MTV VMAs 2011: Best and Worst Moments

Young, old, and fetal played a part in the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. A troupe of trussed-up tots paid disturbing tribute to Britney Spears’ pelvi-centric dance moves. Oscar- and Emmy-winning octogenarian Cloris Leachman was reduced to sharing the stage with the ladies of Jersey Shore*. And a surprisingly covered-up Beyoncé signaled she was carrying a bun in the oven at the end of her cute, retro performance of “Love on Top.” (*Tell me I wasn’t the only one whose brain refused to acknowledge atrociously outfitted Rainbow Deena until a squawk emerged from her mouth.)

Amidst the two-and-a-half-hour telecast to honor music videos not typically played on a channel that used to do nothing but play music videos were both genuine highlights and nosedives into atonal ridiculata. So without further ado, let’s count down the best, the worst, and the winners’ list.

BEST
1) Adele’s “Someone Like You”: On a night where plenty of dough was spent on backing tracks and backup dancers, Adele proved that sometimes there’s nothing more powerful or heartbreaking than a stellar vocalist standing in front of a piano and singing her guts out. In a word: Sublime.

2) Lady Gaga’s “You and I”: Justin Bieber looked like he was in a state of shock as Gaga, in performance-art man-drag that was one part Ray Romano and one part The Fonz, opened the show with a rambling monologue about the emotional limitations of “his” superstar lover. But by the time she took to the piano to deliver her latest hit ballad (accompanied by Queen’s Brian May), Gaga reminded us that her musical chops deserve our total attention — regardless of whether or not you wished the whole “Jo Calderone” shtick had been retired 15 minutes into the telecast.

3) Young the Giant “My Body”: Not even the worst camera work in recent live television history could distract from the fact that the California quintet delivered the evening’s liveliest, hardest-rocking set (eke-ing out Kanye West and Jay Z’s “Otis” by a nose).

WORST
1) Lil Wayne’s “performance”: Why bother rolling out a song for a national TV audience when two out of every three words get dropped by network censors? As Lil Wayne stalked the stage shirtless, his droopy black-and-white leopard leggings giving us an unfortunate glimpse of blue boxer-briefs, the resulting audio feed sounded like a badly tuned radio station on an interminable road trip to hell. In my mind, I’m still trying to unlock the door and hurl my body onto the fiery blacktop.

2) Katy Perry, trying too hard. As usual.

3) Chris Brown Medley: Didn’t atrocious lipsyncing go the way of Ashlee Simpson’s acting career? If so, then how come Chris Brown kept moving his mouth out of time with the clearly piped-in sounds of “Yeah 3X” and “Beautiful People”? Surely, his wonky “running man” variation and addition of trampoline dancers didn’t justify dragging Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Wu Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck” into the debacle?

Special Bonus Irony: Tyler, the Creator, ending his Best New Artist award speech with these words of inspiration: “To all the kids watching, you can do this [bleep] self [bleep] be [bleep] them golf white.”

Trophies Handed Out During the Telecast
Best Pop Video: Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends”
Best Rock Video: Foo Fighters’ “Walk”
Best Hip-Hop Video: Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass”
Best Collaboration: Katy Perry and Kanye West’s “E.T.”
Best Male Video: Justin Bieber’s “U Smile”
Best New Artist: Tyler, the Creator
Best Female Video: Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”
Video of the Year: Katy Perry’s “Firework”

What did you think of the 2011 VMAs? Any best or worst moments that I missed? Sound off below, and for all my TV commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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95 Comments
  1. Povalles says:

    Bruno Mars doing Valerie was pretty good too

    • Stacie says:

      As well as Russell Brand’s speech about her. It was a touching story and hit on a lot of interesting points, especially talking about alcohol and drug disease. I especially liked how Adele, Katy Perry and a few others acknowledged Amy Winehouse’s influence in their music. I think MTV did a nice job with the tribute.

    • mjholler says:

      Beyonce` is such a Class Act, Heavy Hitter!!!!!

      Bigger than the Award production itself, MTV VMA’s are looking more and more like a second thought or some low budget film? WTH?

      Step it back up, MTV or all you will be left with is the LUNA, that ended his acceptance speech talking about White Golf Balls?

      Really.

    • Nae says:

      I missed it! What song did he sing?

  2. lorna says:

    umm katy perry is awesome and lady gaga was a disappointment tonight. just saying.

    • presley says:

      @lorna – boom. couldnt agree more. Gaga = what? KP = ftw, as usual.

    • Templar says:

      Following her established modus operandi Gaga ripped off West Side Story by copying the character of Anybody’s, the tomboy who hung around the Jets. Has Gaga ever had an original idea beyond the catastrophic meat dress. Please, can her 15 minutes end soon?

      • Kevin H. says:

        The meat dress wasn’t even original. Even when you want to give her the benefit of the doubt, she disappoints you.

