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Source: MTV
Source: MTV

Good afternoon everyone! I’m Mike Tyminski and I’m here to live blog tonight’s VMA’s. The VMA’s are an interesting time for MTV, as the network formerly known as Music Television celebrates the art form they use to showcase on the network known as the music video. Where the VMA’s shine compared to their other award ceremonies is that the focus remains on the here and now and make for an interesting yearbook photo of what was hot in 2013. This year’s awards look to be a slug fest between Miley Ray Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop”, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, and Justin Timberlake and Macklemore’s fuller suites (each has three different videos nominated for at least one award). Also of particular importance tonight are the rumors of a possible *NSYNC reunion as one of the performances at the show. I’ll be back at 8:45 to give play by play and live blog the show – I’m skipping red carpet this time around since we have Manhattan Digest’s very own Ryan Shea there to cover the proceedings and give reaction from Brooklyn. I look forward to seeing you all then!

8:45 PM – Random viewing notes from the pre-show:

-Watching Austin Mahone is like someone stole DNA from every late 90’s boy band and mixed it together to create a one man boy band the likes of which Earth has never seen.

-A couple of early awards were given out — 30 Seconds to Mars took best Rock video for “Up In the Air “, and Pink and Nate Ruess took down the award for Best Collaborative video for “Just Give Me A Reason”, with 30 Seconds to Mars receiving their Moon Men on the pre-show. Both awards were mentioned at breathtaking speed.

-Danity Kane announced their reunion at the Red Carpet tonight.

-Katy Perry is calling her performance “Rough, Tough, and Ready to Rumble”, her performance of “Roar” is closing out the show tonight.

-One Direction is slaughtering the vote for Song of the Summer, up 4 million votes on it’s nearest competitor, I think it’s safe to say they’re taking this one.

-Tonight’s show is opening with Lady Gaga’s performance of her single “Applause”. The single sounded middling to me, but a Gaga performance is all about the visuals anyway.

Be back right with any last minute news right before showtime.

8:58 p.m.: Seems like things have quieted down on the red carpet (the last five minutes are devoted to the trailer for Divergent and an interview where star Theo James (Golden Boy) stumbles through an interview) and Lady Gaga is set to open the show (though a Gaga/Perry bookend admittedly feels very 2009). Ryan will have the remainder of the news and reaction from his time in Brooklyn tomorrow. I’ll be going segment to segment with the usual play by play and focus on performance.

9:12  pm: So Lady Gaga’s performance was…I guess what we’d call typical Gaga? It seemed to focus on the various stages of Gaga, as it opened with Gaga looking akin to a flying nun and ended up with a triumphant Gaga in seashell bra. Along the way, there were numerous dancers clad in black who existed to both augment and obscure Gaga during the numerous mid-song costume changes. I thought it was kind of a mess as a whole, but I could totally see where someone would get into it!

From there we kick it to One Direction, who were cued in by a PA announcer, and announce the nominees for Best Pop Video:
Bruno Mars “Locked out of Heaven”, Miley Cyrus “We Can’t Stop”, Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”, Selena Gomez “Come and Get It”, and Fun. “Carry On”.

The winner is: Selena Gomez, “Come and Get it”

We get the announcement that the Artist to Watch award (presented by TACO BELL!) can be voted on via text message.

9:28 pm: Continuing the trend of being an awards show not focusing on awards — they breeze through the technical awards in about 60 seconds — I’m gonna try to grab those during a commercial break since they deserve recognition, Justin Timberlake seemed to take the lion’s share.

Miley Cyus and Robin Thicke, then performed next, with Miley Cyrus legitimately rocking out to her guitar riff laden evil Teddy Bear entrance before going into “We Can’t Stop”, which has three award nods tonight before seguing into Blurred Lines with Miley playing Pharell…it’s not the most technically brilliant thing, but Miley looks to be loving every minute of this and it’s perversely entertaining on a level that I can’t comprehend. This then swerves into a cameo by Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz. This performance, unlike Gaga worked because all of the chaos and **ahem** run-ins ended up building to something much bigger.

Lil Kim then comes out and mentions how excited she was to see the VMA’s in Brooklyn and announce the Nominees for Best Hip Hop Video
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis “Can’t Hold Us”, Drake “Started From the Bottom”, A$AP Rocky f. Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar “Problems”, J. Cole ft. Miguel “Power Trip”, Kendrick Lamar “Swimming Pools (Drink)”.

The Winner is: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis “Can’t Hold Us”

We get a quick speech from Macklemore about rapping on a Pirate Ship

9:42 pm: Kevin Hart comes out to get some more love for the performance and juice the crowd.  An advertisement plays to text for artist to watch (Sponsored by TACO BELL!)

