Bieber, Taylor Swift early winners at American Music Awards

* Usher, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kelly Clarkson perform

* Artist of the year still to come

LOS ANGELES, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Canadian pop star Justin

Bieber and country-pop darling Taylor Swift were among the early

winners at the American Music Awards on Sunday, picking up

accolades in the pop and country categories at a live televised

awards ceremony.

Bieber, 18, picked up the award for favorite pop/rock male

artist, beating out stiff competition from Flo Rida, Pitbull and

Usher. The star walked the red carpet with his mother, Pattie

Mallette, after his widely reported split from former Disney

star and girlfriend Selena Gomez.

"This is for all the haters who thought that maybe I was

just here for one or two years, but I feel like I am going to be

here for a very long time," Bieber said on stage, dedicating his

win to his mother.

Swift, 22, scored the favorite female country artist award,

edging out Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. She thanked her

fans in her acceptance speech, saying, "I'm really, really happy

right now and that's all because of you."

Nicki Minaj picked up the award for favorite rap/hip hop

album of the year, with "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," over

nominees Drake and newcomer rapper J. Cole.

The American Music Award nominees and winners are voted for

by fans online, and the awards are handed out during a live

three-hour broadcast featuring performances by artists.

R&B star Usher kicked off the night with an electric

performance on a laser-filled stage, followed by Carly Rae

Jepsen singing hits including "Call Me Maybe," while boy band

The Wanted, who are up for favorite pop/rock group, donned suits

to sing their latest, "I Found You."

Former "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson belted out a

medley of her tracks including "Miss Independent" and "What

Doesn't Kill You," and pop singer Ke$ha hit the stage in a

tribal-themed performance of her latest single "Die Young."

The awards show, which marks its 40th anniversary this year,

treated the audience to some of its greatest moments, including

R&B star Beyonce performing "Single Ladies" at the 2008 show and

a clip of Michael and Janet Jackson as children accepting an

award in 1975.

R&B star Rihanna, 24, and rapper Nicki Minaj, 29, went into

Sunday's show leading with four nods each, battling each other

in the favorite pop/rock female artist category.

Rihanna will also face stiff competition from Bieber, Maroon

5, Drake and Katy Perry for the night's top prize, the coveted

artist of the year.

Rihanna wasn't expected to be at the awards show on Sunday,

as she is in Berlin, midway through a seven-day tour across

seven cities around the world promoting her upcoming

"Unapologetic" album.

The race for new artist of the year will also be tight, as

newcomers One Direction, Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen,

indie-pop band fun. and rapper J. Cole will compete for the

accolade.

(Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by Christine

Kearney and Philip Barbara)

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