    • rebecca a. says:

      i am so over lady gaga. she is just not entertaining anymore.

    • heather says:

      Agreed. I’m so sick of celebrities and celebrity websites kissing gaga’s butt as if it smells like roses.

    • Anthony says:

      If you honestly think Katy Perry is “awesome”, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

  3. GeralynK says:

    As I watched Gaga skake a bottle labeled, “beer” & spray it on the audience from the piano, I just knew that stage was going to be slippery! She did fall & the camera cut away to an audience.

  4. heather says:

    Disagree on 2 :

    Worst- Lady Gaga NOT Katy Perry.. Swap the trying to hard to Gaga, Katy looked cute.

    • danny says:

      Uh, Katy Perry is a moron. She should have stuck the cube up her talentless husband’s butt.

    • Ross says:

      Seriously? you actually think Katy looked cute with that giant block thing on her head. I mean I love Katy’s music but WTF!? was up with that cube.

      But I do agree that the Mr. Lady Gaga thing got old after a minute

      Also Beyonce’s performance was amazing.

      • lorna says:

        but gaga can get praised for wearing a meat suit? ughh. wasn’t a fan of the block on my girl’s head, but whatever, she tried something new, good for her. bruno mars needs to disappear, overplayed much?

        • J says:

          unlike katy perry there is no denying that lady gaga is a talented musician. Just look at a gaga score compared to a katy perry one. Even if you aren’t a fan of the whole lady gaga persona she is definitely talented

        • lol says:

          i dont think bruno mars overplayed much,I really think that his performances was the best of night compared lady gaga performance, I like her performance, but compared to bruno she was more exaggerated

  5. Lady Flop says:

    Lady Gaga is the epitome of trying way too hard. I can’t see how this praise has followed her for so long unless people are paid to praise her. Oh, ok…got it now.

  6. Amy says:

    Gaga was freaking awesome! I loved her and beyonce’s performance as well when she revealed her secret! But gaga was amazing! Luv her <3!

  7. Steph says:

    The best of the night for me were Beyonce and also Bruno Mars’ Valerie!

  8. Kate says:

    I had to remind myself this is just for videos not the music. If Britney beats Adele for anything come Grammy time, my head will explode.

  9. Guy says:

    Well i loved Gaga and Katy Perry so stick that. lol

  10. Sarah says:

    Beyonce and Bruno were fantastic. Katy and Gaga are just up there doing what they want. There is no need to trash them. I think they are great. Britney, Demi and Selena looked amazing. And Adele was soulful and wonderful. Loved the Amy tribute too.

  11. Laurie E says:

    I’m so glad i’m not the only who thinks Katy Perry tries too hard. I loved adele’s performance! thought her video would beat out Firework after all the other awards. Just saw a great parody of Rolling in the Deep video w/ a fruit ninja http://youtu.be/4It_UyH-qE4

  12. Maddie says:

    Beyonce’s performance was absolutely the best of the night. The joy she had just emanated off of her throughout the entire song, the vocals were fabulous, and she looked awesome. It was just so much fun! Also, Adele’s song was simply exquisite, and to me “You and I” will always be a Haley Reinhart song.

  13. ReMMeZ says:

    What a drag [not only gaga... i thought adam lambert was here male alter ego.. she must have been confused or what].

    Hands down best performance.. Bruno Mars.. and Russel Brands speech.. The rest was crap avant le lettre…

  14. Julie says:

    Does anyone else see Adam Goldberg when Gaga is channeling her alter-ego?

  15. Gale says:

    This show has degenerated into a sad vehicle for soulless, Godless, black hearted narcissists. Adele and Bruno Mars seemed like they came from an alternate universe.

  16. Damian says:

    Lil Wayne had the worst performance of the night!!!! Come on now how are you going to out do skinny jeans!!! He was basically wearing spandex!!! That definitely turned me away from buying his album!!! Smfh

    • amber says:

      First of all: those are Jeggings. Zebra print jeggings to be exact. They have a twitter and they’re funny. @Waynes_Jeggings

      Second of all: I agree. That was the one performance I was waiting for and then he comes on and it’s an autotune mess. “Sorry for the wait” indeed. I really wish he would get over this “rock star” thing and go back to what made him famous: rapping.

  17. N says:

    I love Adele’s music, but Rolling In The Deep and Someone Like You became overplayed. I Can’t listen to them anymore, thanks to the radio. I hope she’s going to promote other singles soon. (and I bet she’s going to be the big Grammy winner this year.)

    I hated Gaga’s performance. She acted like a total attention-w_ore through the whole thing. (But I liked Seeing Bryan May through.)

    Bruno’s performance was okay. I hate his radio stuff, so It’s nice to hear something else from him because he got a great voice. but I think they could’ve done something better for Amy, considering the fact that Valerie is not even her song.

