The MTV Video Music Awards: How Was It?

I haven’t seen the VMAs in years. More often than not it’s because I really forgot when it was coming on for one reason or another, and then I missed it, and each of the twenty times they reair it that following week. Not only that, but the last few times I’ve seen the VMAs they were… well, they kinda sucked.

But this year I decided to watch for a few reasons: they were so many A-lists singers involved this year in one big album after another, there were some fairly good videos released, and everyone from Adele to Cloris Leachman was due to make an appearance.

So how was it?

THE HUMOR

Anytime anyone does an awards show, it can be a little awkward. Getting together people from all over the celebrity spectrum can be disastrous, especially since most celebrities don’t seem to carry that same on-the-go flair that they exude on TV. Even with scripts and teleprompters involved, humor just doesn’t translate well into the award show atmosphere. It works for SNL, it works for the President of the United-fricking-States, but for God’s Sake it becomes the equivalent of amateur night at the corner comedy club for these things.

But what could go wrong when you have Kevin Hart hosting? Actually, there was no host this year.

WaitWhoaWhat?

Yeah, there was NO host this year, and while Kevin Hart did a pretty fun bit on how he, his fans, and even his close personal friend Oprah (or Ope, as he calls her in private) wanted him to host, MTV decided to not have a host, and instead separate performances and presenters with little sketches involving Kevin Hart, and for some reason a lot of Rick Ross. They were pretty good too, poking fun at celebrities by playing a page who has to deal with these rockstars and their crazy demands backstage. My favorite has to be Kevin Hart teaching the new guy to stay quiet, and then getting crazy as they pass a room with a giant, glowing, golden egg, saying “”Shhh! Lady Gaga’s hibernating… never disturb the talent!”

There were also a few funny bits worth mentioning involving a slim Jonah Hill who did an almost-too serious-we’re-not-sure-if-we-should-laugh metajoke about on how people think he’ll be less funnier now that he’s not fat; Chloris Leachman appearing with the Jersey Shore cast saying “Everyone your age thinks I’m Betty White“; LMFAO’s Shufflebot making an appearance, and a Beavis and Butthead/Nikki Minaj clip.

“Isn’t your name spanish… for a threesome?”

THE PERFORMANCES

Lady Gaga: “You and I

I didn’t pay attention to the lead up to this show because, frankly, I didn’t even know it was on today until I turned to it. But, with the 30 mins of PreShow that I caught, I could tell the talk of the show was what in the hell Lady Gaga was going to do to open the show. And what could she do to top her other bizarre performances? She became a man. A pretty convincing one, at that, although she made sure her tongue-in-cheek “Jo Calderone” character continued to remind the audience that she–I mean he– was “just one of the guys”.

This wasn’t too shocking to me, honestly, even as it happened. After spending the beginning of her other awards show in an egg until hatching for the performance (if you didn’t know about this, now you understand the Kevin Hart joke above), gender-bending ain’t no thing, and apparently she’s been touting . What was interesting was that she went the entire show in this persona, even through her entire performance and her later appearances.

She also used this persona to talk about herself metatextually, allowing her to not only address what the general public seems to think about her and “how crazy she is” (to which everyone, even Britney and Bieber, looked confused) but to sort of have a debate on identity. “Maybe that’s just who she is?” she says in-character. She even directs her monologue into a pseudo-philosophical diatribe on what is real or not for a performer. She says, as Jo talking about his “relationship” with Gaga (yeah, there’s a whole backstory here, apparently) “I want her to be real. But she says, ‘Jo, I’m not real. I’m theater. And you and I, this is just rehearsal.’ “

Sure, it took an awkwardly long time to complete, but then she began her routine, which went from piano to dancing with like-dressed dancers to bringing out legendary rock legend and Queen guitarist Brian May (even David Grohl showed tons of appreciation for this) to dancing and slipping off a wet piano she sprayed with alcohol (but to her credit, she played it off really well, although Adele looked incredibly concerned).

And when it was all over, everyone clapped, and Kevin Hart came out and said everything that we were thinking: “That shit was weird”.

Who’s surprised?

Kanye and Jay Z: “Otis

Everyone was waiting for this, hoping for it, and boy, did they not disappoint… at first. It was a fiery surprise: there were flames everywhere, the stage lit with pyrotechnics, and then two of the most famous rappers on the planet were spitting lyrics and heading down the long stage towards the crowd. And, before you knew it, it was over. Awesome to see, short, but still not sure how sweet.

Pitbull and Neyo feat Nayer: “Give Me Everything”

This performance rocked my socks. It had everything a club scene should have: a good beat, green laser crisscrossing and beaming down the entire showroom, and some of the sexiest dancers you could find on stage. Best yet was when singer/songwriter/supermodel (the three magical S’s) Nayer appeared in some kind of Poison Ivy type of costume to sing some of the background vocals.

