It’s Britney Spears’ Night At The VMAs, While Kanye West Ends The Show With A Bang

Highlights of 2008 show include performances by Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Jonas Brothers, T.I. and more.

won her first (and second, and third) Moonman, the flooded the fake streets of New York with screaming fans, tossed a dude down a flight of steps, nearly lost his pants and host Russell Brand told a bunch of jokes you’re probably still trying to untangle, which, we can assure you, were very, very, very dirty. It was a historic night for rehabbing pop star Britney Spears, who not only picked up the first VMA of her career, but capped her hat trick with the ultimate prize: Video of the Year.

The 25th annual MTV Video Music Awards were full of those kinds of firsts, but perhaps the one people were looking forward to the most was the first VMA appearance by Spears since last year’s notorious onstage debacle . And, to the delight of her fans, Spears knocked it out of the park, opening the show by repeatedly turning down some not-so-slick advances from “Superbad” funnyman Jonah Hill. Showing off some of her “How I Met Your Mother” comedy chops , Spears then shimmied to the stage, looking amazing in a silver, shimmering flapper dress, and welcomed the crowd to the show.

Wearing his signature skintight trousers, black jacket, assorted shiny baubles and a bemused look, Brand introduced the show by ticking off a list of the night’s guests, which he said included some of the “world’s most famous stars … and me.” Assuring the audience that he’s famous in his native England, Brand gave proof by saying that without that fame, his electric-shock haircut “could be mistaken for mental illness.”

A quick rundown of the not-even-close-to-appropriate-for-prime-time references Brand made over the course of the night: something about , Alex Rodriguez and baseball equipment; a bit about how his nether regions are well-lubricated by cherry ChapStick; a pledge to masturbate more that was inspired by Lil Wayne, who he appeared to invite to join him in the bathroom, or not; a cringe-worthy R. Kelly reference; and a string of jokes at the expense of the chaste Jonas Brothers, including some very unclean references to their purity rings.

It wasn’t all randy English jokes, though. There were plenty of musical highlights as well.

opened the show with a spooky take on “Disturbia,” preceded by a procession of zombies as she was rolled onto the stage in what looked like a giant metallic wedding cake, wearing a black bustier and looking like a robot from the postapocalyptic future. A short time later, returned to the VMA stage to perform “Whatever You Like.” Escorting a fine young lady in a hot-pink dress, the dapper rapper walked his friend across the Paramount backlot, taking her to a fur shop, a club and in a ride in his Phantom, all the while explaining the lengths of his largesse, which included, in order, stacks of cash, Patrón on ice, popped bottles and a private jet.

There were also some awards handed out. Picking up her first Moonman, for Best Female Video — which she won over another VMA lady-in-waiting, — Britney called the moment “an honor” and thanked God, her fans, her family and her “beautiful boys.” She repeated those thanks later in the show, when she took the Best Pop Video, also for “Piece of Me,” professing to be “speechless” but saying, “This means a lot. Thank you.”

But by the end of the night, when a truly surprised-looking Brit picked up Video of the Year, also for “Piece of Me,” she professed to be “in shock right now.” Saying she wasn’t expecting the award, Spears again thanked her family, adding, “I just want to dedicate this to all my amazing fans out there for all of your support.”

(Head here for a look back at Britney’s greatest VMA moments from years past.)

In a battle of hip-hop and R&B stars, the Best Male Video crown went to for “With You,” beating out strong competition from T.I., , and Lil Wayne. “Personally I didn’t think I deserved this award. I thought Weezy was going to get it,” said a humbled Brown.

But you knew you couldn’t hold Weezy down for long, as he was onstage a short time later to accept the Best Hip-Hop Video award for “Lollipop.” The always humble rapper had only three people he wanted to thank: “God, my family and y’all.”

