By Kyle Anderson
Updated November 17, 2011 at 09:35 PM EST
Credit: John Shearer/Getty Images
  • Music

This Sunday, the 39th annual American Music Awards will be beamed into your living room live from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. The fact that they even hand out those strange props from 2001: A Space Odyssey as prizes is barely the point; did you actually remember that Justin Bieber walked away with four awards in 2010?

Even the show itself seems to know the actual statuettes are sort of arbitrary; they will be doled out according to fan voting, which means that the artists with the most mobilized internet presences will be walking away with new mantlepieces.

But the American Music Awards do prove useful for the music business — they provide a big, spangly event that showcases (most of) pop’s major artists right around the time that people are thinking of making their holiday music purchases.

Like many other businesses that rely on retail sales, the music industry always gets a huge boost during the holidays as people rush to fill stockings with new releases, holiday albums, iTunes gift cards, and luxury items like box sets and vinyl. Conveniently, the AMAs give artists with product to move a stage on which to make their pitches to a national television audience, provided that people actually tune in ( this Sunday night’s NFL game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles promises to cut into the numbers some).

Last year’s show received the lowest ratings in the history of the event, but still managed to provide spark for a bunch of the performers, including Rihanna, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Ne-Yo, Taylor Swift, and Ke$ha, all of whom saw their sales get a nice boost after they performed on the show.

This year’s performance slate is similarly loaded — Maroon 5, Swift, LMFAO, Drake, Mary J. Blige, Bieber, Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry, Ludacris, Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, the Band Perry, OneRepublic, Gym Class Heroes, and Chris Brown are all scheduled to perform.

The big focus this year is on collaborations, with six of them (Minaj with David Guetta, Pitbull with Marc Anthony and Lil Jon, Iglesias with Ludacris, Lopez with, and a huge mash-up that will see Maroon 5 run through “Moves Like Jagger” with Christina Aguilera and also loan out Adam Levine for Gym Class Heroes’ “Stereo Hearts”) taking the stage this Sunday.

That lineup also drives home a curious aspect of the current cycle of pop music. The general perception is that culture moves faster than ever, but consider this: There are half a dozen artists who performed on last year’s show who are back for a second year (and though Rihanna isn’t among them, she certainly has a new album to promote and could have easily slid into the lineup).

Pop music moves pretty fast, but the fact that there are a handful of artists who can stick around from year-to-year points to the power of singles. Each new song released to radio is almost treated like a new album, with its own series of talk-show performances, video treatments, remixes, and chart pushes.

It’s easy to forget that all of those Katy Perry hits come from the same album, even though you could easily make the case that her “Firework” period was entirely different than the one for “California Gurls” or the current single “The One That Got Away.”

Of all those performers, which one are you most excited to see? And who is going to convince you to spend some extra Christmas cash on music? Let us know who you’re anticipating in the comments!


Maroon 5

  • Music