The VMAs! I actually didn’t watch them live last year and then regretted it when I ended up spending the next afternoon catching up on the videos of the bonkers performances online and reading all about the Kanye backlash. I was assuming that MTV and I had mostly diverged in our musical tastes and was overlooking the fact that this isn’t really about the awards, it’s about the spectacle.
Now, with the long-running award show winner-picking competition between Johanna and me, there’s absolutely no way I could miss it. Filling out our ballots proved relatively difficult. We both employed a strategy of spreading the awards around to as many artists as possible, because we figure the whole thing is rigged and MTV is going to want to get as many people as possible up on stage. So, I basically just picked randomly.
Let’s roll. Since this is the VMAs, Johanna has tried to mix us a cocktail that a young person might enjoy. She’s combined vanilla vodka with Diet Coke, and we’re drinking it out of glasses we appropriated from our favorite bar in college, Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap. She initially wanted to call it the Sorority Slut, but we workshopped it and came up with the Mean Girl, which is more fittingly high school. As always, categories and winners in bold. Also, I unfortunately don’t have MTV in HD, so these photos look awful. Apologies.
One last thing. I’m going on record early here saying that I guarantee they have Taylor Swift “interrupt” Kanye’s performance. It’s going to be awesome.
8:19 – I have the pre-show white carpet on in the background (yes, white carpet), and all of the sudden Sway starts giving out awards! WTF?!
Also, two of the nominees weren’t even on the ballot I printed out. This is a disaster.
The category is Best Dance Video. Johanna says “What’s ‘Evacuate the Dancefloor’ by Cascada?” and goes to YouTube to watch the video. “This girl is so trashy,” she says, then pauses for about five seconds and follows that up with “Oh, I know this. I like this song.” Anyway, I went with “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga here, and Johanna decided to pretend that it was 2004 and go with “OMG” by Usher feat. Will.I.Am. Gaga wins. 1-0, me.
We’re moving right on to Best Collaboration Video. I was very torn about this category but eventually decided on “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia “Piano” Keys. Johanna went with “Telephone” by Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce. “I hope young people aren’t over Lady Gaga yet,” she says. They aren’t. Lady Gaga wins again. The score is 1-1. I’m starting to doubt my whole “spreading the awards around” theory.
8:23 – How is it even possible that Jared Leto has a real, very successful band now? This is only possible because the kids who are into him are too young to even remember his acting career, right?
8:34 – Ugh, Nicki Minaj. All this girl does is sing bad choruses over really obvious samples. That and hang out with Will.I.Android.
8:50 – Apparently Kanye is a director now. Looks to be heavily influenced by the video for “Flashing Lights.” Slow motion and flames.
9:00 – Kicking things off with Eminem. This’ll be fun, I haven’t heard anything from his newest album.
And here’s Rihanna. I guess I have heard this song, I’ve definitely seen the video with Charlie from Lost acting like a tough guy. Rihanna’s a redhead now? I approve.
9:05 – Until a couple of days ago I’d forgotten that Chelsea Handler was hosting this. Color me disappointed. Couldn’t we get Aziz Ansari or Russell Brand?
This does not bode well.
9:10 – One upside of Chelsea Handler’s monologue: it’s terrible, so I don’t have to pause the show to take photos or type something about what’s happening.
“She looks plastic,” says Johanna. As comedian Jimmy Pardo says, “Her IMDB page says she’s 34, so when I met her twenty years ago, she was…?”
9:14 – Ellen DeGeneres is here both to make me wish she were hosting instead of Chelsea Handler and to present Best Female Video.
I went with my girl Katy Perry, hoping to see her pick up an award here since she isn’t nominated in too many other categories. Johanna agrees. Lady Gaga gets the win, though, for “Bad Romance.” I’m starting to worry that she’ll sweep.
Did you know that this is the second-most watched video on YouTube? I guess that, in and of itself, is not that surprising. I can’t believe it’s been watched almost 277 MILLION times, though.
9:17 – I now have confirmation that Best New Artist is voted on by the fans. I’m glad that I went with Justin Bieber. Obviously his fans would burn MTV to the ground if he didn’t win.
