Canadian pop star Justin Bieber swept the American Music Awards on Sunday, topping strong competition from Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, and sending newcomers One Direction and The Wanted home empty-handed.

Bieber, 18, won all three categories in which he was nominated, including the night’s biggest award, artist of the year, beating out Rihanna, Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and Drake.   

“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 first win of the night to his mother, Pattie Mallette, who accompanied him after his widely-reported split from girlfriend Selena Gomez.

“It’s hard growing up with everything going on, with everyone watching me. I wanted to say that as long as you guys keep believing in me, I want to always make you proud,” Bieber said.

R&B singer Rihanna, 24, and rapper Minaj, 29, led the nominees going into Sunday’s awards with four apiece.  

Minaj won favorite rap/hip hop artist and rap/hip hop album of the year for Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.

Rihanna came away with one win. She couldn’t make the show because she is in Berlin, midway through a seven-day tour across seven cities around the world promoting her upcoming Unapologetic album.

Canadian pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen, 26, picked up the coveted new artist-of-the-year award over One Direction, Australian artist Gotye, indie-pop band fun and rapper J. Cole.

“This is amazing, thank you so, so, so, so, so, so much,” said Jepson, thanking Bieber along with her fans in her acceptance speech.   

Newcomer British-Irish boy bands One Direction, which had three nominations, and The Wanted, which had one nomination, went home empty-handed, losing out in the favourite pop/rock group category to well-established Los Angeles group Maroon 5.

French DJ David Guetta won the first-ever American Music Award for electronic dance music over DJs Calvin Harris and Skrillex.  Only 13 of the 20 awards were handed out during the live broadcast. Katy Perry was named favourite female pop/rock artist, Shakira was named favourite Latin artist, while Beyonce was voted favourite soul artist. None of the three attended the show.

Country-pop darling Taylor Swift, 22, scored the favourite female country artist award, Usher won the prize for best soul/R&B male, and rockers Linkin Park won favourite alternative rock band over The Black Keys and Gotye.

Swift, who has won several top music awards in her young career, was lightly ribbed by actor Eric Stonestreet, who said “Taylor have you ever won an award before?”

Singer Brandy paid tribute to the late Whitney Houston, who died suddenly at age 48 on the night before the Grammy Awards in February this year from accidental drowning.

“There’s a reason why I called my new album 2-11.  I will always remember where I was Feb. 11, the day we lost one of the  greatest voices of all time.  We’ll never forget Whitney Houston,” said Brandy.  

AMA founder Dick Clark, who also passed away earlier this year, was given a touching tribute by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who also paid homage to Clark’s influence.

“Dick loved the power of music and the ability to create pure joy,” Seacrest said.

The American Music Award nominees and winners are voted online by fans, and the awards are handed out during a live three-hour broadcast featuring performances by artists.