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January 12, 1999

AMAs gettin' jiggy with Smith

Marc Pollack
The Hollywood Reporter

Rapper, actor and all-around personable guy Will Smith went three for four Monday at the 26th annual American Music Awards.

Smith was awarded favorite male artist in the soul/R&B category. His only defeat came in the favorite male pop/rock category. He lost to Eric Clapton, who has won this award twice before.

A gracious Smith, the first winner of the show, was awarded favorite soul/R&B album for his "Big Willie Style," beating such other top-selling R&B titles as K-Ci & JoJo's "Love Always" and Brian McKnight's "Anytime." Arguably every award show's favorite winner, Smith also walked off with the favorite pop/rock album, confirming his major crossover appeal.

Smith was the second-most-nominated artist and the leading male nominee at the show. Only Shania Twain had more nominations (five). Twain won only for favorite female country artist, which was expected.

Garth Brooks, who won two awards, was named favorite male country artist. His "Sevens" was named favorite country album, besting Twain's "Come on Over" and George Strait's "One Step at a Time." The wins boosted Brooks' lifetime American Music Award count to 13.

Longevity certainly pays off - just ask Aerosmith. The rockers, who have been together for more than 25 years, were named favorite pop/rock band, beating out such young-uns as Backstreet Boys and Matchbox 20 - whose members are young enough to be Steven Tyler and Joe Perry's children. Sticking to the rocking theme, Pearl Jam were named the favorite artist in the alternative music category.

Teen phenom 'N Sync, which had an incredible year as one of the top-selling acts, was voted as favorite new pop/rock artist, beating Third Eye Blind and Natalie Imbruglia, who both enjoyed potential career years in 1998.

Lauryn Hill, who leads all Grammy nominees with 10, was named best new artist in the soul/R&B field, besting LSG and Next. Dixie Chicks, meanwhile, were named favorite new country artist.

Topping off a tremendously successful year, rapper-entrepreneur Master P hip-hopped past such tough competition as Beastie Boys and Puff Daddy to take home the favorite rap/hip-hop artist. His highly successful No Limit Records finished the year as the most prominent independent label in the music business.

Alabama set an all-time AMA record with its victory as favorite country band, duo or group. The win, over newcomers Dixie Chicks and previous AMA winners Brooks & Dunn, brings Alabama's career total to 21, the most by anyone in the show's 26-year history. The band has won in the group category 16 of the last 17 years; their only loss was in 1997, when Brooks & Dunn took home the award.

Meanwhile, brothers K-Ci and JoJo, formerly of Jodeci, were named favorite band, duo or group in the soul/R&B category.

Celine Dion was named favorite female artist, beating stiff competition from co-host Brandy and Twain. Not surprisingly, Dion was voted favorite artist in the adult contemporary category - a musical genre seemingly created for artists of Dion's ilk. However, also nominated in the category this year were country queen Twain and teen faves Backstreet Boys, showing how the musical form is also crossing borders. The "Titanic" soundtrack, which featured Dion's huge hit "My Heart Will Go On," was named favorite soundtrack, beating out fellow megasellers "Armageddon" and "City of Angels."

Performers included Burt Bacharach & Elvis Costello, Backstreet Boys, the reunited Blondie with Coolio, Cher, Dixie Chicks, Goo Goo Dolls, Whitney Houston with Babyface & Wyclef Jean, K-Ci & JoJo and Next, Los Tigres del Norte, Master P with Silkk the Shocker & Mo B Dick, Third Eye Blind and Trisha Yearwood with Garth Brooks, as well as Brandy, who co-hosted with Melissa Joan Hart of TV's "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch."

In addition, a special Award of Merit was presented to Billy Joel "in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the musical entertainment of the American public." Joel's award was presented by country superstar Brooks, who hosted a special salute to the singer-songwriter featuring performances by Shawn Mullins, 98 Degrees, 'N Sync, McKnight and LeAnn Rimes.

Winners were decided by votes cast by a cross section of the American record-buying public.

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