By Rollo Ross
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Canadian rapper Drake won his first ever American Music Award on Sunday while Bruno Mars, Niall Horan and girl group Fifth Harmony performed on the Los Angeles stage.
Drake, 30, who won a leading 13 nominations, took home the award for best rap/hip-hop album for his best-selling “Views,” which earlier this year became the first album to earn one billion streams on Apple Music.
Pop singer Selena Gomez, 24, surprised fans by making her first major public appearance since cutting short her world tour in August to deal with anxiety, panic attacks and depression caused by an earlier diagnosis of lupus.
Gomez walked the red carpet in a red full-length gown and is a contender for the night’s top prize – artist of the year.
Mars opened the three-hour show with the title track off his new album “24K Magic,” while “One Direction” singer Niall Horan performed his acoustic debut single “This Town.”
Twenty One Pilots were voted best pop/rock group.
Despite an overwhelming lead in American Music Award nominations, Drake has already been knocked out of the running for artist of the year by fan votes.
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 were also removed from contention, leaving Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Gomez, Ariana Grande and Carrie Underwood vying for the title.
Featured performers on Sunday include Britain’s Sting, who last week released his first pop/rock album in a decade, “57th and 9th,” and who will sing a medley of his greatest hits.
The singer-songwriter will also be presented with an honorary award recognizing his contribution to the music industry.
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.
Nicki Minaj, Grande, rapper Kendrick Lamar, Maroon 5, and newcomer Shawn Mendes are among dozens of artists due to perform later on Sunday.
The American Music Awards were created in 1973 as an alternative to the Grammys. 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.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bill Rigby and Sandra Maler)