Justin Bieber thanked his haters after winning the first award at the American Music Awards, while Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift performed their new singles.
The 18-year-old won favorite pop/rock male artist in the first award handed out at Sunday's American Music Awards and gave a shout-out to those who didn't think he would last on the music scene.
"I want to say this is for all the haters who that I was just here for one or two years. I feel like I'm going to be here for a very long time," he said, also thanking his mom, manager, family and his "beautiful, beautiful fans."
He gave a stripped down, acoustic performance of "As Long As You Love Me," sitting down as someone played the guitar. He transitioned to the dance-heavy "Beauty and a Beat," where Minaj joined him onstage, grinding with the teen for a few seconds.
Bieber's red and black outfit seemed to be the night's theme, as Swift and Usher wore similar ensembles.
Carly Rae Jepsen, who performed early in the night, won favorite new artist.
"I am floored. Wow," she said, thanking Bieber and his manager, Scooter Braun.
Usher kicked off the three-hour show with green laser lights beaming onstage as he performed a medley of songs, including "Numb," ''Climax" and "Can't Stop, Won't Stop," which featured a smoky floor and a number of backup dancers, as Usher jammed in all black, with the exception of his red shoes.
Swift won her fifth consecutive award for favorite country female artist.
"This is unreal. I want to thank the fans. You guys are the ones who voted on this," she said. Luke Bryan won favorite country male artist and Lady Antebellum favorite country group.
Swift gave a masquerade-themed performance of the pop song "I Knew You Were Trouble." She sang onstage in a light dress while dancers wore mostly black. But then she changed into a red corset and black skirt, matching their dark mood. She even danced and sang on the floor as lights flickered throughout the performance.
Minaj was also a consecutive winner, picking up her second trophy for favorite rap/hip-hop album for "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded." She was in an all-white get-up, including fur coat and pink hair. The scene was ghostly and snowy, as a choir — also in white — joined her onstage. One background singer stole the performance, belting semi-high notes as Minaj looked on.
Party girl Ke$ha was glammed up on the red carpet, rocking long, flowy blonde hair and a light pink dress. She switched to her normal attire when she performed her hit single "Die Young." It was tribal, with shirtless dancers in skin-tight pants, silver hair and skeleton-painted faces, who also played the drums. Ke$ha was pants-less, rocking knee-high boots and rolling on the floor as she finished up the song.
Minaj and Christina Aguilera were blonde bombshells on the red carpet: Minaj's hair was busy and full of volume and she sported a neon strapless gown to accept her award. Aguilera wore a blonde bob in a purple dress that matched her eyeshadow.
Kelly Clarkson also hit the stage, making a nod to her "American Idol" roots with a number on her dress and three judges looking on as she sang "Miss Independent." Then she went into "Since U Been Gone," ''Stronger" and "Catch My Breath." It's worth noting that "Idol" judge Randy Jackson introduced Clarkson, the first-ever winner of the show. He also advised people to donate through Red Cross for Superstorm Sandy victims.
American Music Awards nominees were selected based on sales and airplay, and fans chose the winners by voting online. At this award show, even the stars were fans: Pink said on the red carpet that she'd like to collaborate with Lauryn Hill. Cyndi Lauper said her musical playlist includes Pink, Minaj and Rae Jepsen, who performed "Call Me Maybe" and won new artist of the year. Boy band The Wanted said they were excited to see "Gangnam Style" star PSY, and Colbie Caillat wants to watch No Doubt.
"What makes the American Music Awards special is the fans choose the winning artists," said Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, who won favorite artist alternative rock and performed "Burn It Down," as Brandy sang along and Gwen Stefani, Usher and Phillip Phillips bobbed their heads.
Along with Rihanna, Minaj was the top nominee with four nominations.
"I don't do music for awards," the 29-year-old said in an interview. "It's so crazy because people always have to remind me that I'm nominated for an award when I go to award shows."
"I know they're going to come. I'm sitting here looking at my awards right now," she continued with a laugh. "I never stress it. I think of myself as 'I'll have a career long enough to get all those different awards.'"
Minaj isn't up for the night's top award, though. Rihanna, Maroon 5, Drake, Katy Perry and Bieber will battle it out for artist of the year.
But the American Music Awards are all about performances, and Sunday's show was no exception. The three-hour program broadcast live on ABC was set to air performances by Carrie Underwood, Ludacris, Chris Brown and Swizz Beatz. And Stevie Wonder is set to provide the soundtrack for a tribute to the late Dick Clark.
"I'm really going there to perform 'Freedom,'" Minaj said of her new single. "I'm very, very proud of the record and I'm happy that people are going to get to hear it. I'm performing a hip-hop song on the AMAs, and I think . that's just a big look for hip-hop."
Other multiple nominees include Usher, Bieber, Drake, Maroon 5 and One Direction, who have three nods each. Perry, Underwood, Brown, Clarkson, Pitbull, fun., Gotye, J. Cole and Luke Bryan are all double nominees.
The 40th anniversary show will also include the tribute to Clark, its creator.
"Dick changed the face of music back in the late '50s," producer Larry Klein said. "Dick is the one who made rock 'n' roll acceptable to come into people's homes... We're paying tribute to Dick because of the legacy that he's left everybody and also the creativity of what he did on this show."
AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report from Los Angeles. Follow (at)APSandy's American Music Award updates at www.twitter.com/APEntertainment.