With 13 nominations, there was no way
On a night when Kanye West seemingly came all the way back from music jail with yet another eye-popping performance that put most (or at least some) of last year's stage-crashing antics to rest, Taylor Swift appeared to answer Kanye's bum-rush with some lyrical barbs of her own, and everyone from Justin Bieber and B.o.B to Drake and Nicki Minaj made their VMA debuts. In the end, though, the night belonged to Mother Monster.
Gaga got the night started early with a pre-show win for Best Dance Video for "Bad Romance" and Best Collaboration for "Telephone" with Beyoncé, the beginning of what would be an avalanche of eight trophies and, of course, a parade of one-of-a-kind outfits that were as beautiful as they were complicated.
Even without one of her iconic performances, Lady G made her presence known, sidling down the white carpet in a regal gold-and-burgundy ball gown by the late Alexander McQueen, topped by a metallic golden mohawk headpiece over a gray-and-blue wig, accompanied by some special guests in uniform.
The night blasted off in high fashion, with Eminem making his triumphant return to the VMA stage courtesy of a gritty run through his comeback single, "Not Afraid." Accompanied by an orchestra, chorus of gospel singers and drummers, he was joined later on by Rihanna for a few bars of their smash domestic-strife hit "Love the Way You Lie."
Host Chelsea Handler didn't waste time getting to the funny, strutting to the stage with an homage to her love affair with rappers, as Lil Jon and Flo Rida gave her a hard pat on the backside to pump her up before the show. The high didn't last long, though, as surprise guest star Lindsay Lohan confronted the "Chelsea Lately" comedian in the hallway and berated her when she noticed the vodka-loving funnywoman's blinking alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet.
As expected, Handler pulled no punches in lampooning the night's musical stars in her opening monologue, taking the stage to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" while wearing a model of a suburban home on her head and releasing a single white dove from under her skirt as a group of red-leather-clad dancers gyrated all around. "God, I don't know how you do it, wearing that sh-- on your head, Lady Gaga," she quipped.
The night's first award, for Best Female Video, began the Gaga-lanche as the epic "Bad Romance" clip notched another win. Striding to the stage in her flowing McQueen dress and her 10-inch golden lobster-claw heels, Gaga gushed, "It's such a dream come true to be here tonight, and tonight, little monsters, we're the cool kids at the party."
Jared Leto and his 30 Second to Mars bandmates were probably bummed they rode their bikes to the big party, because it's gonna be a big pain to balance that Best Rock Video Moonman for the Leto-directed "Kings and Queens" on their handlebars on the way home. But we suspect they won't mind. "This award doesn't so much belong to us; it belongs to the most amazing family of friends and fans around the world that we could have ever imagined," Leto said.
Running through the crowd in a varsity jacket, Justin Bieber hopped onto the stage outside the Nokia Theatre and busted through his signature hit "Baby" surrounded by male dancers in B-blinged red sweaters, ending "Somebody to Love" with one of his signature drum solos. The night also brought a silky-smooth set from his mentor, Usher, who slid gracefully through "DJ Got Us Falling in Love" and "OMG."
Bieber was so jacked to win Best New Artist that the teen wandered around a bit while trying to get to the stage as he passed competitor Ke$ha on his way to accept the Moonman for his "Baby" video.
Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine made a lasting impression in her VMA debut with a high-energy performance of her breakthrough hit "Dog Days Are Over," and house artist deadmau5, wearing his signature mouse head, tricked-out with a giant digital display, did his best to take the show into commercials in style, with assists from Travie McCoy, who broke off a bit of "Billionaire," Jason Derülo, who showed off his green laser gloves during "Ridin' Solo" and Swedish dancing queen Robyn, grinding out her "Dancing on My Own."
Though the competition was stiff, you had to know that Eminem was going to snag Best Male Video for his riveting "Not Afraid." Unfortunately, Shady had to leave as soon as his performance ended to get back to New York for his second set of shows with Jay-Z, so Nicki Minaj accepted on his behalf. He will have to also wait for the shipment of his Best Hip-Hop Video award for "Not Afraid," since he snagged that one later in the show.
