When we look back at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, we will remember two things: 1) This Jessie J thing is not going to happen, America, but it wasn't for lack of effort, and 2) Beyonce and Jay-Z are having a baby. For a two-and-a-half hour show, you'd think there'd be more memories, but this year's event lacked the electricity it somehow musters up each year. The water coolers are extra quiet this morning.
I live-tweeted the show from my Louder Now account. Here's a look back at last night's show in random spurts of reaction and head-shaking:
•••• Lady Gaga's opening number proved she's still worth watching, no matter the context. No one takes being a Pop Star more seriously, while somehow still keeping a sense of humor and perspective. That shouldn't be asked of every star, but it's refreshing to see someone still wanting to shoulder that responsibility. She doesn't do it perfectly every time, but she's committed to the story, to the performance, and in this case, the Jo Calderone character. "You and I" was a wonderful way to start the show, with actual live singing and a Brian May-cameo (the look on Dave Grohl's face was priceless) being the cherries on top.
•••• It's strange MTV still gives awards for videos but it's really strange that there's still a "Best Rock Video" category. I didn't know rock videos still existed, but apparently they do. Congrats, Foo Fighters(?).
•••• The big surprise of the night (which was actually spoiled by MTV a couple days before) was Kanye West and Jay-Z would perform. They killed "Otis," with the help of a striking set design and a quick barrage of rhymes. "Otis" isn't a watershed moment for either MC, but the joy they get from performing it is contagious.
•••• The night sorely missed a Nicki Minaj performance. (Turns out she left early to perform "Super Bass" with Taylor Swift.) Instead, she won "Best Hip-hop Video" which was a pleasant surprise. It was a nice moment when Lil Wayne stood on his chair to clap even though she had just beat his "6 Foot, 7 Foot" video.
•••• Adele's "Someone Like You" could make a tough guy weep. Her tone was gorgeous.
•••• Can we stop this Chris Brown thing? Yes, he is a great dancer, but who cares? He's a mediocre singer with flimsy songs. Oh, and he's a smug douchebag. Never forget that.
•••• Another thing not to forget: Give Beyonce a mic and she will tear the house down. She's a performer in the classic sense, and that's a rare breed. Has she ever left an awards show not on top?
•••• Is Justin Bieber entering his serious stage or did he pop a Xanax before the show? A lethargic Biebs won "Best Male Video" and thanked God and Jesus. Perhaps he really is on one.
•••• Tyler, the Creator rightfully won "Best New Artist" for "Yonkers." His mom cried, he cursed a lot and no one got hurt. Now let's never speak of a song off Goblin again.
•••• Russell Brand's tribute to Amy Winehouse was touching. There was plenty of snark on my timeline about Brand and his delivery, but I thought he did an unenvious job well. The clip of Tony Bennett and Amy performing earlier this year sent chills up my spine, and reminded me once again of the talent we lost. The only strange choice of the tribute was Bruno Mars performing "Valerie." He did a fine, workman-like rendition, but it felt like a "Glee" episode. The disconnect between Mars' pop polish and Amy's soul-bearing rawness was palpable.
•••• Lil Wayne closed out the show by hopping in the conductor's seat and speeding for the closest brickwall. The extra Auto-Tuned "How to Love" led to a heavily censored take on "John." The juxtaposition was a tough pill — first, he's singing about women needing to know they're beautiful, then he's saying if "she get greedy I'ma starve her to death." Tough, tough sell! It was a mess, and the main reaction besides "Huh?" was his pants were extra crazy. Sounds about right.