LOS ANGELES — It was a night of firsts at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards. Green Day, Taylor Swift, Pink, Alicia Keys, Lil Wayne and more performed songs for the first time to music fans everywhere. One Direction made their first-ever visit to the VMAs and scooped up three Moonmen while they were at it.
Chris Brown and M.I.A. were the biggest winners behind 1D, with two awards each. Rihanna got pats on the butt from her BFF Katy Perry and A$AP Rocky before winning Video of the Year, and host Kevin Hart ordered Drake and Chris Brown to make up and called Frank Ocean’s coming out “brave.”
It was the VMAs, and this year’s show boasted a dance-inspiring open floor plan filled with fans and a festive, crowd participation oriented good-time vibe. Green Day, Pink, Taylor Swift and the rest of the performers made crowd participation a must.
The show opened with Rihanna seated on a throne set inside a giant “Indiana Jones”-style snake’s mouth. Decked out in red leather, a string of Egyptian Ankhs around her neck and backed by animal print-clad dancers, she stalked the stage before playfully removing her sunglasses and winking at the audience. A$AP Rocky emerged to lend his part of the “Cockiness” remix and make a quick grab of Rih-Rih’s rear. Balloons dropped as she belted out “We Found Love,” backed by her studio collaborator on the track, Calvin Harris, who served as house DJ.
In a nod to the Democratic National Convention taking place simultaneously, host Kevin Hart was introduced as “the future President of the United States,” surrounded by a mock security detail of little people. Video monitors lit up with a red, white and blue “Hart 2102” as he greeted the audience.
Hart made “mistakes” the theme of his monologue, coming up with jokey scenarios to explain everything from Snooki’s baby to Frank Ocean’s coming out. Then he went for what he called the elephant in the room: Kristen Stewart. “If she did it, so what?” he said of recent tabloid headlines. He spouted off a laundry list of folks who’ve made mistakes at the VMAs — like Kanye West, Lil’ Mama — and joked he’d do the same.
Katy Perry presented the first award of the main show, Best Pop Video (a category she reminded everyone she had never won) to British boy-band sensation One Direction. It was their second Moonman, after winning Most Share-Worthy Video during the pre-show.
Miley Cyrus and Mac Miller introduced Pink, who kicked off with the hook from her classic hit “I’m Coming Up” with just a keyboard and microphone. She wore fishnets, heels, black hot pants, a sleeveless white tee and suspenders and made her way to her band as quickly as she made it into “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).” Next, burlesque style dancers with giant red lips covering their heads and torsos marched as Pink interacted with the crowd.
Speaking of Chris Brown and Drake, Brown beat out Drake in the Best Male Video category with “Turn Up the Music,” which he directed. But it was Drake’s turn to clutch a Moonman shortly afterward, for Best Hip-Hop Video. He dedicated the award to “any kid who had to walk home by himself,” as Lil Wayne (who was featured on “HYFR”) stood near him listening to something that must’ve been awesome on his headphones.
In between those two awards, Frank Ocean’s intimate performance of “Thinkin Bout You” saw him sitting on what looked like a block of ice near a campfire. The acoustic performance is the one that Lady Gaga tweeted “stole the show.”
One Direction continued the evening’s tradition of crowd participation while doing “One Thing” and “What Makes You Beautiful.” Nicki Minaj was the night’s next winner, beating Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Selena Gomez for Best Female Video.
Censors had to work overtime to effectively bleep out 2 Chainz doing “Yuck” with assistance from the rapid-fire rhymes of a shirtless Weezy, who stage-dove into the crowd. Tauheed Epps took a dive of his own just beforehand, sliding down the stage with the aid of a skateboard.
Green Day struck the first power chords of the night as Billie Joe Armstrong yelled, “Get your hands in the air!” He dropped f-bombs to rival 2 Chainz before the choruses to “Let Yourself Go,” one of the many “Dookie”-era style throwback songs that fill their upcoming three albums. The band played on the floor surrounded by fans, giving off the vibe of the punk squats they toured in the early ’90s before going on to sell 65 million albums. Cameras could barely find the newly recovered frontman as he disappeared into the sea of fans, sans guitar (unofficial fourth member Jason White kept riffing).
Despite getting that pass from Kevin Hart in his monologue, Kristen Stewart (busy at the Toronto Film Festival) did not join Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Elizabeth Reaser, Peter Facinelli and Jackson Rathbone were the “Twilight” peeps on-hand to unveil an exclusive clip from “Breaking Dawn.”
Ke$ha told Wiz Khalifa she predicted his bun-in-the-oven with Amber Rose will be “the coolest baby” before they handed Best New Artist to 1D, the quintet’s third award of the night. Another fivesome made their VMA debut soon after: the Olympic US Women’s Gymnastics Team better known as Fab Five. They introduced Alicia Keys, who belted out “Girl on Fire.” Minaj joined her for the song, which also saw Gabby Douglas doing a few flips.
Katy Perry was the second celeb to give Rihanna a pat on the butt before her gal-pal accepted the big award of the night for Video of the Year. Taylor Swift closed the show with an intimate take on “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” which made nearly the whole room sing along.
For a complete list of winners, click here.