Bruno Mars opens AMAs; Drake, Twenty One Pilots win awards

Ariana Grande arrives at the American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Ariana Grande arrives at the American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Bruno Mars kicked off the 2016 American Music Awards with some serious uptown funk: He sang his groovy hit, “24K Magic,” backed by his band who matched his slick, upbeat dance moves.

The song is Mars’ latest smash single after the success of last year’s “Uptown Funk.” He, like many of the artists set to perform on Sunday, is promoting a new album at the AMAs, airing live on ABC from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

Mars released his new project on Friday, while others are also promoting new albums, including Lady Gaga, the Weeknd, Sting, Green Day, Shawn Mendes, John Legend and The Chainsmokers. One Direction’s Niall Horan and Maroon 5, who recently dropped new singles, will also perform. Kendrick Lamar will join Adam Levine and friends onstage.

Drake, who is the leading nominee, won favorite album — rap/hip-hop for “Views.” He was nominated twice in the category.

“Thank you very much. Me and Nina were on ‘Degrassi’ together by the way,” he said to actress Nina Dobrev, who presented him the award. “I really want to thank everybody who helped me make this album … I want to thank the city of Toronto, and of course I want to thank the fans and my parents. My dad’s here tonight.”

The Grammy-winning rapper broke Michael Jackson’s record for most AMA nominations after scoring 13 nominations.

Former “Saturday Night Live” comic Jay Pharaoh, who is hosting the show with model Gigi Hadid, impersonated Drake in funny form on the red carpet ahead of the show.

Inside, they poked fun at politics, Kanye West and others. After Pharaoh impersonated Jay Z, Hadid acted like Melania Trump.

“I love my husband, president Barack Obama, and our children, Sasha and Malia,” she said, scrunching up her face.

Pharaoh later sang in the list of performers’ names in the style of the viral #UNameItChallenge, a result of an online remix of gospel singer Shirley Caesar’s sermon, “Hold My Mule.”

Twenty one pilots won favorite duo or group — pop/rock, taking home the first award of the night.

“We’re not really used to this top of stuff, so thanks for bearing with us,” bandmate Tyler Joseph said onstage. “We want to thank one particular group … we want to say to our fans, ‘You guys change our lives.'”

Though the mood was happy inside, outside was different: It was uncharacteristically rainy and gray day in the Los Angeles. Though the red carpet area was covered with a tent, the carpet itself is soaked and some starlets are shivering.

While Drake is the most-nominated act, he is not up for the top prize — artist of the year — where the nominees include Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez and Carrie Underwood. Artist of the year originally included 10 nominees, among them Drake, Beyoncé and Adele, but it was later whittled to five acts by fan voting.

Rihanna, Adele, Bieber and Beyoncé also scored multiple nominations. Prince, who died earlier this year, earned a nomination for top soundtrack with “Purple Rain.” The 1984 album, which gained new attention after his death in April, will compete with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Suicide Squad: The Album.”

Presenters include Taraji P. Henson, Robert Downey Jr., Zoe Saldana and Heidi Klum, while former “Saturday Night Live” comic Jay Pharaoh and model Gigi Hadid will host the show.

Other performers Sunday night include twenty one pilots, Fifth Harmony, James Bay and Bieber, who will perform from his world tour in Zurich, Switzerland. Nicki Minaj will perform twice — alongside Grande and then with DJ Khaled, Future, Rick Ross and August Alsina.

Sting will receive the American Music Award of Merit.

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