By Victoria Bryan and Maria Sheahan
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber shared the spoils in Frankfurt on Sunday at the MTV Europe Music Awards, each scooping three prizes at one of the biggest nights in the pop calendar outside the United States.
American country singer Swift, who left the Country Music Association awards empty-handed less than two weeks earlier, picked up honours for Best Female, Best Live and Best Look.
"Drei? Drei? I can't believe you gave me three awards," Swift, who was nominated in five categories, told the boisterous crowd of 7,000, trying out her best German.
One of the night's most popular performers was dance sensation Psy with his record-breaking hit "Gangnam Style", which won Best Video.
Skipping through the venue and on to the main stage in a sparkly blue jacket with his horse riding-inspired dance, he became the first South Korean artist to perform at the annual awards.
"This is beautiful. This is my very first time to participate, perform, be nominated, as an Asian artist, as a Korean artist, so I don't know what to say," he told journalists backstage.
He added that his next album would have more English songs on it.
Gangnam Style has been viewed more than 670 million times on YouTube and received a record-breaking 4.9 million "likes" on Facebook since being released in July.
Host Heidi Klum, who this year filed for divorce from singer husband Seal, also teamed up with Psy for a tongue-in-cheek performance of the dance.
"It was pretty," Psy said of the duet.
Rihanna, who led the nominations with six, failed to pick up a single award.
Canadian teen heartthrob Bieber matched Swift's tally, claiming Best Male for the second year in a row as well as Best Pop and Best World Stage.
Compatriot Carly Rae Jepsen went home with two awards for Best Song ("Call Me Maybe") and Best Push recognising up-and-coming talent.
MTV chose a circus theme for this year's awards at the 100-year-old Festhalle venue, and Rita Ora opened the show by belting out her No. 1 British hit "R.I.P." from a giant bird cage.
Swift embraced the concept for the show's finale, popping out of a magician's box and passing her top hat to a clown riding a miniature bicycle.
"I had a blast during the performance," Swift said. "All the circus acrobats and everything like that. It was so much fun."
Before the show began, performers on the red carpet included rapper Ludacris, who debuted his new video "Rest of My Life".
"The fans are ecstatic right now. Hopefully we'll be back at the EMAs next year performing this track," Ludacris told journalists amid the din of screaming fans.
Stars like the Jonas Brothers, who received one of the biggest cheers from fans on the carpet, and Kim Kardashian said they were looking forward to Thanksgiving dinners.
"There's always a lot of food, but we're still figuring out how to get all of us together," said Kim, referring to the sizeable celebrity Kardashian clan.
Despite being billed as the Europe Music Awards, the majority of nominees are traditionally North American, and 2012 is no exception.
Alongside Psy, acts who took the stage at the show included Swift, 14-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys, the Killers, newly reformed No Doubt and Jepsen.
MTV honoured the late Whitney Houston with a Global Icon award. Houston, who was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub on February 11, was the third artist to be given the award, following Bon Jovi and Queen in 2010 and 2011.
"We will always love you Whitney. Forever!" Keys said, presenting the prize.
Last year's awards in Belfast attracted 23 million viewers on all platforms, while this year's nominations attracted a record 184 million votes online and on mobile devices to decide the winners.
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Maria Sheahan; editing by Mike Collett-White)