Adele: “Someone Like You”

Out of all of the songs she could sing, she had to sing one of her slower, sadder ones, and damn if it didn’t nearly bring a tear to my eye. She could make Hitler cry, I bet. I would have been fine with “Rumour Has It“, “I’ll Be Waiting” or “Rolling in the Deep“. Instead she sings the song that makes me want to cry in front of a mirror and eat ice cream while watching 80s romance comedies on Netflix.

But, all jokes aside, she sang powerfully and wonderfully as usual, the lights dark and the spotlight on her, and besides the pianist accompanying her, it was a very sad, singular experience, greatly contrasting the performance that came before her. And in the end, so humble and shy, she stood quiet and still, gave one kiss to a person in the crowd, a small smile to the audience, and then waited to get offstage when prompted.

Chris Brown: “Beautiful People

All I can say is the guy can move. Finally regaining the love of the general public, the young singer/actor/dancer came out appropriately clad all in white, renewed and reborn fresh in the eyes of the world and dancing his ass off to prove he deserves our love.

Whatever you wanted, his performance had it: dancers in fluffly dresses, guys in suits, people with skull half-masks. Set pieces using the music of Wu-tang and Nirvana. And to top it off, he flies. He (and later two more dancers clad all in white) take to the sky/ceiling and fly/dance their way up and over the crowd. All the while, especially when his two feet hit the stage, Brown danced efficiently, technically, hard, on point. And when it was all over, he saluted the crowd and walks away to a standing ovation.

Ironically, Jessie J and the stage band immediately played “Scrubs” by TLC. Awkward and funny.

Britney Tribute:

So again we see Lady Gaga’s Jo Calderone come out (although trying less in establishing a male’s voice) and give tons of credit to Britney Spears (who I must admit looked great) and then, akwardly, added “I used to hang posters of her on my wall and… touch myself when I was in bed”. This was all a lead up into honoring Britney Spears with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award. The dancers that came to the stage then went through a routine that should a complete visual history of her styles, costumes, dances, etc, encompassing everything she’s done, from how she started to now. It was great.

Gaga then told everyone to “stand the f**k up!” as she called up the “incomparable” Britney Spears. Here was where the awkward part came in, when Gaga-as-Joe checked Britney out, and got really close. Britney took her cue, also getting really close, and just as they came within kissing distance… Britney turned away. It was a funny moment because at this point Britney has kissed all the other big female pop stars when showing up at the VMAs, and Gaga actually looked kind of hurt, though she played it off well and continued to stay close in case the opportunity came up.

The only thing that made this beautiful tribute feel lackluster was the last part. Gaga said that, in honor of Michael Jackson and that award–and how Michael was an influence to her, Britney, and most other pop stars–both Gaga and the Vanguard award winner presented Beyoncé as the next presenter. It felt like they were upstaging Britney by having her call out someone who was even better, possibly. It’s like giving the President the Nobel Prize and then asking him to immediately call up someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger to do something cool and entertaining.

Beyonce: “Love on Top

Beyonce’s performance was great as usual, with her and her backup singers in glittery pants suits. Even Adele sang along to this very old school sounding song, and there was an awkward moment when Gaga and Kanye seemed to be laughing and hugging and then very suddenly and seriously stopped their embrace. Most shocking was that there was next to little dancing, which is usual for a Beyonce performance, but that question was answered when–at the end of the performance–Beyonce dropped the mic and opened her blazer to show a little round stomach showing there was a baby in tow. Everyone applauded, with a shot of Jay Z and Kanye jumping and laughing and Jay Z saluting his wife.

Young the Giant: “My Body

I’ve never heard of this band before tonight, but boy was their performance memorable. A new band formerly known as The Jakes from Irvine, California, they actually brought 250 fellow Irvine residents and fans to the VMAs and surround the small stage they played from.

It had a very cool small concert feel that was reminiscent of most of the places they’ve probably played so far to get where they’re at now, and lead singer Sameer Gadhia really used it to his advantage to deliver a satisfying performance that even involved crowd surfing. He utilized his charisma and passion very well and knew how to keep the crowd alive.

Lil Wayne:

As expected when Drake came out, Lil Wayne was called out to wrap up the show with the final performance, starting with a “How to Love“, taking things slow and intimate on the stage with the audience, and then suddenly brought out a band and turned it into Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man“, where the lack of censorship caused MTV to beep out so many curses that it sounded like I was listening to a bootleg cassette tape I picked up from some shady guy stuck in the 90s.

COOL MOMENTS:

Amy Winehouse Tribute:

We were all waiting to see this tribute which MTV had been reminding us was coming all night. When it finally did come, it was none other than fellow London celeb Russell Brand who presented it, and surprisingly avoided the “She was an angel” routine to give an honest, partially comical approach to honoring the late star. He talked about meeting her, this crazy person with crazy hair whose talent you couldn’t recognize offhand; but, when hearing her sing, her gifts put her among the ranks of music greats like Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. He took a moment to turn the Tribute into a PSA on alcohol and drugs, and then added how her style influenced many big names today, like Adele, his “missus” (Katy Perry), Lady Gaga, Florence & The Machine, among others.

