American Music Awards 2012: Nicki Minaj Wins

In its 40th year, the awards show had big-scale performances and a tribute to the late Dick Clark.

Stevie Wonder, Nicki Minaj and MC Hammer and Psy (Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment)

She reappeared almost immediately to help Pitbull finish his set with a snippet of their collaboration “Feel This Moment,” which he tacked on to the end of “Don’t Stop the Party.” The Cuban rapper from Miami lip-synched, which kept the energy at a tepid level even with a gaggle of attractive female dancers shimmying behind him.

Between performing at the funerals of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, it seems that Stevie Wonder has been most often seen on television in the past three years singing for tragic occasions. When he took to the stage to honor Dick Clark, Wonder’s voice was shaky at times as he sang in tribute to his dearly departed friend of almost 50 years.

“I challenge you as communicators, leaders, politicians, spiritual leaders: Put your love first as we musicians put our music and songs first,” he declared. “Unite the world and then we can be jamming till the break of dawn!” On this bittersweet occasion, Wonder managed to squeeze out some of the show’s most joyous moments as he offered tastes of three of his biggest hits: “Master Blaster,” “My Cherie Amour” and “Sir Duke.”

Rockers Linkin Park and No Doubt handed in effortless and magnetic performances that showed why these bands have earned a fair amount of longevity. However, they admittedly couldn’t beat the cheap thrill of watching Korean YouTube sensation Psy close the show by dancing alongside ’90s rap sensation MC Hammer in an amalgamation of their respective hits “Gangnam Style” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” While not the most musical of moments, it was still pretty entertaining and showed the influence and impact of hip-hop’s movement across the globe.

The evening’s most undeniably breathtaking performance came from Pink, who defied gravity and stamina with “Try” as she re-enacted the limber and combative ballet moves of the song’s video with the help of Broadway dancer Colt Prattes. Her voice was passionate and strong as she sang while upside down, flipping over and being thrown around a set that looked like a fiery room. Pink sure didn’t look like someone who had a baby just a year ago. A pop star with resilience and substance, she is a shining example of the depth and excitement that Dick Clark envisioned for the American Music Awards.

Tamara Palmer is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and the author of Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop. Follow her on Twitter.