Underwood, Daughtry Rule at American Music Awards

Plus: Beyoncé goes country and Chris Brown channels Tron

Photo: Frank Micelotta/AMA/Getty Images for AMA

Simon Cowell may not have been in the crowd at L.A.’s Nokia theater Sunday night, but the American Idol vibe was alive and well at the 35th Annual American Music Awards.

While the striking writers left four-time host Jimmy Kimmel to wing his shtick (and attempt the Soulja Boy dance), Idol alum Carrie Underwood, straight off her wins at the Country Music Association Awards earlier this month, picked up three more trophies.

“This is one heck of a night,” she gushed, accepting the award for favorite country album. She also won favorite country female artist and an audience text-in award for favorite artist. And, ever the Southern belle, she was overheard saying “holy cow” as her name was read for the second time.

Chris Daughtry, the other nominated Idol, joined his eponymous band, Daughtry, at the podium three times as they won favorite pop-rock album for Daughtry, as well as breakthrough artist and adult contemporary artist.

“Wow. I can’t believe we’re in the category with Justin Timberlake and Linkin Park. It’s pretty awesome,” Daughtry said.

The night’s other big winners included Akon (soul/R&B male), Rihanna (soul/R&B female) and Justin Timberlake (pop/rock male and soul/R&B album), who accepted his awards via satellite from Australia, where he is on tour.

While Kimmel’s dancing left more than a little to be desired, the performance by Chris Brown and his dancers to “Kiss Kiss” – a literal high-wire act with hip-hop versions of Tron-style suits – had Celine Dion speechless backstage in the pressroom.

Likewise, Beyoncé and Sugarland’s countrified version of her hit “Irreplaceable” had the crowd on its feet.

On a serious note, Usher, Kid Rock and Rihanna took time to send condolences to Kanye West, who’s grieving the loss of his mother, Donda, whose funeral is set for Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

See more photos from the American Music Awards!

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