About the Show

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hosted by Russell Brand

MTV promised the stars would align at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, but they didn't warn us that those stars would go all super nova and explode among the New York City skyscrapers in a brilliant homecoming full of music, mayhem, and jaw-dropping moments.

Janet Jackson A tribute to Michael Jackson kicked off the show. Madonna gave a moving speech about the King of Pop, but the homage didn't end there. Janet Jackson burst onstage to perform "Scream," the duet she and Michael recorded together in 1995. Janet matched footage of brother's dancing in the music video move-for-move as it played on a screen behind her. It was the crowning moment of the all-star tribute.

Then Russell Brand, our raunchy master of ceremonies for the second year in a row, made his way to the stage like a rock god as Katy Perry and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry played "We Will Rock You." The host's opening monologue was nearly as explosive as the pyrotechnics in his entrance. The brassy comic kept the censors busy with an opening monologue full of f-bombs, hermaphrodites, U.S. healthcare insults and indecent proposals to just about every woman in the audience.

But the MTV Video Music Awards aren't just about offensive jokes. We returned to Radio City Music Hall to celebrate the music. So the 2009 show got busy handing out the Moonmen. The night's first award was given for Best Female Video, and this became the most offensive, talked-about moment of the night.

When country music darling Taylor Swift took the prize over seeming favorite-to-win Beyoncé, Kanye West took the microphone from a bewildered Swift mid-speech and said, "I'm really happy for you, I'm gonna let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time." With boos from the crowd, a shocked Beyoncé and a near-tears Taylor, Kanye hopped off the stage.

Never fear! Swift wasn't too upset to take to the 42nd Street subway station and prove why she deserved that Best Female Video Moonman. She shimmied from a train full of fans to the hood of a taxi outside Radio City all while singing "You Belong With Me."

And the beat goes on, all night in fact, thanks to Wale and the house band who were joined by 3OH!3, Pitbull, members of the All-American Rejects and Kid Cudi to rock out between award presentations and main performances.

The Best Pop Video award went to Britney Spears over Beyoncé—Kanye did not object as he was nowhere near the building at that point. And T.I. won Best Male Video, over Kanye West, for "Live Your Life." Lucky thing 'Ye left when he did.

Next, Green Day, who took home Best Rock Video for "21 Guns," brought the rock energy to near lethal levels with their no-frills rip through "East Jesus Nowhere." Not to be bested, P!nk strapped on a blindfold and was lifted up to the rafters of Radio City for a Cirque du Soleil-esque take on "Sober." The white-haired belter performed acrobatic spins, flips and pirouettes while suspended by a high wire.

Beyoncé worked it to "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" with a crew of more than two dozen dancers wearing similar, though less bedazzled, leotards like their Fierce leader. They all hair flopped and karate chopped their way through the complex, often-imitated choreography in unison. That really roused the crowd.

And Jay-Z ended the night's performances with "Empire State of Mind." Backed by Alicia Keys at a piano decorated with the NYC skyline and towering neon images of the city scrolling behind him, Jay owned the stage with just a microphone and his swagger. "America's Best Dance Crew" judge Lil' Mama was so moved by the performance that she pulled a Kanye and rushed the stage during the song. Now that's commanding an audience.

But Jay wasn't the only hip-hop legend on deck that night. Eminem didn't rap but he was all over the show. After years out of the spotlight, Shady performed in a couple of spoofs with Tracy Morgan from "30 Rock" and Cyndi Lauper, and he won Best Hip-Hop Video for "We Made You."

Em even presented the Best New Artist award to Lady Gaga, who accepted her prize in a red lace dress and matching mask that made her look like Bart Simpson with red hair. And that was only one of several outfits Gaga flaunted throughout the night. The singer's costume changes weren't nearly as shocking as her VMA performance of "Paparazzi" which ended with Gaga bloodied and dangling from the ceiling.

As spectacular of a show as Gaga put on, the night beloned to Beyoncé. If Kanye had a little more patience he would have seen B receive the Video of the Year prize for "Single Ladies." When she took the stage to accept, instead of giving a speech, B invited Taylor Swift on stage to have her moment uninterrupted. Who says the VMAs can't be classy?

And just because we like to come full circle at MTV, the ceremony closed with a peek at Michael Jackson's "This Is It" documentary. If you're looking for more closure than that, sorry, we still have no idea if Katy Perry accepted Brand's show-ending offer to join him in his room. We do know everyone who was at Radio City went home happy Sunday night. Well, not Kanye.