Lady Gaga’s Ridiculous Opener
There are, apparently, dozens of nods to heady art projects and allusions to fancy artists in Lady Gaga’s music video for “Applause,” which she essentially re-created on stage to open the VMAs. There are references Fritz Lang, Ingmar Bergman, commedia dell’arte, and Andy Warhol. Whatever. Like her song, the performance was a bloated, unnecessarily busy mess. Artistic allusions that no one understands (and shouldn’t need to understand) do not excuse that. However, Lady Gaga opened the performance by screaming like a maniac and finished it dancing in a seashell bikini, which is to say that everyone will be talking about it Monday morning. So in the end, Gaga succeeded in being Gaga—the artist everyone buzzes about, even if they can’t stand that they do. Happy VMAs, everyone.
Miley Cyrus’s Even More Ridiculous Follow-Up (With Robin Thicke)
Miley Cyrus emerges from a gigantic bear, repeatedly licks the air, and begins twerking with teddy bears. A 7-foot-tall woman wearing a G-string walks across the stage. Miley grabs her crotch. We’re too old for this.
After Miley stripped off her gray leotard at the end of her “We Can’t Stop” performance, we thought we’d seen it all…until she started dueting with Robin Thicke on his summer anthem, “Blurred Lines.” It’s a new world now, one in which the girl who played Hannah Montana struts across the VMAs stage in a nude-colored bra and panties, bends over, grinds her butt in Robin Thicke’s crotch, and pretends to masturbate with a giant foam finger. We will get through this together, everyone. One day at a time.
Kanye West Gets Bleeped
Kanye West performed. It was about as annoying as you’d expect. There was this fantastic segment where all you could see was his shadow and he was cursing so often that the incessant bleeping made it absolutely silent. So Kanye West performed and you could neither see nor hear him. Success.
Justin Timberlake Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane
Jimmy Fallon introduced Justin Timberlake as the president of pop. After watching him perform a medley of his biggest hits—“Sexy Back,” “Like I Love You,” “Cry Me a River”—we can all agree it’s an inauguration we can get behind. It was suave. It was smooth. It was prodigious (he sang for, like, nearly a half-hour). It was classy, a word that could not in any approximation be used to describe even a second of the ceremony leading up to his performance. Justin Timberlake does not twerk. Also, remember how good “Sexy Back” was?
*NSYNC Makes All of Our Childhood Dreams Come True
The 30-second-long, high-pitched squeal heard at approximately 10:11 p.m. EST was VMA viewers collectively realizing at the same time that the four men who emerged from the stage in the middle of Justin Timberlake’s performance WAS *NSYNC REUNITING. Taylor Swift almost started crying. Lady Gaga was dancing with more energy than she did during her own performance. One Direction (holding beers!) looked positively giddy. The Backstreet Boys are currently rehearsing for a cruise they’re headlining. LOL.
Jennifer Hudson Sings ‘Same Love’ With Macklemore
Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert performed “Same Love,” their equality anthem preaching love and acceptance, regardless of sexual orientation. It was gorgeous. At the very end, Jennifer Hudson makes a surprise appearance and begins trading lines with Lambert, moving her to tears. Moving all of us to tears. Sure, it’s just pop music and this is just an awards show, but there’s something monumental about one of the biggest artists in music chiosing to perform this song on MTV during the network’s highest-rated telecast of the year. Somewhere, Miley Cyrus is feeling absolutely ridiculous.
Katy Perry Roars
Katy Perry closed the show with the first live performance of her new song, “Roar.” She performed it in a boxing ring underneath the Brooklyn Bridge for no reason that anyone can really figure, as the song is about none of those things. But “Roar” is an impossibly catchy song, and the Manhattan skyline behind her was beautiful. Plus, there was jump-rope choreography, which is just always a treat.