The rule in entertainment has always been that the show must go on, no matter what. And so the 40th American Music Awards will be live on ABC Sunday, Nov. 18, despite the death of the man who created the show.
This will be the first AMAs since Dick Clark’s death in April, and Stevie Wonder, who worked with Clark back when he was still known as “Little Stevie,” will perform a tribute.
The lineup for one of music’s biggest nights is huge and runs across all pop music genres. The public votes for the winners, and some of the stars, such as Usher, Ke$ha, Carly Rae Jepsen and Linkin Park’s lead singer tell Zap2it why this live awards show means so much to them.
“It is the one awards that has no politics,” Usher says. “The AMA is by far the most critical. The fans determine whether we win or lose.”
As of this writing, Usher was still considering just what he would perform at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.
“There are many directions it can go, given that my career that has gone so long,” he says. “I can recognize just current success or future tours and videos. I could also go on something classic.”
Jepsen, who had the ubiquitous hit “Call Me Maybe,” knows what she will be singing and what she’ll be wearing. She’s planning a medley of “Call Me Maybe” and her new single, “This Kiss.”
This will be Jepsen’s first time at the AMAs, and she is giddy over the prospect.
“It is one of those things you dream you will do,” she says. “As a woman you always hope to walk that red carpet.”
“It is so funny I usually never know” what outfit to wear, she says. “Three or four months ago I tried on this dress and fell in love with it and have been saving it. And I’m going to be able to arrive at the AMAs [in it]. I knew why I was saving it. It’s really sparkly. I can’t tell what color, it’s a soft purple green and pink, the perfect little mermaid dress. My mom actually makes jewelry, and she has already made me matching earrings to go along with it.”
Another young singer who’s no stranger to sparkles, Ke$ha, plans to perform her new single “Die Young.”
“It’s kind of a big deal for me,” Ke$ha says. “I haven’t played it live yet.”
Like everyone, she has a favorite AMAs performance, and cites Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.”
Usher fondly recalls Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” coup at the awards show.
Chester Bennington of Linkin Park says the band will perform “Burn It Down.”
“We always have a lot of fun,” he says. “It is also nice to do a performance where it is not two hours long. I prefer the five-minute shows over the hour and a half shows.”
Others scheduled to perform include Carrie Underwood, Christina Aguilera, Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Nicki Minaj, No Doubt, Pink, Pitbull, Psy, Taylor Swift and The Wanted.
Presenters are 50 Cent, the Backstreet Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Eric Stonestreet, Ginnifer Goodwin, Heidi Klum, Jennifer Morrison, Karmin, Kerry Washington, Miley Cyrus and Ryan Seacrest.
Clark, though, remains on everyone’s minds.
“There are a few people who were not actual artists themselves who had tremendous impact on popular music, and I don’t think there is anybody in history who fills that category more than Dick Clark,” Bennington says.
“Dick Clark has defined many careers for all of us,” Usher says.
Larry Klein, producer of the AMAs, chokes up a little as he recalls his late best friend.
Klein worked on the first AMAs and has worked on each one since, beginning as a gofer and eventually becoming the show’s producer. Above all, he remains a true fan.
“It is a representation of what the public buys and listens to,” Klein says. “Dick always called it an entertainment show with some awards, and he created it to show the public who you listen to, who you buy, and show the world.”
The AMAs were once based strictly on what was playing on the radio and sales, but they now include social media. Artists court fans’ votes.
“Other shows are done by committees and academies and organizations, and people within decide ballots,” Klein says. “We are so simplistic and here is the top people in R&B, in hip-hop, and pop and country.”
Klein has never lost his enthusiasm and is giddier than Jepsen over being a part of the AMAs. He recalls the early days with Clark and how network executives dismissed music shows.
“But Dick understood the way music was changing,” Klein says. “The way parents and evangelists were against it, and everyone felt rock ‘n’ roll was the devil. Dick made it viable by putting on a suit and tie.
“He brought what was verboten everywhere,” Klein continues. “He made it accessible for people to be in their living rooms and see this brand-new kind of music and make it OK for the parents to go, ‘OK it is not going to hurt you.’ … I really believe everyone in the music industry today has a relationship with Dick Clark for what he did those many years ago.”