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American Music Awards 2009 Live Blog: The Swift Strikes Back

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Tonight, nearly all of the music industry's biggest names are in one room: at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre for the 37th Annual American Music Awards. Janet Jackson, Eminem, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Adam Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, Jay-Z — they're all scheduled to perform at what's shaped up to be one of the most star-studded events of the year. VMAs victim Taylor Swift has the most nominations (with six) and Eminem and Michael Jackson are tied with five nods each. Stick with us here at Rolling Stone as we track all the action live, and stay tuned for photos from the big show and reports straight from the scene.

 

8:00 p.m.: "Ladies and gentlemen: Janet Jackson!" We would have recognized those winged shoulder pads anywhere (but, uh, why is she dressed like an R&B Indiana Jones?). She kicks things off with a medley of "Control" into "What Have You Done For Me Lately" into "Miss You Much" into "If." She settles into new single "Make Me," which bounces with a disco groove, and hops up and down during "Together Again," proving her mic is on by breathing heavily into it.

8:09 p.m.: Paula Abdul presents the first award for Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group. The Black Eyed Peas slay Kings of Leon for this one.

8:16 p.m.: Nobody bothered to write Kristen Bell and Jason Aldean any banter. Country Band, Duo and Group goes to Rascal Flatts.

8:18 p.m.: Pete Wentz is doing a good job hiding out from the media, introducing Daughtry, who perform new single "Life After You."

8:21 p.m.: Shakira and her new army of dancers have arrived! Her performance of "Give It Up To Me" is part step show, part aerial exhibition. Adam Lambert gives an approving neck nod. But alas, there is no Weezy.

8:30 p.m.: Modern Family's Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara get all hot and bothered introducing Keith Urban with "Kiss a Girl," a.k.a. the song he performed on the American Idol finale with Kris Allen.

8:34 p.m.: Reba McEntire has won 15 AMAs. Last night she was the subject of a wacky SNL Digital Short. Now she's here to shout out her "good buddy" Kelly Clarkson, who's doing her stripped-down string quartet version of "Already Gone." The version she prefers because it sounds less like Beyoncé's "Halo." It's good enough for a standing ovation!

8:44 p.m.: Snoop Dogg and Joe Perry make a joke about getting high. We hope Steven Tyler isn't watching. Female Pop/Rock goes to Taylor Swift ... who is standing by live from London. Yes, folks, she beat Beyoncé in this category. Cue a million Kanye West jokes.

8:45 p.m.: Could Alex Rodriguez be handing the mic off to anyone but Jay-Z and Alicia Keys for "Empire State of Mind"? The answer is no. Oh, how embarrassing, Jay-Z and Perez Hilton are wearing the same suit.

8:47 p.m.: Jay-Z has taught us you can't say the word "MDMA" on prime-time network TV!

8:51 p.m.: Christian Slater presents Alternative Artist — a term as old as Pump Up the Volume — to Green Day.

8:59 p.m.: Nicole Kidman and Kate Hudson could not be wearing more opposite outfits. Evidently, one of their costars in The Nine is Fergie. Hudson may have just called the Black Eyed Peas' Apl.de.ap "Apple." And Will.i.am accidentally dressed up like future Elvis. Is everyone who performs tonight going to visit Adam Lambert in the audience?

9:06 p.m.: Attention anyone who was bothered by Kurt Cobain's appearance in Guitar Hero 5: You may want to turn the volume down on your TV right about now. BEPs tossing a little "Smells Like Teen Spirit" into "Boom Boom Pow." Guess they were inspired by their Rock Hall 25th team-up with U2.

9:07 p.m.: Selena Gomez and Orianthi (a.k.a. Michael Jackson's superstar guitarist from This Is It) arrive to give out Soul/R&B Male ... to Michael Jackson. It's MJ's 22nd AMA.

9:13 p.m.: The bearded Zac Brown Band present Male Country Artist to Keith Urban, who is conveniently seated in the front row and is evidently a fan of the Zac Brown Band.

9:15 p.m.: Kris Allen and Demi Lovato are kind of the same height. Props to the AMAs for keeping these award presentations short and sweet. Beyoncé scores Female Soul/R&B and she's not there to accept. No Taylor Swift, no Beyoncé ... what the hell!?

9:17 p.m.: Ne-Yo and his fedora get to introduce one of the night's most anticipated performers — Rihanna! "Wait Your Turn" starts with Rihanna spinning on a sort of S&M windmill. She's conveniently tattooed her album name Rated R down her neck. Did you guys know it's out tomorrow?

9:20 p.m.: Rihanna's "Hard" has more profanity in it than we remembered. Busy censors. Did she borrow those laser shoulder pads from Lady Gaga?

9:26 p.m.: While you were taking a bathroom break, ABC aired an ad for A&E's new reality show The Jacksons.

9:27 p.m.: Rascal Flatts are having a major echo problem, but they have a great sense of humor about it. Carrie Underwood is bringing it with "Cowboy Casanova." But why are all her backup dancers dressed like Ne-Yo?

9:31 p.m.: Lady Gaga time! "Bad Romance" starts with Gaga and her dancers in nude-colored bodysuits, Star Trekian headpieces and "Thriller"-esque choreography.

9:34 p.m.: Now Gaga's smashing glass with her mic stand to get to her piano. There wasn't a door on that little room? Her piano is afire as she sings "Speechless" from The Fame Monster. Hey, did you kids know it's out tomorrow?

