Kelly Clarkson and Pink kicked off the 2017 American Music Awards paying tribute to those affected this year by hurricanes, gun violence, hate crimes and other tragic events.
Before the pop stars sang R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” on Sunday, Jamie Foxx said this year “we needed the power of music to help us escape the news of the day … to help us heal.”
First responders stood behind the actor at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, earning loud applause from the audience.
“Together we can unite as a people and as a nation,” Foxx said.
Imagine Dragons echoed the positive vibes when the band won the first award of the night for favorite pop/rock duo or group.
Lead singer Dan Reynolds gave a shout-out to “powerful women” when the band accepted the award onstage and said we need to continue to empower LGBTQ youth.
Selena Gomez, who had a kidney transplant this year due to her struggle with lupus, performed her latest single, “Wolves.” She sang while lying on the floor in a short night gown. Red marks, coming off like bruises and blood, appeared on her knees, hands and forehead.
Christina Aguilera sang a medley of Whitney Houston’s songs to honor the 25th anniversary of Houston’s film, “The Bodyguard.” Aguilera sang “Run to You,” ”I’m Every Woman,” ”I Have Nothing” and “I Will Always Love You.”
“Thank you Whitney Houston for being the best inspiration ever,” said Aguilera, who was introduced to the stage by Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis.
Kelly Rowland sang along and danced while Demi Lovato performed “Sorry Not Sorry.” Keith Urban sang when Shawn Mendes strummed his guitar to “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.”
Urban was one of the night’s big winners so far: He won favorite male country artist, favorite country song and favorite country album.
“Absolutely you should be sharing these, my love,” the country singer said as “This Is Us” actor Justin Hartley passed two of the trophies to Urban’s wife, actress Nicole Kidman, who sat in the audience.
DJ Khaled won favorite rap/hip-hop song for “I’m the One,” his No. 1 hit featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne. The Chainsmokers were named favorite electronic dance artist.
Golden Globe-winning “black-ish” actress Tracee Ellis Ross is hosting the AMAs, airing live on ABC. Ross’ mother, iconic entertainer Diana Ross, will be honored later in the show with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Other big stars are set to perform at the awards, including Lady Gaga, Niall Horan, BTS, Khalid, Alessia Cara, Zedd and Portgual. The Man. But while the performers are evenly split between men and women, the nominees? Not so much.
In categories such as artist of the year and favorite pop/rock album, where men and women compete with each other, no female acts are in contention. Other genderless categories in which male acts far outnumber female nominees include video of the year, tour of the year, favorite country album and favorite soul/R&B song.
Halsey is the only female act nominated for favorite pop/rock song and collaboration of the year, both for the Chainsmokers’ No. 1 hit, “Closer.” Halsey is the song’s featured guest.
Singer-songwriter Julia Michaels is the only woman up for new artist of the year.
The 2017 AMAs are a reflection of the year in pop music — no woman hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2017 until Taylor Swift and Cardi B did so in September. This year’s pop charts have been dominated by rap, a field in which women are a rarity.
Rock and country songs also have performed well this year and are genres where male acts have outperformed female acts.
Bruno Mars is the top contender at the AMAs with eight nominations, while Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran, Drake, the Chainsmokers and the Weeknd all earned five nominations apiece. All of those acts aside from the Weeknd are nominated for artist of the year.
Mars’ No. 1 hit, “That’s What I Like,” earned him nominations for favorite soul/R&B song and video of the year. His album, “24K Magic,” is nominated in both the pop/rock and soul/R&B categories. Mars, who is missing the show because he’s on tour in South America, will also compete for favorite male artist in both genres.
Nominees for favorite female pop/rock artist include Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Cara. Rihanna is also nominated for favorite female soul/R&B artist, where she will compete with Beyonce and Kehlani. Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert, who was snubbed in the country album category, are up for favorite female country artist.