Skip to content

Best of Berlin: U2, Jay-Z, Beyonce


Thursday, MTV’s European Music Awards took place in Berlin, Germany, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. U2, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Shakira, and others performed — and Beyonce walked away with three trophies, the night’s biggest winner. Check out our take on the event’s best & worst moments:

Check out a photo gallery from the show here.


Beyonce & Jay-Z Take Over Europe, the World
Ostensibly last night’s show had a 1920s cabaret theme, but it was actually all about pop music’s power couple. Beyonce took home the most awards of the night, winning for “Best Female,” “Best Song,” and “Best Video” and completely overshadowed host Katy Perry’s tweaked-out pinup shtick with her mesmerizing, sexed-up rendition of”Sweet Dreams.” Jay-Z delivered a show-stopping performance of “Empire State of Mind” in front of a swirling New York City skyline with backup singer Bridget Kelly standing in admirably for Alicia Keys, then made it across town in time to join U2 at the Brandenburg Gate for a blissfully over-the-top rendition of “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” By the time Beyonce accepted her third trophy by cooing, “There’s only one person I wanna thank, and that’s J for putting a ring on it!,” we were all unabashedly drunk on the gooeyness.

Green Day: Robots?
In the show’s opening number, the “Best Rock” winners blasted through two songs in front of an orgy of pyrotechnic explosions, intermittently cursing into the microphone and inciting everyone to “stand the fuck up!” As the ageless, blonde-again Billie Joe Armstrong thanked the voters for granting the band the “Best Cock” award and ran through the crowd of German teenagers – most of whom really seemed to be biding their time before the incomprehensibly worshiped Tokio Hotel made their entrance – one got the feeling that the retro-punk trio have actually become petrified in time. No surprises, but no disappointments. Just Green Day.

Foo Fighters Balk, Then Deliver
When the band first started up with their somewhat boring twangy number, “Wheels,” it seemed like a distracted-looking Dave Grohl might be phoning it in to this one. Not a huge surprise, considering he was there to promote a greatest hits album that he’s said he never wanted to release in the first place. But then the band sprung into life and head-banged through a tight, driving rendition of “All My Life,”and later Katy Perry gigglingly hinted that Grohl had been exposing himself backstage. Good to know you’re still with us, Dave.


Shakira Gong Wrong
The only thing worse than Shakira’s skanky gold lame apron dress and the inexplicable gong dancers with kung-fu ponytails, was the song itself (“Did It Again”).

The Hoff Does It Again
It’s not the fact that David Hasslehoff showed up completely schloshed to a gig at a major, internationally broadcast event in the only place in the world where he’s still considered somewhat relevant (or at least entertaining). It’s not the fact that he staggered backwards down the red carpet in a seizure-inducing sequined suit, was difficult with journalists, and gave a squinty, slurry approximation of an award presentation. It’s the fact that really, nobody expected anything different.


Katy Perry Camps It Up
On one hand, she’s cute, has a lot of energy and seemed to actually enjoy herself onstage. On the other hand, most of the time her “wacky outrageousness” feels canned, and her facial expressions are scary and intense, kind of like the soul of a spastic demon breathed into a Zooey Deschanel blow-up doll. Either way, it’s hard to understand why MTV brought her back as the only person to host the EMAs twice. Maybe it has something to do with cutbacks?

U2 and MTV’s Berlin “Fence”
Okay, so you’re a little bit dead inside if you didn’t mist up watching Bono belt out “One” in front of the bombastically illuminated Brandenburg Gate, where twenty years ago the citizens of a divided city partied on the ruins of the Iron Curtain. But in all their efforts to cash in on the symbolism of the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, MTV didn’t think about the fact that building a giant security gate around the open-air concert to keep out those without tickets might not be the pinnacle of tact. When outrage about the setup began circulating in the German press, the network released a statement that the aforementioned structure was only a “temporary security fence,” and that “[under] no circumstances did MTV build a ‘wall’ of any kind in or around the U2 production site.” Whatever you say, Khrushchev.