Mother Monster was at it again in the Best Pop Video category, slaying the competition with yet another win for "Bad Romance." She'd changed into yet another complicated contraption, this one a giant shiny black gown that required two handlers to negotiate, topped by a set of black liberty spikes on her head. "Yeah!" she screamed, hoisting the statue in the air and teasing MTV for asking her to cut so much out of the clip, which she said she defiantly refused. "Because we were born this way, baby!" she howled, in an unwitting preview of her announcement a short time later.
When it came time for the big one, it was one icon (Cher) handing it over to a new icon, yes, Gaga, for "Bad Romance." Dressed in a seemingly flesh-free version of her now-infamous meat dress, Gaga quipped, "I never thought I'd be asking Cher to hold my meat purse." Overcome with emotion, Gaga said she was nervous going into the show that she would let her beloved fans down. She, of course, didn't do that and celebrated by announcing the name of her upcoming record, Born This Way, busting out the soulful chorus to the title track as a bonus.
It was a cakewalk for Gaga in the professional categories as well, as "Bad Romance" took the awards for Editing, Direction and Choreography, while the Special Effects award went to Muse for "Uprising" and Welch snagged one win for Art Direction for "Dog Days Are Over." The cinematography nod went to Jay-Z and Alicia Keys for "Empire State of Mind."
Kanye West may have written a song for his onetime stage-crashing victim, Taylor Swift, but it was Swift who made her feelings known about West's now-infamous 2009 stage dive. In keeping with her style of chronicling her ups and downs in her highly personal lyrics, Swift debuted the tune on the show, seeming entitled "Innocent."
She artfully left the lyrics vague but pointedly hit lines about losing your balance on a tightrope while cautioning that it's not too late to get it back. "Thirty-two is still growing up now/ Who you are is not what you did/ You're still an innocent."
From mixtapes and watching the VMAs at home to storming the big stage, Drake made the most of his debut on the show. Teaming up with Swizz Beatz and Mary J. Blige for the Rat Pack-alicious white tuxedo and Vegas lounge saunter through "Fancy," Drizzy strutted out like he'd been coming to the big game, like, forever, his name in bright lights above the stage.
Though they only met a day before, B.o.B and Paramore's Hayley Williams were in perfect sync with a piano-tickling Bruno Mars during a run through B.o.B's "Airplanes," which morphed into an emotional sway through a verse of "The Only Exception" by Paramore.
As promised, Linkin Park found an epic setting to match the triumphant sound of their single, "The Catalyst," setting up shop outside Los Angeles' iconic Griffith Park Observatory to howl out the lyrics to their song about living on the edge.
The night came to a close with a typically riveting performance from last year's VMA goat, Kanye West. Walking onto the black-and-white starburst stage in a red suit, black shirt and neck full of gold chains, leaning into a vintage MPC drum machine set up on a Doric column and plinking out the melody to his new song, "Runaway," as three ballet dancers trailing giant swatches of pale fabric ran circles around him.
If Swift got her revenge earlier in the night, Kanye helped her out, singing the lines, "I'm so gifted at finding at what I don't like the most/ So I think that it's time for us to have a toast/ Let's have a toast for the douche bags/ Let's have a toast for the a--holes/ Let's have a toast for the scumbags/ Every one of them that I know."
As usual, it was just Kanye alone onstage for the most part, joined briefly by the Clipse's Pusha T mid-song for a typically searing verse. In the end, Kanye grabbed an Auto-Tuned mic and repeated the chorus one more time and raised his hand in triumph as a shower of golden sparks rained down behind him and the crowd shouted his name, perhaps signaling his complete return from the pop culture doghouse.
What did you think of the big show? Share your reviews in the comments!
The Moonmen have all been handed out and the stars have gone home, but there's plenty of 2010 MTV Video Music Awards news, interviews, behind-the-scenes scoop, party reports and more still to come, so keep it locked on MTVNews.com.