9:24 – The cast of Jackass is introduced and I immediately feel all of my energy and desire to blog about this exit my body with a sigh.
They’re presenting Best Rock Video. I went with MGMT because I couldn’t bring myself to vote for My So-Called 30 Seconds to Mars or Paramore. Johanna went with Paramore. I’m guessing that’s a safer bet. This category also apparently features Florence + the Machine and Muse, who were not on our ballot. Ugh. 30 Seconds to Mars wins. Double Ugh. Still 1-1.
Also, Will.I.Am is going to wear his black rubber outfit the whole, night, huh? I served with Lady Gaga, I knew Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga was a friend of mine. Will.I.Am, you’re no Lady Gaga.
9:27 – “I was told I would be seeing Justin Bieber in nine minutes,” says Johanna, split-seconds before Kim Kardashian announces him.
This kid is so short. Honestly, I have absolutely nothing against him, and wish him the best, but he’s 16 and the internet tells me that he’s 5’3”. This is a definite Jonathan Taylor Thomas situation, where the bloom is off the rose once girls realize he’s 18 and not getting any taller, right? You can’t surround yourself with prepubescent backup dancers forever, Justin.
9:32 – I had no idea he played the drums. He quickly loses a stick, but he has extras at the ready. The kid’s a pro.
9:34 – I’m really excited about The Social Network, but is anyone else surprised by how much emphasis the marketing campaign is putting on the fact that the screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin? I mean, I’m as big of a fan of The West Wing as the next guy, but have we already forgotten Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip?
9:38 – Ke$ha is here with some guy I’ve never heard of named Trey Songz. Johanna cannot stop talking about how big Ke$ha is. I think she means tall.
They’re presenting U$her. Whoops, I mean Usher. I’m not sure about these songs, but I’m always up for an Usher performance.
His backup dancers look like ninja crossing guards.
Justin Bieber enjoying the Urrrsher performance with his guardians Sofia Vergara and some random guy.
9:44 – Katy Perry and Nicki Menaj are here to present Best Male Video. Once again, there are nominees here that are not on our ballot.
I went with “Airplanes” by B.o.B. featuring Hayley Williams, and Johanna went with “Not Afraid” by Eminem. He pulls it out, and she takes her first lead in a long time. Is my winner-picking streak in danger? 2-1 her. Even though he performed earlier, Eminem is not here to accept his award, as he had to catch a flight.
9:53 – Some girl I haven’t heard of named Ashley Greene is here with Jared Leto to present Florence + the Machine.
This is exciting; I had no idea she was performing. I only like two songs on this album, but I absolutely love those two, and this is one of them (the other being “Cosmic Love”).
10:04 – Chelsea Handler introducing the cast of Glee. There’s a whole lot of stuff I don’t like on stage right now.
They’re presenting Best Pop Video. Again, there are nominees that are not on the ballot I printed out. What the hell? I checked multiple ballots before printing this one! Oh, well. I went with Lady Gaga and “Bad Romance,” Johanna went with “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha. She says she chose it because of her theory that they won’t give all of the awards to Lady Gaga, but in reality she just chose it because she loves this song so much. Lady Gaga wins. We’re tied, 2-2.
10:06 – Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson, the stars of Unstoppable, a movie I know nothing about, are here to introduce Taylor Swift. Yawn.
Hold on, apparently she wrote this song in response to last year’s Kanye incident. Maybe this will be interesting.
Nope, still boring.
10:22 – From the aforementioned The Social Network, here’s Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, and some third guy. “Who is the guy in the middle?” says Johanna, “He’s kind of hot.” I’m not rewinding to hear his name.
They’re introducing a performance by Drake. I literally cannot get over the fact that this is Jimmy from Degrassi: The Next Generation. I will never be able to get over it. He could be a huge pop star for the next twenty years and I will still picture him hanging out with Spinner.
10:27 – Evan Rachel Wood and Joe Manganiello from True Blood are here to run through the more technical awards of the evening. Again, nothing against him, but this guy is like the twelfth lead on that show. Why is he presenting here? Was Alexander Skarsgård really unavailable? Has he been in something else that I’m not aware of?
