Another VMAs have come and gone, and like last year, not all of the true winners were the pop stars who collected Moonmen, and not all the true losers were those who sat in the audience with their arms crossed and seethed. Despite running for only two hours and seemingly only giving out awards to One Direction or Young Money, there were plenty of subplots and mini-competitions to behold at the 2012 ceremonies, from which we have drawn the following Bests and Worsts. Hey Calvin Harris, play us some transition music as we take center stage, would you? LET’S GO!
BEST FEUD THAT MAY OR MAY NOT ACTUALLY EXIST: NICKI MINAJ VS. RIHANNA
First, Nicki looked unimpressed during a reaction shot at the end of Ri’s opening performance. Then Ri and best bud Katy Perry gave Nicki a kind of sideways glare when she was announced as winner for Best Female Video. And then reports of an explicit dis, from no less trusted a journalistic source than The Real World‘s Trishelle Cannatella:
Omg #VMAs inside scoop. Nicki Minaj just told Rhianna to “sit the f**k down” when she tried to hug her!!! Love it!!!
— Trishelle (@TrishelleC) September 7, 2012
We always sorta suspected the “Fly” co-stars hated each other, for no other reason than seem to occupy a lot of the same musical space and they both had been romantically linked to Drake, and even though this is far less than conclusive evidence, we’re just gonna assume that this all means that the two are both composing subliminal dis records in their hotel rooms right now.
WORST COMEBACK TREND: CROWD SURFING
For a VMAs that didn’t seem to remember that rock existed, there sure was a great deal of adherence to one of the genre’s oldest live performance clichés—the crowd-surf. Host Kevin Hart took a dive at the end of his opening monologue, Lil Wayne did the same at the end of his and 2 Chainz’ duet, and Taylor Swift caught a wave after her closing performance. Even those who didn’t surf were still engulfed, as Rihanna waded into the crowd during her opening performance, and Green Day summoned the crowd to crash their shores during “Let Yourself Go.” We understand the temptation, guys, but let it breathe a little. There’s a reason why The Offspring aren’t popular anymore.
WORST WIN OF THE NIGHT: CHRIS BROWN
And we’re not even gonna get moralistic or anything here: “Turn Up the Music” was quite simply the worst song and worst video nominated for Best Male Video this year. By, like, a lot. If either Obama or Romney hasn’t yet reached out to #TeamBreezy to help them figure out the whole getting-people-to-vote thing, somebody’s at a competitive disadvantage.
WORST COMMERCIAL BREAK ZONE-FLOODING: ALICIA KEYS
In the commercial break after Alicia Keys debuted her super-underwhelming new single “Girl on Fire”—no, it’s not about the Hunger Games (at least we don’t think it is)—two straight ads prominently featured “Fire,” making it easily the most overplayed song of the evening to in no way involve Calvin Harris. Do you guys think the powers that be in the ad world had waited to actually listen to Alicia’s new song, and when they finally heard it debut in their spots, were like “Shit, that’s the song we agreed to put in every commercial for the rest of the year?” We’re pretty sure that’s what happened.
REVIEW: Alicia Keys, “Girl on Fire”
BEST RANDOM DUDE ON THE STAGE MULTIPLE TIMES: MACK MAINE
We guess Young Money president Mack Maine isn’t a totally “random” dude in the true definition of the word, but still, he looked pretty out of place there, taking the stage twice—two more times than Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Kristen Stewart combined, natch—during the acceptance speeches of Drake and Nicki Minaj, wearing a pink T-shirt and not saying a whole lot. Hey, maybe someday it’ll be him winning at the VMAs, and we’re sure he’ll be happy to return the favor to his YMCMB brethren at that point.
BEST L.A. COMING OUT: DWIGHT HOWARD
It’s good to be tall and defensively dominant on the West Coast. NBA big man Dwight Howard did what Wilt, Kareem and Shaq all did before him and headed to the sunny shores of Los Angeles in the last off-season, and he seemed absolutely on cloud nine to be there, finally freed from the shackles of Orlando, which really must have just been the worst place. Not even being forced to do miserable You Short, Bro jokes with host Kevin Hart could wipe the smile off D-12′s face.
