Madonna Tells a Story
Madge's opening remembrance of her 1991 dinner date with Michael Jackson had the slight whiff of apocrypha -- so, the Two Most Famous People Ever hunkered down in a restaurant together and no one caught a picture of that? -- and the watching-a-movie-together dénouement feels a little too close to Brooke Shields' story at the memorial service. But genuine or not, hearing Madonna compare her experiences as a ubiquitous icon to MJ's seemed oddly human, even if her too-smooth face did not. Extra points for attributing Michael's tragedy to his lost childhood, with Joe Jackson sitting three rows away. Lady's still got a pair. Also: The English accent is almost gone!
Kanye Gets the Boot
Yeah, everyone's already tired of hearing about it already. But if it weren't for Kanye's chronic inability to remain seated at awards events, we'd have precious little to talk about this morning. And we wouldn't all be sitting around wishing we could be best friends with Beyonce. I wouldn't be surprised if we found out the same MTV exec who decided fat-Elvis Britney should open the show a couple years ago put him up to it. This goes all the way to the top.
Taylor Swift Becomes America's Sweetheart
As if having her Best Female Video spotlight rudely bogarted didn't make her sympathetic enough, her spirited run through "You Belong With Me," beginning at the 42nd St. F station as the world's most adorable busker, continuing on a crowded train, and ending in the middle of Sixth Avenue, was fun and inspired and showed genuine -- what's the word? -- effort.
Pink Lets It All Hang Out
But, sadly for Taylor Swift, that didn't even merit the evening's highest degree of difficulty. That honor goes to Pink, who sang "Sober" while swinging on a fucking trapeze. Or pretended to sing. Still. You know you're onto something when the only thing separating MTV from a stiff FCC fine is a small, glittery pasty and no one even notices because they're wondering if they're about to see someone break her neck on live television. Janet Jackson was right there backstage, certainly she could have recommended against the outfit.
Jay-Z Gets a Lift
Kudos to whoever thought of shooting Jay-Z's ascent on the hydraulic lift to the Radio City stage from his POV. The whole show shoulda been from that angle.
Russell Brand Takes the Night Off
Guess he took that criticism of last year's snide jokes to heart because he barely bothered to make any jokes at all tonight. Unless you consider the line about drugging Megan Fox in his dressing room to be a joke -- that sorta sounded like an honest plea for some date rapin'. Sure didn't take long for that guy to wear his welcome thin. Thanks for stopping by.
Lady Gaga Wears Whatever She Has Lying Around
By the end, Lady Gaga had what appeared to be a robin's nest stuck to her face during a cutaway. If the show went on another hour, surely we would have seen her wearing on her head, alternatively, a rusty bear trap, a bandanna fashioned out of discarded backstage laminants, and Jeremy Piven's toupee. Way more interesting than her macabre "Paparazzi" number, whose depiction of Gaga's own bloody death/suicide was apparently of less concern to MTV censors than Billie Joe Armstrong singing the word "goddamn."
Muse Get a Room of Their Own
I'm sure there's an excellent reason for having the huge-everywhere-but-here trio make their VMA debut by playing from the Walter Kerr Theater down the road, but one does not seem readily apparent. Muse are known for over-the-top stagecraft that would have taxed the production crew beyond their capabilities. This performance had precisely none of that.
Green Day Predict a Riot
Inviting the whole crowd onstage is always a fun gag -- just ask Gregg "Girl Talk" Gillis and Iggy Pop and Arcade Fire's Win Butler and M.I.A. No doubt the folks at Radio City loved that audible. PUNK ROCK LIVES.
MTV Runs Out of Ideas
I get that the night was supposed to be in honor of Michael Jackson, and though the opening dance was alright -- Chris Brown nailed a version of that idea couple years ago, if it's still okay to say something non-damning about him -- having the end of the show hinge on a two-minute commercial for that way-creepy rehearsal-footage documentary was both a downer and downright lazy.