  18. Holly says:

    I think it would have been much better if Naya Rivera did the Amy Winehouse tribute.

    • Sal says:

      I thought she would be performing too! But Bruno Mars still did a good job, and I loved how so many artists in the audience were singing along.

  19. Nicole says:

    Thanks MTV for giving screentime to a homaphobe and best new artist. Just what kids need to listen to.

  20. Techgirl says:

    MTV=no longer relevant. A big who cares?!

  21. Sourabh says:

    Honestly, I cared more about the Hunger Games teaser than anything else.

    • Jaded says:

      Seriously! I sat through 2 hours of garbage just to see 10 seconds of the Hunger Games. Although Adele and Young the Giant were really pretty sweet.

  22. perlnoir says:

    So happy for Adele.

  23. Stacy says:

    This was by far, my least favourite VMA’s to date. The Video of the Year Nominee’s were a joke! Adele was the only one worthy to be in that category. KATY PERRY? REALLY? ugh.

    • jess says:

      i think the key point is ‘video’ of the year not song of the year. Based on the actual video Adele shouldn’t really have been nominated

  24. nick says:

    YOUNG THE GIANT WAS AWESOME. So glad they played!

  25. Danny says:

    I hope Lady GaGa and Cher do a killer video for “The Greatest Thing.”

  26. Belinda says:

    I turned it off when Gaga’s monologue went too long.Tried checking in periodically but was too bored. Figured I would check out highlights on You tube.

  27. Nathan says:

    Eurgh the VMA’s will always be a joke. Mainstream music nowadays just finds a way to get worse and worse, Justin Bieber and Lady GaGa are both pretentious whores who have the talent of a toenail. A fair singer such as Amy Winehouse deserves better than Bruno Mars’ overdramatic, boring vocals covering a song that wasn’t even hers to begin with. Only good muscicians in that joke-worthy show were Beyonce, who has become repetitive and boring despite her good vocals, and Adele- who is perfect. Why is GaGa, Perry and Bieber getting worshipped when we have the talented Adele on the music scene? She better snatch up those grammies.

    • I have ears says:

      You are tone deaf. Gaga has a voice. Do you know talent? Even Slezak (a person who KNOWS TALENT) recognizes that.

  28. Shuayb says:

    Mr Lady Gaga? She’s a freak! I dont care what you ‘little monsters’ think, thats my opinion. Her music and videos are extremely twisted. KT Perry was ok, she’s got a great voice, her get ups are ridicilous!!!
    I loved Adele!!!!’ She shows the world that you can sing amazing songs and not have any fancy fireworks. If Gaga was so comfortable with herself why did she have to do drag?
    Beyonce showed the world that she is the top dog by announcing her pregnancy which took all the spot light from Gaga/ mr calderone. Britney is an icon, whether you lilke it or not and her music was worth a tribute. They need to do christina next Lol.

    • Jeff says:

      … How is Lady Gaga’s music “twisted”?

      And how does doing a character on stage mean she isn’t comfortable with herself?

      Dumb.

  29. Ana says:

    One name above all: Adele! Amazing lady, beautiful voice, real class.

  30. Sivat says:

    Disappointed with the Britney tribute. It was nowhere near as epic as it should have been. And Lady Gaga hogged the stage and refused to allow Britney to have her moment. And then Britney’s speech turned out to be an introduction to f***ing Beyonce. Ew! All around a horrible tribute to the reigning Queen of Pop, but at least my girl won Pop Video of the Year.

    • Manuel says:

      The reigning Queen of Pop is still Madonna; Britney may be popular, but she doesn’t have the talent or the edge to get that kind of title. Nowadays she’s more a puppet than she is an artist; and a terrible, atrocious performer. She has a lot of fans, and that’s why she stays successful, but 99.99% of people couldn’t care less about her.

  31. Abe Froman says:

    I don’t understand why MTV still airs this?!?! They abandoned music a long time ago. Hypocrites.

  32. Sarah says:

    Katy Perry wasn’t trying to hard, she was wearing something straight off of the Dior runway. Was it everyone’s cup of tea, no. But it wasn’t a meat dress, or an egg, or whatever else Gaga does. So in all honesty, good for her for trying to wear an actual off the runway design in totality!
    Adele sang beautifully and Valerie was a great song as well. I appreciated Russell’s speech. The rest…well I gave up on anything MTV related a long time ago and DVRed most of it to watch the Hunger Games clip…

  33. Deb says:

    Does Lady Gaga not get enough of her own attention that she had to Kanye over Britney Spears’ acceptance of her award. Seriously, just step away from the mic. Young the Giant was awesome!

