Psy, Drake, Gotye join American Music Awards birthday bash

* Rihanna, Bieber, Maroon 5 up for artist of year

* Annual music show celebrates 40th anniversary

By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The American Music Awards

rings in its 40th year on Sunday, with top nominees like Rihanna

and Nicki Minaj battling for the top trophies and Stevie Wonder

leading a tribute to the show's late founder, Dick Clark.

Variety is the key to this year's three-hour ceremony from

Los Angeles, with performers including Canadian pop star Justin

Bieber, 1990s ska-punk band No Doubt, alt-rockers Linkin Park,

country-pop darling Taylor Swift, Korean Internet sensation Psy

and British-Irish boyband The Wanted.

"The AMAs reflects pop culture, which is all forms of music,

all genres, pop, rock, country, hip hop, alternative ... all

these things that normally don't together. It's our job to make

it flow," producer Larry Klein told Reuters.

R&B star Rihanna, 24, and Minaj, 29, tied for the most

nominations this year, with four apiece, and will battle each

other in the hotly contested female pop-rock category.

Rihanna will also face stiff competition for the top award

of the night, the artist of the year accolade, where she will

compete with Bieber, Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and Drake.

The new artist category is expected to be a tight race

between rapper J. Cole, indie-pop band fun., Australian singer

Gotye, British boyband One Direction and Canadian popstar Carly

Rae Jepsen, who will also be performing on Sunday. The ceremony

will be shown live on ABC Television.

Unlike the Grammy Awards, which are decided on by music

producers, songwriters and others working in the industry, the

American Music Awards are determined by fans.

"It's the public who watches, who decides, who votes. This

is an awards show where the public decides the nominees and

winners, so our shows are more about pop culture," Klein said.

This year sees a new category for the growing electronic

dance music market, which Klein said he couldn't ignore. DJs

David Guetta, Skrillex and Calvin Harris will compete for the

trophy.

REMEMBERING DICK CLARK

This is the first time Klein will be running the show

without the input of influential music and TV producer Dick

Clark, who died in April at the age of 82. Clark created the

American Music Awards in 1973 as an alternative to the Grammys,

and Klein said his absence felt bizarre.

"Last year, he loved the show, he was very happy. He loved

LMFAO when they closed the show, it was all a fun party of

music, dance music, Dick loved it," Klein said.

Clark, who also hosted "American Bandstand" and "New Year's

Rockin' Eve," will be remembered on Sunday in a tribute led by

Wonder and "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest.

"I wanted to make it classy, elegant and meaningful, with

something that truly summoned the relationship that Dick had

with so many people," said Klein, who has been involved in the

show since its inception.

Klein said the show will look back on its 40-year history,

showcasing some of its most memorable moments. Klein's personal

picks included performances from late singer Michael Jackson,

funk-pop star Prince, and Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' rendition in

2009 of "Empire State of Mind."

"I was very close to Michael Jackson, so every time Michael

was on the show, it always made me happy. The Prince number we

did was outrageous, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys...it really was epic,

it was just extraordinary," Klein said.

With more than fifteen individual performances, or

"mini-shows" scheduled for Sunday, Klein said audiences can

expect surprises.

"Live TV is the best, it's unpredictable. Without a doubt

there will be some unpredictable moments, I promise you," the

producer said.

(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant)