For an annual awards show known for its outrageous moments, last night’s telecast of MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn was relatively well-behaved. No girl-on-girl-kisses, no outbursts from Kanye, and Lil Kim thankfully kept her boobs covered—and even Miley Cyrus’ ill-advised attempts at visual obscenity in her medley with Robin Thicke were more awkward and unsightly than they were sexy.
This year marked the awards show’s 30th year in existence, which MTV doesn’t want to make a big deal out of because its target audience is young people, and 30 is “old,”—but which we will make a big deal out of because it’s really fun to point out how old MTV really is. Did we mention the VMAs have been going on for 30 years?
Anyhow, here are a few high and low points of the show, in no particular order:
LEAST OUTRAGEOUS COMEBACK PERFORMANCE BY A NORMALLY OUTRAGEOUS PERFORMER: Lady Gaga “Applause”
Hip surgery kept Gaga out of the spotlight for much of this year, but her return performance of her new single “Applause” to open the VMAs was a respectable comeback, if not at her meat-dress, most outrageous best. She still has a flair for the theatrical, and her song was themed by multiple onstage costume changes which went only slightly awry when one of her wigs was slightly misplaced. And yeah, she ended the set in a thong, but considering that earlier this month she, um, kickstarted artist Marina Abramovic’s Kickstarter by going blatantly au naturel, this was still pretty tame. (Certainly nothing we haven’t seen before.) BTW, the boos we heard at the opening of Gaga’s set were apparently pumped in as part of the performance.
MOMENT THE VMAS COULD DEFINITELY HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke
Was Robin Thicke even on the stage? Oh, yeah, he was the guy who briefly pretended to hump an awkwardly twerking Miley Cyrus during their combined performance. The rest of the time, we saw Cyrus in a sad display of I-have-issues-and-need-attention, strutting around in a ridiculous outfit (note to Miley—sneakers and lingerie are NOT a sexy combination), making Will and Jaden sorry they’d brought the kids, and ruining the image of teddy bears and foam fingers for millions of viewers. Seriously, Miley—get some help. Seriously.
BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Justin Timberlake
JT took home the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award for his consistent innovations in music video over the years. But before he accepted the award, he launched into hands-down the best 20 minutes of the VMAs, performing a medley of hits past and present which included a brief-but-meaningful reunion with N*Sync. Spot-on choreography and vocals throughout the performance, perfectly executed. The only drawback was that something was wrong with the audio and/or Timberlake’s microphone which made it difficult for television viewers to hear, but apparently did nothing to take away from the performance itself, nor the audience response inside the Barclay’s Center. “I do not deserve this award, but I’m not gonna give it back,” JT said in his acceptance speech, later tipping the hat to his N*Sync bandmates: “Half of the Moonmen I’ve ever one, I won with those four guys over there.” I swear, Justin Timberlake is the coolest dude in music right now.
THE HECKLED BECOMES THE HECKLER: Taylor Swift
If anyone ought to know what it’s like to have the wind taken out of your sails at the VMAs, it’s Taylor Swift. But that didn’t stop her from visibly mouthing “Shut the f**k up” when her ex-boyfriend’s band OneDirection accepted the Moonman for Song of the Summer for their hit “Best Song Ever,” or her not-even-the-least-bit-subtle dig at Harry Styles during her own acceptance of Best Female Video for “I Knew You Were Trouble”: “I also want to thank the person who inspired this song, who knows exactly who he is, because now I got one of these.” Poor Harry. At this point, any man who aspires to become Taylor Swift’s next ex-boyfriend deserves anything he gets. Just saying.
FORGETTABLE PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Drake, Kanye West (Tie)
First off, Drake seemed visibly bored during the rest of the VMAs, and even though he came to life a little bit during his own medley of songs, it wasn’t enough to overcome an otherwise lackluster performance. As for Kanye—wasn’t this the guy we (probably) recently heard on a bit of leaked audio ranting about how he didn’t get a performance slot on the VMAs on that fateful night when he stole Taylor Swift’s thunder? So he gets one this year, and this is what we have to show for it? Kanye in silhouette and a bunch of auto-tune? Way to blow the opp, dude.
BEST CROWD RESPONSE TO A PERFORMANCE THAT WASN’T JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Mary Lambert and Jennifer Hudson): “Same Love”
This indie-rap duo validated their recent meteoric rise to fame with their performance of the song which earlier garnered them the Moonman for Best Video with a Social Message, “Same Love,” hailed for its outspokenness on marriage equality. Macklemore & Lewis were joined by singer-songwriter Mary Lambert who features on the track, and later with a surprise appearance by J-Hud, much to the delight of the crowd.
Below is a list of all of this year’s VMA winners, including those untelevised.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR: Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”
BEST MALE VIDEO: Bruno Mars “Locked Out of Heaven”
BEST FEMALE VIDEO: Taylor Swift “I Knew You Were Trouble”
ARTIST TO WATCH: Austin Mahone
SONG OF THE SUMMER: One Direction “Best Song Ever”
BEST VIDEO WITH A SOCIAL MESSAGE: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis “Same Love”
BEST COLLABORATION: P!nk featuring Nate Ruess “Just Give Me A Reason”
BEST POP VIDEO: Selena Gomez “Come and Get It”
BEST ROCK VIDEO: 30 Seconds to Mars “Up in the Air”
BEST HIP-HOP VIDEO: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis “Can’t Hold Us”
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton “Can’t Hold Us”
BEST ART DIRECTION: Janelle Monae feat. Erykah Badu “Q.U.E.E.N.”
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY: Bruno Mars “Treasure”
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Capital Cities “Safe and Sound”
BEST DIRECTION: Justin Timberlake “Suit and Tie”
BEST EDITING: Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”