Drake looks for first American Music Awards but out of top prize

Reuters
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Feb 14, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor Drake looks on during player introductions prior to the NBA All Star Game at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Canadian rapper Drake competes on Sunday for his first ever American Music Award on a night that will feature performances by Lady Gaga, Sting, Nicki Minaj, and Justin Bieber.

Drake, 30, dominated nominations for the 2016 awards show, earning 13 nods and smashing the record set by Michael Jackson in 1984.

But despite a chart-topping album, "Views," that this year became the first to earn one billion streams on Apple Music, the "Hotline Bling" singer has already been knocked out of the running for Sunday's top prize - artist of the year.

The American Music Awards are entirely fan-voted, and the 10 artist of the year nominees were pared down by fans last week to five. Beyonce, Adele, The Weeknd and Twenty One Pilots are also out of contention, leaving Rihanna, Bieber, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and Carrie Underwood vying for the title.

Drake is seen as favorite to take home the best rap/hip-hop artist award, and is also seen as a strong contender in the best album and song categories in both the rap/hip-hop and pop/rock fields.

But the American Music Awards, created in 1973 as an alternative to the Grammys, are as much about performances as awards.

Bruno Mars is set to open Sunday's show and pop singer Grande, rapper Kendrick Lamar, Maroon 5 and "X Factor" girl group Fifth Harmony are among dozens of artists who will take the stage.

Britain's Sting, who last week released his first pop/rock album in a decade, "57th and 9th," is launching a world tour in February, will sing some of his greatest hits.

The singer-songwriter will also be presented with an honorary award recognizing his contribution to the music industry. Organizers say the award of merit has not been given out since 2008, when Annie Lennox was the recipient.

Bieber, whose five nominations include favorite video, male artist, pop/rock album and song, will perform via satellite from the Zurich, Switzerland stop of his current world tour.

Awards organizers like to keep surprises up their sleeves and there was no word on whether Drake, Beyonce or Adele will appear on Sunday.

This year, organizers added new categories for tour and video of the year while the crowded song of the year race was split into different categories for pop/rock, country, R&B/soul and rap/hip-hop.

Fashion model Gigi Hadid and former "Saturday Night Live" comic Jay Pharoah will host the three-hour show, which will broadcast live from Los Angeles and aired on ABC television.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bill Rigby)