WORST USE OF REBEL MUSIC IN A MOVIE PREVIEW: JESSIE J IN PITCH PERFECT
Once you heard Anna Kendrick talking about how she doesn’t want her a capella group to do the same old boring songs in the preview for the upcoming Pitch Perfect, you just knew the song they were gonna do at the end of the preview was gonna be bitterly ironic in some way. Even still, the punch line of the song being “Price Tag” was a bit of a blow to the gut. How Jessie J in any way constitutes counter-culturedom on any level is of course beyond us, but maybe we’re just not the right target market for Glee: The College Years:: The Movie.
BEST IMPLEMENTATION OF “DRINK THE PAIN AWAY” STRATEGY: ROBERT PATTINSON
No Kristen Stewart to help promote new Twilight movie clip, still in her self-imposed (or studio-imposed, who knows) shame exile after her super-public cheating scandal? No problem! A rather bleary-eyed R-Patz took the stage with his vamp cronies to endorse Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2, and the heartbroken actor bravely stumbled through his boring telepromptings so he could get back to killing the bottle of Jack he had stashed under his seat. To his credit, he seemed fairly at peace with the world—though then again, the shit-faced often do.
BEST CHANGING OF THE GUARD: JUSTIN BIEBER TO ONE DIRECTION
Justin Bieber has been the prince of MTV for the past few years. But on a night where Biebs and other heavyweights stayed home, Brit boy-banders One Direction grabbed the teen-idol mantle and ran with it, winning three awards (two of them over Bieber, who was shut out for the first time in his career) and performing a bubbly cover of “One Thing.” You think Bieber shuddered when he heard those cheers? (If he was in the house at all.)
REVIEW: One Direction, “One Thing”
BEST SPIDERMAN COSTUME: NICKI MINAJ
It was a restrained night, couture-wise, for Nicki Minaj, who passed up her usual outlandish getups in honor of a skin-hugging jumpsuit. (Yes, in the world of the VMAs, that’s restrained.) But there was something familiar about that jumpsuit that we couldn’t put our finger on … until we realized: We’d seen Andrew Garfield wear it earlier this year. Let;s just say than Minaj filled it out better than the weedy Brit did.
BEST STONE FACE: WIZ KHALIFA & AMBER ROSE
Nicki Minaj only unveiled her CRAZYFACE once, during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video, but it was enough to leave new dad Wiz Khalifa stunned.
BEST PERSONIFICATION OF THE AMERICAN FLAG: TAYLOR SWIFT
The first time Taylor Swift kissed a Kennedy in public, she wore red shorts and a blue-and-white spotted shirt. At the VMAs, she wore dark blue shorts and a red-and-white striped shirt. She thinks about these things, people.
WORST STRING OF JOKES IN THE FORM OF A MONOLOGUE: KEVIN HART
It’s hard to tell which was worse: Kevin Hart’s team of little person bodyguards, which began as a simple short joke and then morphed into a setup for some horrible wordplay about “a little security,” or his labored Frank Ocean gay joke, which relied entirely on imagining a similarity between the names Lisa and Leroy that doesn’t exist. But the gay joke was longer, so we’ll go with that.
BEST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO LIVE UP TO THE PRE-SHOW HYPE: ONE DIRECTION
With a Best New Artist win—beating out Our Girl Carly Rae Jepsen, Frank Ocean, fun. and The Wanted—and Best Pop Video for “What Makes You Beautiful,” the five boys from The X Factor proved that there was a reason Simon Cowell didn’t send them each home individually. Turns out those dramatic pre-show promo and multiple references to “their moment” weren’t exaggerations after all. Hands up if you’re excited for the new single
REVIEW: One Direction, “One Thing”
BEST USE OF HIS FIVE MINUTES ON STAGE: A$AP ROCKY
Give this man an opening, and he’ll gladly take it. While Rhianna’s duets with male partners have been marked by tangible sexual chemistry, ASAP went one step further than Drake or Chris Brown ever did on a public stage, sliding his hand down her backside and taking a home a piece to remember her by. The song is called “Cockiness,” so we guess that’s why Rihanna let him live to see the end of the show.
BEST UNDERSTATED WAY OF KILLING IT: FRANK OCEAN
Adding a series of high-profile gigs to his schedule this summer, Ocean treated the VMA appearance as a gig and not a party, going to work with a stripped down version of CHANNEL Orange‘s “Thinkin Bout You” inside a mysterious forest Taylor Swift’s woodland creatures would have purpose in. From the emotion pouring out of each note—even the two that cracked—to the stray flames, Frank solidified himself as an artist worthy of your attention during primetime events like this, as well as any moment of the day you happen to have access to his music.
REVIEW: Frank Ocean, “Thinkin Bout You”