The VMAs are strange. People pretend not to care, like they don’t give a damn about the most important pop culture event of the year. And then they create half a million tweets about it. I was at a bar Sunday night playing trivia. The second question was this: “Who won video of the year at last night’s VMAs?” Half the bar knew, half the bar pretended not to care. In case you live under a rock that has “too hip for you” scrawled all over it, you know the answer to this question was Katy Perry’s “Fireworks.” Embrace your love for pop music. Embrace the energy. Embrace the sheer fun of it all.
From the start
In my opinion, some of the best VMA moments came about during the black carpet pre-show, where sweetie Selena Gomez was firing the interview questions right next to MTV news anchor Sway. She flubbed a few times, sure, but nothing got viewers Twittering like that awkward cheek kiss she received from boyfriend Justin Bieber after she asked him about his outfit. She squirmed uncomfortably on camera just as Justin started smooching. Oy! Is it me, or does Biebs milk every moment possible to plant a big wet one on his cougar? The PDA overkill is not even cute anymore, it’s not even halfway to endearing. The biggest conundrum when it comes to Bieber is this: Does he know his time is almost up, and if so, what is he trying to prove? It’s almost as if this pair of popstars want the paparazzi to stalk them even harder for the fun of it. And Justin’s outfit? It looked as if he and rapper Pitbull coordinated the day before. Who knew red skinny pants were so popular? Finally, the glasses: the only thing those out-of-place, on-the-wrong-face hipster specs did for Biebs was highlight how young he actually looks behind them. The jig is up, Justin.
Lady Gaga stole the show from the very start — no surprises there. Performing as her alter ego Jo Calderone, Gags stayed true to character for the entire show, from the glasses of whiskey to the bottles of beer to the “Lemme kiss you” eye flare she batted to Brit when presenting her with her special award. The quality of her “You and I” was also top notch, which proved above anything else, why Lady Gaga remains important in the sphere of pop culture.
Tony Bennett and Bruno Mars’ tribute to Amy Winehouse also made the show worth watching til the end. Bennett’s video footage of he and Amy recording together was touching and vocally impressive. Bruno Mars did justice to Winehouse’s hit “Valerie” with booming vocals, smooth moves and fresh hair. I especially liked the sing-along lines at the end, which pulled fans and non-fans together with a few simple words.
Finally, Beyonce blew me away with her show-stopping hit, even though the sequined suits were god awful ugly. Her rub of the tummy at the end, plus Jay-Z’s smile and Kanye’s shoulder hug brought me to tears. Cannot wait for baby Bey-Z to be born. Anyone else?
Rumor has it that they couldn’t get Britney to come to the VMAs without some ridiculous kind of bribe. It makes sense — does the “Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award” not sound ridiculous to you? I was looking forward to a Britney tribute, even if Britney didn’t “come back” as hard as her producers had wanted her to. If you blinked or dozed off for 60 seconds Sunday night (I wouldn’t blame you) you might be asking, “What Britney tribute?” Instead of a best-of-Brit mashup performance, we got a mediocre dance recital performed by little girls in too much make up. Uncomfortable and weird.
Lil’ Wayne’s performance also had me at “awkward.” The guitar thrashing and the shirt undressing and the bubble butt hanging out of his jeans…man, it just was not enjoyable. Finally, “Sneak Preview” my ass, “Hunger Games.” Showing protagonist Katniss running through the woods with the trees on fire for all of 20 seconds was so freakin’ lame. You should have nixed it altogether and waited to premiere the trailer during the “Jersey Shore” season finale. There probably would have been just as many viewers.
Chris Brown, I’m so torn about you. Your performance, which consisted of sweet-ass dance moves and Cirque Du Soleil acrobatic tricks, made me want to go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” just like you do, but then I remember Rihanna’s bruise and battered face and I can’t. You try to fool us Chris, but I’m sorry. You may be talented, but you screwed up. And I won’t forget it.
Did I hear Snooki right when she called Beyonce a meatball on the black carpet? Maybe she didn’t know she was pregnant yet. Regardless, RUDE. Katy Perry seems to have picked up a bit of husband Russell Brand’s British accent. The slight tilt to her voice made her 3D sim-like costume that much more ridiculous. Remember those silly Justin Bieber/Kim Kardashian rumors? Her hug to him after his win was dismissive and impersonal. Kim, we know you’re married! A warm smile or a tad more affection — even a cute little punch on the shoulder — would have sufficed to prove your “friendship.” How many pairs of legs do you think were on stage during Pitbull and Ne-Yo’s performance of “Give Me Everything?” I’m thinking 42. One more question: Where the hell was Taylor Swift?
Allison Berger is a Philadelphia-based writer and a pop music columnist for Reverb. Check out more of her writing here.