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.
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).
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!