Miami loves hip-hop, and hip-hop loves Miami, so it's fitting that Outkast and Jay-Z cruised away as the big winners Sunday night at the first Video Music Awards ceremony to be held there.
Outkast's "Hey Ya!" won Video of the Year (the third year in a row a rap act has won the coveted award) as well as Best Hip-Hop Video, Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction. Outkast also had the honor of closing the show, with a medley of "Prototype," "The Way You Move," "Ghetto Musick" and, in Andre 3000's words, "for the millionth time," "Hey Ya!"
For the final number, the American Airlines Arena was made to look like a political convention, with a sea of fans holding up pro-vote signs, and red, white and blue balloons dropping from the rafters. It was a scene similar to the one being staged this week in New York, where the Republican National Convention has the city so tied up that a little Florida vacation seemed in order for the VMAs.
Jay-Z's controversial "99 Problems," which came into the evening as the most nominated video with six nods, one more than "Hey Ya!" (see "Jay-Z, Beyonce, No Doubt, Outkast Lead Pack Of VMA Nominees"), tied Outkast's four, winning Best Rap Video, Best Direction, Best Editing and Best Cinematography. "I was trying to push the envelope ... and this is my reward," Jay, in sunglasses and a straw hat, said as he accepted Best Rap Video before slyly acknowledging his girl. "What up, B!"
Beyoncé answered with a "What up, Jay!" after accepting the Best Female Video for the second year in a row, this time for "Naughty Girl."
No Doubt took home Best Pop Video for "It's My Life," the first award handed out in the main show (by Will Smith and a noticeably thin but warmly welcomed Shaquille O'Neal), along with Best Group Video, the band's third win in that category over the years.
Usher, who had never won a VMA before, also won two awards: Best Male and Best Dance Video, both for "Yeah!" featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris. "This is my first time up here, so let me savor this," he said, smiling wide, while accepting the former.
The Viewer's Choice Award, one of the ceremony's highest honors, went to Linkin Park for their anime video "Breaking the Habit," while another fan-voted award, the MTV2 Award, went to Yellowcard for "Ocean Avenue." "Tony Hawk's Underground" won the new and also fan-voted Best Video Game Soundtrack.
For the first time since Hootie and the Blowfish in 1995, a rock band won Best New Artist in a Video, that being Maroon 5 for "This Love." Other winners included Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" for Best Rock Video, Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" for Breakthrough Video, Black Eyed Peas' "Hey Mama" for Best Choreography, and Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" for Best R&B Video.
If there were an award for best performance, Keys might've won it with her medley, which began with her crooning "If I Ain't Got You" and morphed into a funky duet of "Higher Ground" featuring one of her idols, Stevie Wonder, on piano and Lenny Kravitz (shirtless, but with wings!) on guitar.
Also impressive on the piano was none other than Nelly, who kicked off "Tilt Ya Head Back" playing the keys while Christina Aguilera sang and danced above him. The "Chicago"-inspired number also featured a couple of impressive dance breakdowns, including a tap routine.
Britney Spears, whose "Toxic" earned four nominations, remains the Susan Lucci of the VMAs, going home empty-handed once again. Kanye West, the White Stripes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Steriogram, who all also had four chances for Moonmen, were shut out, as were other multiple nominees D12, Aguilera, Hoobastank, Jessica Simpson, Missy Elliott, Modest Mouse and the Darkness.
Usher kicked off the show by singing "Confessions, Pt. 2" while water poured on his chiseled bare arms. Midway through, while he ad-libbed lines about the VMAs, it became clear he was singing into a mirror, which he later shattered as he busted into "Yeah!" with the help of Lil Jon and Ludacris.
Jet, Hoobastank and Yellowcard served the rowdy audience back-to-back-to-back hits: "Are You Gonna Be My Girl," "The Reason" and "Ocean Avenue," respectively. The crowd got another trio of hits a few minutes later, although this time all from the same artist. Kanye West opened with "Jesus Walks" with stained glass windows dropping from the ceiling and a choir following West around the arena. "All Falls Down" and "Through the Wire" followed, the latter featuring Chaka Khan.
Having rested up after providing his signature screams for "Yeah!," Lil Jon returned to the stage with his East Side Boyz for "Get Low," which launched a hip-hop medley that included the Ying Yang Twins' "Salt Shaker," Petey Pablo's "Freek-A-Leak" and Terror Squad's "Lean Back." Fat Joe and his posse's summer anthem had all the celebs doing the song's dance, from Usher to Queen Latifah to Bruce Willis.
The hip-hop medley brought almost as many people to the stage as the Polyphonic Spree's wonderfully wacky performance of "Hold Me Now," complete with singer Tim DeLaughter rising above his band (or cult of followers, take your pick). Taking a more traditional approach, Jessica Simpson performed a no-frills rendition of "With You" and her cover of Robbie Williams' "Angels."
Before the main show, with the red carpet set up along the shore, artists had plenty of options for grand entrances, many of which were made by yacht. "We about to go to the Bahamas and just skip the VMAs," Ludacris said as he stepped off a vessel with Lil Jon. (P. Diddy shared his boat with Bruce Willis, Mase and Naomi Campbell, while Jessica Simpson rode hers with hubby Nick Lachey.)
Usher, who like Luda and many others came in a white suit, was the first to arrive by water, on a massive silver yacht. "I wanted not only the sexiest and flyest boat, but also the fastest," he said.
The Beastie Boys took the opposite approach, arriving on the same swamp burner the trio rode in their "Ch-Check It Out" video.
The pre-show performances started with Jadakiss leading a parade of picketers -- carrying signs like "Power to the People" and "Speak Out" -- to the outdoor stage while he and Anthony Hamilton performed their hit "Why." Later, Ashlee Simpson performed her smash single "Pieces of Me," after which the stage was literally taken over by New Found Glory, who pounded through "All Downhill From Here."
This year's broadcast marks the first time in 20 years that the show hasn't been staged in New York or Los Angeles. Instead, MTV headed where many of its biggest artists do when they want to have a good time.