Owning up to the biggest performance of his career so far, Weezy hit it running, commanding the stage shirtless and with his white pants sagging, performing a medley of hits from his smash Tha Carter III album , including “Don’t Get It” with Leona Lewis, a bit of “A Milli” and, joined by — sporting at least his third different bedazzled top hat of the night — bouncing and stomping through “Got Money.”

Though they went home empty-handed, losing out to ‘s “Shadow of the Day” for the Best Rock Video crown, Paramore rocked the stage of Los Angeles’ Whisky a Go Go with a bloody-knuckles version of their hit “Misery Business” — though, as it turns out, Brand was a bit confused, as the band was actually in the house in front of the VMA crowd.

Maybe Germany’s were just being modest when they claimed they thought there was no way they were going to win the Best New Artist award — because, as it turns out, they did. “I can’t describe it in any words what we’re feeling right now,” said singer Bill Kaulitz. But, instead of thanking their record company or managers, TH kept it real by thanking their fans all over the world.

Just days after the Barack Obama president and alluding that in England, President Bush might not be allowed to handle scissors, let alone be put in charge of the world’s biggest superpowers. He also referred to Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a VILF: a “vice president I’d like to … fondle.”

Kid Rock, who threw down with Tommy Lee at last year’s VMAs , kept it simple and roundhouse-free this year, sauntering out in a black bucket hat and white pinstriped black sweat suit and bringing some Southern boogie rock-and-soul to the proceedings with his summertime hit “All Summer Long.” As promised, the mellow tune featured a blazing freestyle breakdown from Weezy , who had changed into red jeans, a plaid vest and a white tee for the occasion.

Cranking the fashion up a notch or 10 was , who was poured into a second-skin leather catsuit accessorized with silver armbands, a black-leather cat mask, black gauzy cape and platinum-blond hair. Standing in a tower of neon-lit boxes, Christina gave a taste of the future-shock version of her first hit, “Genie in a Bottle,” before slinking over to a glowing set to perform her new -like techno dance tune “Keep Getting’ Better.”

Not to be outdone, Pink’s run through her new single, “So What,” was all platinum-blond hair and balls of fire. Starting out on a tenement stoop and wearing an electric-blue trench coat, the singer slid down a white rope to the ground and proceeded to wreck the set — literally. In order, she: smashed a mirror, tossed a guy down some subway steps, smashed a window and made a building blow up, caused oil drums to explode as she walked down the street with her girls, and capped it off by stripping down into a barely there black leotard cut down to … there.

And while the Jonas Brothers marked their first VMA performance by keeping their clothes on, they got things equally sweaty. Performing on a New York City set on the backlot of the Paramount studios, they started off plucking away at their new ballad, “Lovebug,” on a set of brownstone steps. Halfway in, the steps gave way to a stage as hundreds of screaming girls surrounded them and hung from fake windows as the song exploded into a power-pop rocker.

Among the other awards handed out over the course of the evening was Best Dancing in a Video to the for “When I Grow Up.”

Though he vowed to never return to the VMAs last year , broke that promise in dramatic fashion to end Sunday’s show, debuting a new song, “Love Lockdown,” which showed off his considerable singing chops and a new, next-level sound.

Taking the stage alone in a gray suit accented by a glowing red heart, ‘Ye sang the spare, rock-tinged tune — which featured an insistent piano riff and thundering Taiko-style Japanese drum breaks from a mysterious group of masked drummers behind a screen — while holding on to the microphone stand like a 1950s crooner. Swaying side to side, he sang the pleading lyrics “Keep your love locked down/ So keep your love locked down,” ending the performance under a shower of sparks as he stared out into the crowd as if to say, “Now what?”

As stunning as the new ‘Ye tune was, in the end, it was Britney’s night. What a difference a year makes.

(We’ve got everything you didn’t see in the big show, plus all the VMA afterparty action!)

It’s a wrap! Now that the 2008 VMAs have come and gone, check out all the winners, the most surprising moments, the best red-carpet fashions and more at VMA.MTV.com.

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