UNIVERSAL CITY, California — In a night dedicated to reality TV and
Jessica Simpson's bowel movements, among other zany,
year-end pop-culture tributes, it was a timeless,
world-class a cappella performance by the venerable Al
Green that gave everyone goose bumps at VH1's Big in
As Green's "Let's Stay Together" filled
the Universal Amphitheatre Thursday, presenters Katie
Holmes and Bernie Mac began a waltz that inspired
fans of even "The OC" to grab a partner and sway.
Just minutes later, they'd be da-donk-da-donk-ing to
Outkast's Andre 3000, who gave one of the year's most captivating — and most Pepto Bismol pink — live performances, with
Airing November 30, the show that is a hodgepodge of music, movies,
TV and politics doled out shiny trophies for offbeat
honors such as Biggest Gay Hero and the Big Quote of
2003, which went to famed President Bush bad-mouther Natalie
Maines of the Dixie Chicks.
"There's an old Texas expression," Maines said,
accepting her award from Bill Maher. "If you don't
have anything nice to say, go to London and say it in
front of 2,000 people."
When speeches turned to war and politics, hosts Aisha
Tyler and D.L. Hughley kept things
chill by playing dress-up, both together and with others in attendance. At one point, Tyler, armed with a cell phone and a pink velour suit, and Tracy
Morgan, clad in Red Sox gear, gave an "SNL"-worthy impression of Ben and J. Lo.
Earlier, on the anti-red carpet — it was powder blue — Morgan grew serious when talking about the recent molestation allegations against Michael
"It makes me sad," he said. "I grew up with Michael's
songs. I pray for him. I pray for everybody."
The blue-carpet buzz was also on Beyoncé, who arrived
late from the Vibe Awards, held the same night, to claim the Big Entertainer of 2003 award; and no-show Hilton sister, Paris, and
her recently uncovered sex tape. "Things could be
better," said her sister, Nicky, wearing a fresh
Australian tan and a white, down-to-there gown. "Paris is at home. With Tinkerbell [her diamond-studded Chihuahua]."
For a show centered loosely around trucker hats and
guilty pleasures — like fantasizing about the Olsen
twins — the music was seriously heavy. Opener Kid
Rock, accompanied by arm candy Pamela Anderson, gave
an explosive rendition of his current single, a cover of Bad Company's "Feel Like
Makin' Love," swinging his stringy hair about and
clawing at his plugged-in acoustic guitar.
Mid-show, Matchbox Twenty, taking a break from their More
Than You Think You Are tour, received a standing O for
a spine-tingling version of their hit single, "Bright
Lights," which owed its rich sound to a full
orchestra, frontman Rob Thomas' finger-slamming piano
licks and guitarist Adam Gaynor's whacked-out chord progressions.
Perhaps nothing defines the year in pop culture better, though,
than farm boy/ "Punk'd" host Ashton Kutcher
receiving the award for Big Stylin' from his co-rat-packer P. Diddy. Well, either that or Hilary Duff, after beating out 50 Cent for the year's Biggest Breakthrough, eating nachos out of her trophy. Your pick.