Inside the Nokia Theatre, it didn't take long to figure out who the real winners of the American Music Awards were on Sunday.
"This is about the fans tonight," Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds said as the band collected for favorite alternative rock artist.
No academy was thanked, and though label brass and glam squads got shout outs --- as did God, of course -- it was the fans that received the most impassioned gratitude amongst pop stars.
It’s a longstanding tradition for award shows such as the American Music Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards to rely on the public to choose the night’s winners as a counter to the prestigious industry inclusiveness of the Grammys. Members of the public are the ones who consume the music and tune into radio all year long, so why not let them pick the winners?
Simple, right? Not quite.
In recent years, each of the mentioned telecasts has morphed into painfully predictable fanfare.
Although still driven by the fans, shows aiming to embrace the age of social engagement have included digital social engagement -- Tweeter, YouTube/Veve views, Facebook -- to dictate nominations -- and winners.
And, in turn, the process has stripped away what’s left of the element of surprise.
The hysteria that rang out among the audience at just the announcement of names such as One Direction, Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Swift, quickly forecast the night.
Swift won big, taking home four trophies. So did Timberlake and One Direction, who both performed and scored multiple wins. And with each appearance they incited panic among the teenage girls in the audience.
It's those fans who probably spent hours logging their votes online and through Twitter, and on Sunday they were rewarded. The boys of One Direction fawned over them; Swift, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus were their heroines (to varying degrees); Timberlake still pulled heartstrings (maybe because Justin Bieber wasn't in the running).
But eventually that unbridled fandom sucks the joy out of these shindigs.
The night became a game of “Which artist has the most dedicated fanbase?” And here’s a clue, don’t mess with the girls who idolize a young country-pop queen or the ones who daydream about their wedding to any member of a dreamy British boyband.
During commercial breaks, girls took turns screeching for Swift to just look their way, or professing their love to members of One Direction. One girl even leaped to her feet, her hands reached toward the ceiling in victorious delight, when the band beat out Swift and Timberlake for favorite pop/rock album. Of course the band fired off a sweet tribute to Directioners far and wide and preened into the camera.
Swift got it best though, offering saccharine tributes to her fanbase during each acceptance speech by thanking them for 6 million copies of her last album, covering her songs on YouTube and making 2013 the most magical year of her life -- 13 is her lucky number and it received plenty of knowing cheers amongst the Swifties when she mentioned it.
“I cannot thank you enough. This validates that if you voted for this that we are heartbroken the same way and we fall in love the same way and we are happy the same way,” Swift said as she won artist of the year. “If you decided on something as wonderful as this, we are pretty much in this together, aren't we?” Well played.