At this point, you are pretty much guaranteed some form of outrageous scandal at MTV’s Video Music Awards. Just look at some events from the past: Diana Ross grabbing Lil’ Kim’s boob, Madonna and Britney’s girl-on-girl smooch and, of course, last year’s Kanye-gate. With that in mind, 2010’s edition was a tedious letdown. The MTV gods ought to be glad for Kanye West because their bland production had little more to run on than the fumes of last year through its three-hour-plus runtime.
The preshow was fairly entertaining, if only because we learned Ke$ha’s mini dress was self-made out of garbage bags which, combined with her ratty Rapunzel braid and what appeared to be some sort of dead creature wrapped around her neck, reassured her spot as the reigning mess of all things drunk and trashy. Lady Gaga brought class to the white carpet flanked with four discharged members of U.S. Armed Forces to speak out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies, reminding audiences that “No one person is more valuable than another person.”
Eminem kicked off the night with “Not Afraid” which segued into “Love the Way You Lie.” The latter featured a surprise performance from Rihanna who seemed to be channeling Carrie from “Sex and the City” in a long white tutu and bedazzled headband. However, the hands down best showing of the night was from English alternative artist Florence and the Machine with a rendition of “Dog Days Are Over.” The performance was majestic in every sense of the word, from the trippy, Hindi-inspired blue women writhing on the floor to Florence Welch’s impeccable vocals. Unfortunately, the high from her performance was quickly extinguished by an uncomfortable, out-of-place transition to Travie McCoy with “Billionaire.”
But what everyone was really waiting for was the musical showdown between Taylor Swift and Kanye West. Swift, dolled up with a new Grace Kelly ‘do, went first, debuting a melodramatic ditty she had previously written on the whole debacle. Unless you paid close attention, the vague lyrics made it hard to tell whether or not Swift was really forgiving West. However, key phrases like “32, still growing up now” and “today is never too late to be brand new” indicate that she probably has absolved him of his past transgression. As the much-ballyhooed closer of the show, West similarly introduced a new song “Runaway.” Where Swift lyrically beat around the bush, West cut right to the point, exposing his vulnerability and regret while throwing in choice words like “scumbag” and “jerk-off.” While he may have fallen from grace last year, West has miraculously secured his big comeback – the loud “Kanye!” chants at the end of his performance.
A couple of side notes – “Modern Family’s” Sofia Vergara has got to be one of the most likable people on the planet. Even though it was hard to understand her through the thick Colombian accent, she still got laughs with her sassy charm. Also, props to Jane Lynch for channeling both Sue Sylvester and her inner glamazon with that floor-length track jacket. And way to go MTV for making Twitter more irritating than it already is with those constant “look what’s trending!” bits scattered throughout the telecast.
The plodding telecast wasn’t helped by the disappointment that was host Chelsea Handler, the comedienne of E!’s “Chelsea Lately.” It’s a surprise given Handler’s bountiful laughs and effortless zingers on her late night show, but her charisma was lost on the VMA’s big, futuristic stage. The taped skits were considerably funnier and less awkward than her live shtick, save for maybe the mildly amusing hot tub scene with the cast of “Jersey Shore.”
For those who missed the live run, the single moment you should YouTube was when Cher, in her bizarre, “If I Could Turn Back Time” sheer black getup, presented the Best Video of the Year Award to Lady Gaga for “Bad Romance.” The 64-year-old declared herself “the oldest chick with the biggest hair in the littlest costume.” Gaga still managed to one-up her in an even weirder contraption made of meat, complete with matching hat and purse. “I never thought I’d be asking Cher to hold my meat purse,” said the clearly touched Gaga who, as promised, released the title of her new album “Born This Way” and even sang a snippet for her little monsters.