I’m not sure if the VMAs writing staff was to blame — or if Trey Songz strayed from his script — but I’m sure Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev would agree that the “I can always get behind a lady” joke was as tasteless as it was unnecessary. And Dobrev’s icked-out response made it clear she wasn’t in on it, either. (Side Note: Lorde winning Best Rock Video raises an important question: Does MTV know the meaning of “Rock” anymore?)
MOST WELCOME CAMEO
Whether you love or loathe Taylor Swift’s bouncy “Shake It Off,” reality-competition fans must pause and cheer the presence of So You Think You Can Dance Season 10 standout Jasmine Harper sparkling in the background.
LEAST WELCOME CAMEO
With his sublime, understated rendition of “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith proved far too classy for a tryst with the Moonman. Good thing Kim Kardashian and her décolletage were on hand for a braincell-suffocating intro — plus a series of ostentatious “Look at us!” mid-performance cutaways with (what the internet tells me were) two of her siblings.
BIGGEST BREAKOUT MOMENT
Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj may have greater name recognition in the U.S., but it was Jessie J’s second-to-none vocals and magnetic stage presence that stole the opening medley of “Break Free,” “Anaconda” and “Bang Bang.” (Though if Nicki Minaj hadn’t managed to hold together her malfunctioning minidress during the last of those tunes, she might’ve had an altogether different kind of “breakout”!)
How come presenter Jimmy Fallon’s joyous jig to the sounds of “Cotton Eye Joe” wasn’t blown out into a full-fledged performance? #TheresAlwaysNextYearMTV
PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT
OK, sure, Beyoncé’s 15-minute medley essentially doubled as an extended promo for her self-titled album and (with that end-of-set appearance by Jay-Z and daughter Blue Ivy) a sweet rebuttal to tabloid reports that her marriage is over. But from the super-sexy (yet oddly artistic) glitter mannequin booties of “Drunk in Love” to the get-up/get-down ferociousness of “Flawless” to the aching vulnerability of “Blue,” this was a set to remember (to set your DVRs for her HBO concert special). (Sorry, I woke up like this. #cynical)
MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMANCE
I was so bored by Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora’s lethargic take on “Black Widow” that I’m actually risking a narcoleptic episode just writing about it.
LEAST HEARTFELT TRIBUTE
Sticking a few photos of the late Robin Williams in between a squeeeee-ing acceptance speech by Fifth Harmony and a House of Style update lauding Ariana Grande’s “Best High Pony” wasn’t merely inconsiderate, it was downright tasteless.
MOST HEARTFELT TRIBUTE
Common kept it short, sweet and positive with the night’s sole mention of civil-rights protests in Ferguson, MO. But the moment of silence that followed “for [slain teenager] Mike Brown and for peace in the country and the world” was a reminder that, while video did kill the radio star, it didn’t entirely quash social consciousness.
WORST ADVERTISEMENT FOR A SEQUEL THAT DOESN’T SPEAK TO MTV’S DEMOGRAPHIC
Jim Carrey turned his dial past “wacky” and all the way to “insufferable” as he and Jeff Daniels presented a statuette and promoted Dumb and Dumber To in the process. By the time Carrey joked (regarding Daniels’ The Newsroom boss), “I hope Sorkin isn’t watching,” I wondered if he’d stolen the sentiment from his co-star’s brain.
A handful of iffy notes on “She Came to Give It to You” might’ve been the kind of thing that would’ve stopped Usher from advancing through the Battle Rounds on The Voice, but let’s give credit where it’s due: There was no backing track offering “support” as the uni-monikered star danced with abandon, commanded the stage and grooved out with his tremendous live band. We’d turn our chairs around for that any day.
LEAST SHOCKING DISPLAY OF BOOTY
She twerked over stumps, shook her rump like a bowl full of jelly and got mounted by a saucy female dancer while flat on her back, but — oh my God, Becky — Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” performance was so… expected, that it seemed downright JV to the Varsity-level shock value of Miley’s tongue, Madonna’s wedding dress and other water-cooler moments of VMAs past.
THE GOOD INTENTIONS (ON THE ROAD TO HELL) PRIZE
It was a nice idea for Miley Cyrus to let a young man named Jesse take center stage and call attention to runaway, homeless youths in America (instead of offering up some mindless platitudes) after winning the Video of the Year statuette for “Wrecking Ball.” But repeated cutaways to the misty-eyed starlet — who all but played a giant violin to signify viewers should be having an Important, Emotional Moment — siphoned off some of the authenticity from her gesture, no?
FREE JORDIN SPARKS!
We loved seeing the American Idol Season 6 champ in the audience with beau Jason Derulo, flailing to Beyoncé. But you know what we’d love even more? For her label to take her new music out of its vaults and give us an album sometime this decade!