  34. Kaz says:

    Beyonce and Adele were fantastic!! and beyonce revealing her little baby bump was very cute. Also,Russell Brand’s speech for Amy Whineouse was just omg..what the he.ll was that? Can’t take anything that comes out of his mouth serious at all, most of the night was pretty much awkward and weird.

  35. Melanie says:

    I loved the juxtaposition of the Adele performance followed by Chris Brown. Her’s was lovely and LIVE and his had everything but the kitchen sink, was lip-synched and still sucked!

  36. anthony says:

    adele did the same performance ages ago in the UK

  37. Kate says:

    Katy Perry was awesome!!!! I agree about Adele, when isnt she amazing?! And Beyonce was a highlight too!!!!

  38. Emma says:

    Russell Brand is a legend!!!!!!!!! He was being serious in his speech when he said how he first saw Amy, that’s just how HE saw her.

  39. Cherrish says:

    I thought the show sucked. The VMA’s have really gone downhill over the years. Hell they hardley even play videos anymore!!! … I liked lady gaga’s song not a big fan but it was the only non boring moment of the night….

  40. Jeff says:

    Tyler didn’t say “golf white”. It was “golfwang.”

  41. deb d says:

    Lady G was ok…give her props for a good voice! Burno Mars’ Valerie was awesome! Lil Wayne? IDIOTIC!! I quit watching. I will view the stunning Adele on YOUTUBE

  42. Julie says:

    Based on that list of winners, I’m very glad I didn’t bother to watch this. Katy Perry’s execrable “E.T.” and lame “Firework” video, Britney Spears’ latest triumph of studio engineering over talent, Lady Gaga’s Madonna rip-off, and anything by Justin Beiber are awardworthy? This isn’t the cream of the crop, this is the stuff at the bottom of the barrel. But I guess I’m the fool for being surprised.

    • Sivat says:

      No need to bash Britney, you sad little hater. Please do the planet a favor and end your life.

      • Selbs says:

        To Sivat, how ugly can you get? Bitney is a JOKE. No talent and all studio performance, nothing more. Talk about being a sad hater, you could do the planet a favor and take off!

      • Manuel says:

        Britney is a joke, accept it. Her success is a big middle finger to musical talent all over the world; she’s not a singer, not a dancer anymore, not a songwriter, not a musician. The fact that she can literally stand on stage and simply be handled by her dancers as a prop, and Mtv still gives her some kind of lifetime achievement award, when she’s completely washed out before even turning 30, just tells you how low Mtv and the VMA’s have fallen.

        And I’m not a “hater”, I actually think it’s hilarious.

      • M says:

        sivat how was that comment appropriate at all… please stop trolling these articles

  43. Dave says:

    It’s “Golf Wang,” not “Golf White.” The name of his collective is Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, and they often transpose the first letters of Wolf Gang and say “Golf Wang.”

    The “Wolf Gang” is a reference to Mozart, for whatever that’s worth.

  44. Well says:

    Surprised that 6 1/2 of the 8 trophies went to white performers. That’s unusual.

  45. Patrick says:

    Every year, MTV rolls out the same ol’ crap with a few more ridiculous outfits—oh, and of course, more savvy positioning of those sweet Jershey Shore kids into our faces. Oh, they are adorable.

    Young the Giant was incredible despite being shot from some skateboarder kid’s Flip Video Camera – apparently indie rock gets the indie film quality; Beyonce’s performance was impressive, as to be expected since the tribute to Britany Spears, the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, appeared to serve as her grand introduction with the uncomfortable, unneccessary moments of rehashed awkwardness from Lady Gaga, who, bless her heart, was more committed to this Jo Calderone character than Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie”; and then, seriously, why even subject us to the rap performances if every other word is bleeped, making the audio sound the equivalent to jogging on a treadmill with bad headphones.

    As a nation, I can’t believe we once wanted our MTV.

  46. Gabrielle says:

    Katy Perry took the cube straight off the runway. Don’t be hating on Dior.

  47. shuayb says:

    Her songs are extremely twisted! What kind of message is I want your ugly, your disease anything as long as its free…. (Bad Romance) its disgusting how dark her songs are!
    She can never just come out and sing or be on the red carpet w/out doing some crazy thing. Sometimes its fine to wear a normal clothes and sing ann amazing song like adele

  48. tjj50 says:

    2 1/2 hours and they only handed out EIGHT awards?!?! That’s barely one award per half hour. That’s 2 1/2 hours I could never get back. The only moment that sounded worth watching was Adele. The fact that MTV actually still puts on this show is ridculous.

  49. SmileIvan says:

    Thank you Slezak! Your half-wit former colleagues at EW rated Chris Brown’s performance an A. I just about blew my top.

  50. Joline says:

    Love this article but visited your site last night hoping to see something, anything, about the VMA’s but was disappointed. Surprised to see that there were no live blogs, posts, recaps or even previews about the awards. We missed you last night Michael.

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