9:39 p.m.: Rolling Stone has learned Adam Lambert's performance is going to close the night down. Pretty impressive considering megawatt stars like Eminem, Whitney Houston and Green Day are in the house.

9:40 p.m.: In case you think punks are immune to the power of pop, Green Day admit, "It's nerve-wracking beyond belief, every single time. You see all the talent in the room — you see Lady Gaga and go, 'Oh my God, there's Lady fucking Gaga!' "

9:42 p.m.: Drake, Jeremih and Kid Cudi are looking dapper as they introduce Mary J. Blige with "I Am." Looks like she's been taking hair tips from Rihanna with her blond pseudo-pompadour.

9:47 p.m.: Colbie Caillat returns to present the award she was nominated for last year — the T-Mobile Breakthrough Artist, which is determined by voting via text. The winner is Gloriana. Did Lady Gaga know this a few seconds ago? When they cut to her, she looked like someone had just kicked her puppy. "Can we get a show of hands of everyone who just said, 'Who the heck is Gloriana? ' " they say, reading a million minds.

9:50 p.m.: Jennifer Lopez is definitely in fighting shape. J.Lo emerges in full boxing regalia (with Michael Buffer on the mic) to perform her new single "Louboutins." Good to see our Bronx gal dancing again — though she hit the floor hard on what may have been a botched move after she jumped off her dancer's back (see it here). Impressive costume change from boxing booties to high heel (we presume) Louboutins. If they don't try to tie this song to the Sex in the City sequel, we'll be shocked.

9:54 p.m.: Whitney Houston's first live TV performance in five years is coming up!

10:00 p.m.: Samuel L. Jackson is giving out the International Artist of the Year honor to Whitney Houston, who emerges in a halo of light for "I Didn't Know My Own Strength." She's adding lots of tiny, tight runs in her lower range and bringing a choir for backup firepower. She takes a moment for applause before the end of the song — the crowd is eating up Whitney's big return. Reba McEntire has tears in her eyes! Jay-Z is grinning madly.

10:06 p.m.: Jackson says, "And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger..." Oh wait, no he doesn't. He just reads the inscription on Houston's pointy award.

10:13 p.m.: Leona Lewis and Dancing With the Stars' Carrie Ann Inaba present Female Country Artist to Taylor Swift, who is back, live from London with her guitarist who has Kate Gosselin hair.

10:15 p.m.: Another quick award: Melissa Etheridge announces Male Pop/Rock Artist goes to Michael Jackson, for his second win of the night. Long acceptance speech from Jermaine. "He saw good in everyone ... and he always started with love. Start with love and let's love each other."

10:17 p.m.: Alicia Keys hits the stage again, this time solo for "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart" from her new album Element of Freedom. Dare we say she sounded much better on "Empire State of Mind"? We dare.

10:21 p.m.: Keys is now playing a baby grand that's suspended from the ceiling and rotating. Lady Gaga has definitely upped the ante for pianists.

10:23 p.m.: Curb Your Enthusiasm is replaying on HBO. Rob Sheffield has a killer piece on the show in our next issue that's highly recommended.

10:26 p.m.: Not quite sure why Seth Green is introducing Eminem with 50 Cent ... but there it was. And what just happened to our TV? Em is performing "Crack a Bottle" through some sort of visual filter. Why is 50 even bothering to do his verse? The censors are muting almost every word. Still good to see Em back at 'em. Looking forward to The Refill.

10:31 p.m.: Quick segue into Timbaland's performance with his old pal Nelly Furtado and his new artist SoShy. It's been a minute since Tim and Nelly ruled the pop scene, but they're going to give it another crack with Shock Value 2. Is everyone going to do an homage to the "Thriller" dance tonight?

10:37 p.m.: Thanksgiving night is going to involve Paul McCartney and Beyoncé both doing big concerts on ABC? Who knew?

10:40 p.m.: Finally, a rock performance — Dominic Monaghan and Morena Baccarin introduce Green Day with "21 Guns," the track they just rerecorded with the cast of the American Idiot musical. Nice pyro. The AMAs aren't going to be happy until they burn this place down.

10:45 p.m.: Keri Hilson and Toni Braxton kind of hint at the winner of Male Rap/Hip-Hop, Jay-Z, before they opened the envelope. Real professional, AMAs.

10:48 p.m.: Conveniently, here are the accountants from Ernst & Young who certified the votes!

10:50 p.m.: OK, there's just 10 minutes left, folks. What can Adam Lambert do to suitably impress you? Eat fire? Kill a turkey? Walk on water?

10:52 p.m.: Ryan Seacrest will present the final honor of the night — Artist of the Year. It's between Eminem, Michael Jackson, Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. Well, Taylor Swift, you have done the near impossible: beat the Kings of Pop for this one, for a total of five trophies.

10:54 p.m.: Well, there's no time to marinate on Swift's very nice and humble acceptance speech (she seems well aware that beating out Michael Jackson for something is half-incredible, half-wrong). Lambert time!

10:55 p.m.: He's off to a Lambertian start, dragging a female dancer around by the leg and a male by a harness. Way to rub that guy's head in your crotch, Adam! "For Your Entertainment," indeed. We're not on American Idol anymore. There's story about Adam literally rubbing his sexuality in our faces just waiting to happen on Fox News right now.

10:58 p.m.: Not enough performers carve out time to make out with their keyboardist during their sets anymore, you know?

11:00 p.m.: An awards show that ends on time? The American Music Awards really are weird.

Want more from the AMAs? Rolling Stone will have a report from the scene and incredible photos from the show. Stay tuned!

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