The American Music Awards have never gotten the same due as the Grammys. "They're just a popularity poll," critics scoff. That may be true, but that is also the show's core appeal. The show does a good job of documenting who was hot and who was not each year—which has been its central mission from the day Dick Clark created the show in 1973. As such, the show has provided a snapshot of America's always-evolving musical tastes.
When you look at the artists who have won the most awards in each category over the years, in many cases, the most famous and iconic artist in that category comes out on top. Michael Jackson won the most awards for Favorite Album in both Pop/Rock and Soul/R&B. That makes sense. Kenny Rogers has won the most awards for Favorite Album—Country. Again, that sounds right. Eminem has won the most for Favorite Artist—Rap/Hip-Hop. Again, I'll go with that.
Here's a recap of 21 of the AMA's 22 current categories (and here's a link to their site). I show which artist has won the most awards over the years in that category. In most cases, I also show key runners-up. (The 22nd category is Favorite New Artist, a category in which no one has won more than once.)
Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber have each won twice. Swift won in 2009 and 2011. Bieber in 2010 and 2012. Swift is nominated again this year. If she wins, she'll become the first three-time winner in the category.
Single of the Year: This year marks the first time that the AMAs have given out one award for the year's favorite single. From 1974 through 1995, the program gave out separate awards in three top genres. In Pop/Rock, Lionel Richie was "three times a winner," for Commodores' "Three Times A Lady" (1979), "Endless Love," a collaboration with Diana Ross (1982) and "Truly" (1983). For Soul/R&B, Michael Jackson was the top winner (three times), for "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" (1980), "Bad" (1988) and "Remember The Time" (1993). For Country, Kenny Rogers was the top winner (five times) for "Lucille" (1978), "Coward Of The County" (1981), "Love Will Turn You Around" (1983) and "Islands In The Stream," a collabo with Dolly Parton (1984 and 1985).
Favorite Album—Pop/Rock: Michael Jackson is the only three-time winner in the category. He won for Thriller (1984), Dangerous (1993) and Number Ones (2009). Whitney Houston, Eagles and Justin Bieber are runners-up with two wins each.
Favorite Male Artist—Pop/Rock: In 1980, Barry Manilow became the first three- time winner in the category. Three other artists have since equaled that feat: Michael Bolton, Eric Clapton and Michael Jackson. Jackson won his third award in 2009, after died that June.
Favorite Female Artist—Pop/Rock: In 1983, Olivia Newton-John became the first four-time winner in the category. Whitney Houston equaled that feat in 1994. Mariah Carey is runner-up, with three wins.
Favorite Band, Duo or Group—Pop/Rock: In 1985, Daryl Hall & John Oates became the first three-time winner in the category. Two other artists have since equaled that feat: Aerosmith and the Black Eyed Peas.
Favorite Album—Country: Kenny Rogers is the only five-time winner in the category. He won for Ten Years Of Gold (1979), The Gambler (1980 and 1981), Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits (1982) and Eyes That See In The Dark (1985). Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood are both four-time winners.
Favorite Male Artist—Country: Garth Brooks is the only eight-time winner in the category. He won for six straight years from 1992 through 1997 and again in 1999 and 2000. (George Strait broke up his streak by winning in 1998.) Tim McGraw has won six times. Kenny Rogers has won five times.
Favorite Female Artist—Country: Reba McEntire is the only 10-time winner in the category. She won eight years in a row from 1988 through 1995 and again in 1998 (when she interrupted Shania Twain's reign) and 2004. If Taylor Swift wins again this year, it will be her sixth award in the category. That would put her in a tie with Barbara Mandrell as the category runner-up. Mandrell won every year from 1981 through 1985 and again in 1987.
Favorite Band, Duo or Group—Country: Alabama won this award 17 times, the greatest domination of any AMA category. The quartet won 14 years in a row (also an AMA record) from 1983 through 1996 and again in 1998, 1999 and 2003. Brooks & Dunn (who broke Alabama's winning streak by winning in 1997) is the runner-up with five victories. If Lady Antebellum wins again this year, it will be their fourth win in the category. That would put them in a tie with Rascal Flatts for third place.
Favorite Album—Soul/R&B: Michael Jackson is the only four-time winner in the category's history. He won with Off The Wall in 1980 and 1981, Thriller in 1984 and Number Ones in 2009. Runner-up: Toni Braxton, with three wins.
Favorite Male Artist—Soul/R&B: Luther Vandross won seven times between 1988 and 2003. (He died in 2005.) Stevie Wonder is in second place, with six wins. Michael Jackson won four times, as has Usher.
Favorite Female Artist—Soul/R&B: In 1986, Aretha Franklin became the first four-time winner in this category. Mariah Carey equaled the feat in 2005.
Favorite Artist—Rap/Hip-Hop: Eminem is the only four-time winner in the category's history. M.C. Hammer is runner-up, with three wins from 1990 through 1992. Dr. Dre, Jay Z and Nicki Minaj have each won twice.
Favorite Album—Rap/Hip-Hop: In 1991, M.C. Hammer became the first two-time winner in this category. That feat has since been equaled by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, 50 Cent, Eminem and Nicki Minaj.
Favorite Artist—Alternative Rock: Linkin Park is the only five-time winner. Pearl Jam, Creed, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day have each won twice.
Favorite Artist—Adult Contemporary: Celine Dion is the only four-time winner. Michael Bolton, Kelly Clarkson and Adele have each won twice.
Favorite Artist—Latin: Enrique Iglesias is the only five-time winner in the category's history. He won for the first time in 1999, the second year the category was presented. (His father Julio Iglesias was the inaugural winner.) Shakira is in second place, with four wins. Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez have each won twice.
Favorite Artist—Contemporary Inspirational: In 2009, Mary Mary became the first two-time winner in this category. Mercy Me and Casting Crowns have since equaled the feat.
Favorite Artist—Electronic Dance Music (EDM): The category was introduced last year. David Guetta was the inaugural winner.
Top Soundtrack—The category returns this year after a nine-year absence. The AMAs had a Soundtrack category each year from 1996 through 2003. Even before that, six soundtracks were voted Favorite Album—Pop/Rock and three won as Favorite Album—Soul/R&B. Whitney Houston was featured on two of the winning soundtracks: The Bodyguard (1994) and Waiting To Exhale (1997). (She also co-starred in the movies that spawned them.) The Lion King won as Favorite Album—Pop/Rock for 1995 and Favorite Soundtrack for 1996.