This is a blur, so let’s run through these as quickly as possible. Johanna and I both went with “Telephone” by Lady Gaga for Best Choreography, but “Bad Romance” wins instead. For Best Editing Johanna went with “Rude Boy” by Rihanna, and even though I knew it wasn’t going to win, I picked “Animal” by Miike Snow, just because it’s such a great song/video. Lady Gaga wins again for “Bad Romance.”
For Best Directing Johanna chose “Kings and Queens” by 30 Seconds to Mars. “That was my one concession to Jared Leto,” she says. I, luckily, chose “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. Not surprisingly, it wins. 3-2 me.
Best SFX went to Muse for “Uprising.” I chose “Symphonies” by Dan Black because Johanna happened to be playing the video on her computer as I made my pick. Johanna went with “Bad Romance” here. As you can imagine, she is a bit annoyed.
Johanna again went with “Bad Romance” for Best Art Direction. I went with “Video Phone” by Beyonce. Florence + the Machine wins for “Dog Days are Over,” which wasn’t even on our ballot. Good for her. I’m not a fan of the video, really, but it’s much better than the old version from before she made it in the U.S.
Best Cinematography goes to “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z. Johanna briefly celebrates getting it correct before I inform her that I picked it, too. 4-3 me.
10:33 – I’m going to go ahead and ignore the interaction between Chelsea Handler and the cast of Jersey Shore.
10:34 – Ah, so that’s why Sofia Vergara is here, she’s presenting!
She’s presenting Best Hip Hop Video. Johanna went with “Airplanes” by B.o.B. (which, really, if that’s hip hop, I no longer know what hip hop is). I went with “Forever” by Drake, a song I’m not sure I’ve ever heard. Is it the one he performed earlier? I really need to get back in touch with this stuff. I tell her that I have a feeling we should have gone with Eminem, but in our defense, it wasn’t even on our ballot. This ballot is ridiculously terrible. Eminem wins, of course.
10:41 – Disney Channel’s own, Selena Gomez, accompanied by Ne-Yo. Ne-Yo is still around! Awesome.
Wikipedia research reveals that Ne-Yo is not only still around, he released a greatest hits collection last year. That seems either unnecessary or, at best, premature. They’re introducing B.o.B. and Hayley Williams, who are performing “Airplanes,” obviously. Johanna is singing along.
10:53 – Victoria Justice (?) and Latino Artist of the year Romeo (??) are here to present Best New Artist.
Johanna claims that she would have picked Justin Bieber if she had known this was voted on by the fans. I picked him, and tell her that she should have known he would win anyway. He does, obviously. 5-3 me. Also, he temporarily can’t figure out how to get onstage.
Also, remember how I said “Bad Romance” was the second-most viewed video on YouTube? Here’s #1. 320 million views, folks.
“Thank you to Usher for being my mentor.” I wish Usher was my mentor.
10:55 – Emma Stone and some other guy from the upcoming Easy A are here.
They’re introducing…wait, what? Linkin Park? #1 single? In 2010? Who knew?!
11:05 – Ladies and gentlemen, the comedic stylings of Cher!
She’s presenting Video of the Year. Johanna and I are both feeling exceptionally good about picking “Bad Romance.” And it wins. Another award for Lady Gaga. 6-4, me. She announces that her new album will be named Born This Way and sings a bit of the title track.
11:08 – Aziz!!!
He’s introducing Kanye West for the final performance of the night. I was trying to convince myself that I was over Kanye, but I am getting really hyped for the new album. I also love that he strolls out in a red suit to play a tiny keyboard that is resting on top of a tiny Greek column.
I think Kanye is contrite. I think he’ll continue to do stupid things like the Taylor Swift interruption, but I think his contrition is true and not P.R. He’s like a child genius; super-talented, but lacking any filter or real social skills.
It ends sort of anti-climatically, though. I thought for sure he would play a second song. And I’m obviously disappointed that they didn’t bring Taylor Swift out. Rihanna and Katy Perry seemed to enjoy it, though.
So, that was fun, but it’s got nothing on last year’s show. What did we learn? Jared Leto has successfully reinvented himself as a douchey rock star. Linkin Park still exist. Kanye’s sorry. And we are probably, definitely, overrating the music video for “Bad Romance.” Also, Chelsea Handler is not a good award show host. See you next year!