Swift, Azalea kick off American Music Awards, One Direction wins favorite pop band

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 23, 2014 9:56 PM

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pop music's leading ladies Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande gave high-octane performances while British boy band One Direction won favorite pop/rock band at the American Music Awards on Sunday.

A sultry Swift kicked off the show with "Blank Space," performing against a backdrop of romantic images and accompanied by dancers dressed as rose-bearing suitors.

Newcomer and Australian rapper Azalea won best rap/hip-hop album for "The New Classic" and said it was the first award she has ever won. The prizes are awarded based on fan voting.

"It means so much to me that it is for best hip-hop because that's what inspired me to move to America," the 24-year-old rapper said. "It means so much that I can stand here against Eminem and Drake and come out with this."

She later performed a medley of her hits "I'm So Fancy" and the raunchy "Beg For It."

British soul singer Sam Smith, 22, capped a whirlwind year in which he skyrocketed to success in the United States and won favorite pop/rock male artist.

"Last year I wrote an album about being lonely and tonight, I couldn't feel further from being lonely," the newcomer said. He sang his ballad "I'm Not the Only One" accompanied by rapper A$AP Rocky and a string quartet.

Luke Bryan won favorite country male artist, while British boy band One Direction, which just released their album "Four," won favorite pop/rock band and favorite pop/rock album for "Midnight Memories."

Much of the three-hour awards show, aired on ABC, was dedicated to performances.

Pop star Grande performed "One Less Problem" and "Break Free" with a jazz twist, showcasing her vast vocal range.

New Zealand songstress Lorde performed "Yellow Flicker Beat," the theme for box office-topping "Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1," in an orange box before breaking out onto the stage.

British singer Charli XCX sang "Boom Clap" and "Break the Rules" against a prom backdrop, while Australian boy band 5SOS added some rock with a cover of The Romantics' "What I Like About You."

Wyclef Jean joined Canadian reggae-pop group MAGIC! to perform the group's single "Rude," getting the star-studded crowd dancing along.

Ahead of the awards show, Azalea had led the nominees with six nods, while pop star Katy Perry, soul singer John Legend and R&B singer Pharrell Williams followed with five nominations each.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)