LOS ANGELES • The American Music Awards are typically so packed with performances, the actual awards are almost an afterthought.
That's likely to be the case again this year, with at least 16 performances planned for Sunday night's ceremony at the Nokia Theatre.
"Each performance is like a show unto itself," said producer Larry Klein, adding that last year's show boasted a mile-long stack of set pieces.
His team encourages each artist to come up with a unique concept and look for their performance, and almost anything goes.
"We're the only show that gives each individual artist the creativity and the right to collaborate and come up with something great that's specifically done just for them," he said. "Each individual (set) has its own specific look. Nothing is duplicated."
For Pink, that means a stage full of skateboard ramps, skateboarders and aerial artists. Another performer (Klein wouldn't say who) will appear on an industrial set with moving boxes and elevator lifts.
Carlos Santana, who is performing with Gavin Rossdale, says he doesn't have any special tricks up his sleeve other than to envelop the audience with music and "make the females happy."
"That delicious sensuousness, it's a whole galaxy in itself," he said in an interview. "When Gavin sings ‘Bang a Gong' and Santana plays, you set the table... It's very sensuous, and that's one of the main ingredients to make women happy."
Santana said his fiancee, Cindy Blackman, will accompany them on drums.
Other performers scheduled to take the stage include Kid Rock, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Christina Aguilera, Ne-Yo and Usher.
Santana said he's eager to see Ne-Yo perform: "He's the closest to Michael Jackson without wanting to be Michael Jackson, and I love Michael Jackson."
Bon Jovi will perform an extended set to celebrate the band's 25 years in music: A medley of fan favorites.
Rihanna will open the show "with a song no one's ever heard her do before," along with a track from her new album, Klein said.
Closing the show will be New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys in their first-ever TV performance together.
"It's like a mashup. They're throwing lyrics back and forth, trading off songs," Klein said. "It's something that no one's ever seen before."
In between all the singing, awards will be presented in nine popular genres, including pop and rock, rap/hip-hop, country, Latin and soul/R&B.
Rapper Eminem and country trio Lady Antebellum lead nominees with five apiece. Bieber is up for four awards, while Ke$ha and Perry have three bids each.
Nominees were determined by radio play and music sales, but fans voted online for the winners.
"This gives them a feeling of they're a part of the show," Klein said. "It's like, ‘Hey, we make a difference: We're the ones that pick the winners.'"
The American Music Awards will be broadcast live on ABC.