With that they welcomed Tony Bennett to the stage, who called her a true jazz artist and also compared her to Holliday and Fitzgerald. Afterwards MTV released a duet Bennett and Winehouse recorded together, which showed their singing in the studio together and also having little laughs, showed a montage of her concerts and family pictures, and then had Bruno Mars come out, dressed in 50s attire, to sing a version of “Valerie“, a song Amy Winehouse popularized again.

Hunger Games Movie Trailer:

Jennifer Lawrence showed a brief, never before released teaser trailer of the Hunger Games, which was incredibly short, but showed her, as the series protagonist Katniss Everdeen, and was surely enough to sate the hunger of some fans until a longer trailer comes out.


WEIRD STUFF:

The Cameramen were a little off at times, especially in the beginning, picking really bad angles and shots where people were moving in front of the camera, giving the feel of watching a bootleg movie.

The fashion was very random, but who would expect less from the likes of Nikki Minaj and LMFAO? Surprisingly Gaga had one of the least outrageous looks since she used her Jo persona all night, but there was a weird moment where Katy Perry–previously dressed in pink hair and Japanese attire (complete with a bamboo parasail)–later switched it up with a yellow cube on her head. The worst came from Minaj, who had on a colorful outfit fitted with a half mask, blocky skirt (seriously, blocks) and some crazy, thick, sock-like thigh high boots. Anime all the way, with her.

Jessie J was the stage performer between bits, which I’m still not sure is an honor or punishment, since it made her covers seem more like high-end karaoke than anything else. Worst yet, she had injured herself before the Preshow, so she did every performance with a stylish cast around her foot while sitting in a really nice comfortable white chair.

The Future Beastie Boys bit was odd, especially since no one knew what the hell was going on for a moment. Will Ferrell, Jack Black and Seth Rogen came out as the Beastie Boys from the future, but the delivery was poor and no one got the context of the joke. The Beastie Boys weren’t even there to laugh at this parody of themselves, or make a surprise appearance and rap battle their future counterparts.

Instead we got newcomer Tyler the Creator and his whole entourage, who came out with a lackluster dance routine… and then awkward silence. Finally Tyler presented the “Best Hip Hop Video award“, stumbling on everything he said, and then blurted out that he was nervous.

It got even better when Tyler later won the “Best New Artist” award and came on stage looking drunk. Again, stuttering and stumbling, he admitted he “didn’t write a thank you speech”. Really? I couldn’t tell, with all the nonsense and curses come out of his mouth. And then he did one of those “this is to the kids” speeches about how they could be where he is at, but how could they hear his message when MTV had to keep bleeping him out. What a way to be a role model, kid.

AND THE MOONMAN GOES TO…

Finally, to wrap this up, I’ll give you a list of the Awards and the nominees who won them. These were the ones presented during the show; there were others awarded for other, more technical aspects, and you can find those at MTV’s Official VMA website.

Best Pop Video:

Britney Spears: “Til The World Ends”. She gave a tearful thank you to God, her kids, her fans, and her new hubbie.

Best Rock Video:

The Foo Fighters (Yes!): “Walk”. They deserved this, dammit.

Best Hip Hop Video:

Nikki Minaj: “Super Bass”. She came out in her weird outfit, threw out her thanks, and gave the biggest props to Lil Wayne, who she called “the best rapper out there” (I beg to differ, but I don’t blame her… you have to make your boss happy).

Best Collaboration:

Katy Perry feat Kanye West: “E.T.”. Funny because Katy jokes about Kanye’s tendency to get in trouble for his mouth, and surprisingly, West keeps his mouth shut for almost the entire time. Fancy that.

Best Male Video:

Justin Beiber: “U Smile”. Came up, and just before getting on stage gave his best thug-nod to Kanye. He could barely start his speech for a trio of “JUST-IIIIN!!!” screams pierced the silence.

Best New Artist:

The aforementioned and awkward Tyler the Creator: “Yonkers”.

Best Female Video:

Lady Gaga: “Born This Way”. Accepted as–you know it–Jo Calderone, and tells everyone to be who they are–they were born that way.

Video of the Year:

Katy Perry: Complete with her yellow cube, for “Firework”.

IN CONCLUSION:

I’ve missed a ton of MTV Video Music Awards and MTV Movie Awards shows lately, and while I don’t know if I missed anything great over the years, I know this one was actually fairly good. I’m still nostalgic over some of my favorites of the past but if anything this was a fantastic sign that MTV has made some changes for the better.

And you know the craziest thing about the whole show?

NO KANYE OUTBURSTS.

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