. But country star Taylor Swift stole the show’s coveted top artist of the year prize.
"The message that Michael had will live on forever," Jermaine Jackson said in accepting an award on his brother’s behalf. "He saw good in everyone and he wanted everyone to do good. He always started with love."
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In accepting her award via satellite from London, Swift also paid tribute to Jackson.
"Music has never been ultimately about competition," the 19-year-old pop sensation said. "To even be mentioned in a category with Michael Jackson, who we will miss and love forever, is an unimaginable honor."
Swift and Jackson weren’t the only music stars notably absent from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday. Swift’s one-time taunter, Kanye West, and defender, Beyonce, were also M.I.A.
In their absences, the performance-heavy program delivered plenty of YouTube worthy moments: Adam Lambert’s lewd dance routine, J-Lo’s fall, Lady Gaga’s flaming piano and Rihanna and Whitney’s comeback performances.
Janet Jackson kicked off the AMAs by performing a medley from new greatest hits album “Number Ones.”
Rihanna and Lambert also took to the stage to promote new CDs.
Dressed in a skintight bodysuit and sporting blonde hair, Rihanna covered her neck with a tattoo of the name of her new album: “Rated R.”
Lambert also turned heads during his S&M-inspired performance, where the ex-“Idol” pushed a male dancer’s face into his crotch, and locked lips with his androgynous keyboard player when performing a song from “For Your Entertainment.”
Jennifer Lopez’s boxing-themed performance fueled buzz online, and became a trending topic on Twitter, when the singer briefly fell after jumping off a dancer’s back.
Lady Gaga, who did not win any AMAs, nevertheless thrilled fans when performing songs from her new album “The Fame Monster.” The performance artist somehow managed to dodge flames from her piano while continuing to sing.
Finally, music industry veteran Whitney Houston, who has struggled in some recent public performances since launching a comeback album, delivered a steady rendition of “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.” Later she dedicated her International Award for Excellence to her daughter, music producer and fans.