Jared Leto then comes out to heap praise on Kanye West, who is performing his single “Blood on the Leaves” off of Yeezus. It starts with Kanye bathed in red light before performing in shadow in behind a wooded image projected onto a TV. This is the first truly great performance on the show tonight, and the audience seemed off of its’ hands for the first time after it. Personally I was pretty amused by a 20 second stretch at the end of the song in which MTV censored out about 14 of those seconds.

9:46 pm: And we come back to the VMA’s with a few seconds of Pharell, Nile Rodgers, and Daft Punk performing “Lose Yourself to Dance” before coming out to announce the nominees for Best Female Video

Taylor Swift  “I Knew You Were Trouble”, Miley Cyrus “We Cant Stop”, Demi Lovato “Heart Attack”, Pink Ft. Nate Ruess “Just Give Me A Reason”, Rihanna “Stay”.

And the winner is: Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble”.

Taylor gives the standard issue (and Kanye free) awards speech before taking a dig at John Mayer.

Ed Sheehan comes out to announce the nominees for the award for best video with a social message

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis f. Mary Lambert “Same Love”, Kelly Clarkson “People Like Us”, Beyonce “I was Here”, Miguel “Candles in the Sun”, Snoop Lion ft. Drake and Corey B. “No Guns Allowed”.

And the winner is: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, “Same Love”

We get another quick heartfelt award speech from Macklemore before cutting to commercial.

10:24  pm: We come back to Jimmy Fallon who waxes about his 2002 VMA hosting gig before introducing Justin Timberlake, who gets a long video entrance that touches every hit he’s had a solo artist. He’s performing “Take Back the Night”, starting in the lobby of the arena with a large and growing posse of dancers before entering the arena floor. We then get a spinning camera effect before we find Justin on stage performing “Sexy Back”. Justin seems to be owning this whole moment, even slipping a “bitch” through our incredibly vigilant censors, he then rolls through “My Love” which comes through an extended dance breakdown before walking through the pit during “Cry Me A River” (Which he doesn’t sing). The performance then moves to a dance floor in front of the large moon man for “Rock Your Body” (which comes with another extended dance breakdown). Focus then moved back to the stage for the a quick *NSYNC cameo (short enough it wasn’t a full scale reunion) with a quick quote from “Bye Bye Bye” before quickly seguing back into “Suit and Tie” and “Mirrors”. Jimmy Fallon returns to the scene to present Timberlake with the Video Vanguard award. Fallon’s gushing speech was highlighted by making sure to list The Lonely Island classic “Dick in a Box” not once but three times during the award announcement (also for those keeping score, he managed not to corpse during the speech).

Timberlake gave a real humble speech, giving props to to his directors, his choreographers, and NSYNC.

So…takeaways from that 20 minute concert? 1) Justin…you owe it to America, please do the Super Bowl halftime show….please? 2)If you want an *NSYNC reunion in earnest? It’s not happening anytime soon…the Bye Bye Bye spot was wedged in pretty nonchalantly and was breezed through in about a minute.

On a side note, Lady Gaga is still wearing the same seashell bra while rocking out in the crowd. I don’t know why I think it’s important, but I feel like you never see people wear their performance outfits in the stands.

10:40 PM: Kevin Hart sends it over to DJ Cassidy who plays a quick kicker, before Kevin insists that he is not the host, he’s just called upon to do more stuff but not before commenting on Lady Gaga’s yams before once again mentioning the nominees for artist to watch (Sponsored by TACO BELL!)

Vampire Weekend comes out to introduce the award for Song of the Summer, speaking of which, the nominees for Song of the Summer are:
Miley Cyrus “We Can’t Stop”, Robin Thicke ft. Pharell and T.I. “Blurred Lines”, Selena Gomez “Come and Get It”, Calvin Harris f. Ellie Goulding “I Need Your Love”, One Direction “Best Song Ever”, and Daft Punk “Get Lucky”.

The Winner is: “Best Song Ever” by One Direction (Pete Townshend’s house is safe)

Harry comes out and thanks the crowd before introducing the video’s director.

Jason Collins and A$AP Rocky arrive on stage to introduce Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, whom perform “Same Love”. Macklemore is clearly emotional through the first verse, moving more towards the fire of a preacher in his voice by the end of the second verse as opposed to the more conversational tone that comes with the single. Jennifer Hudson drops into deliver the third chorus before quoting a quick phrase of “Not Crying on Sunday” with Mary Lambert, who provided the other chorus’s.

10:49 PM: We finally get the announcement for this years Artist to watch award, and the nominees are.

Austin Mahone, Iggy Azalia, The Weekends, 21 Pilots, and Zedd

And the winner is: Austin Mahone

A starstruck Mahone, thanks all relevant people including God AND MTV, which according to some might be counteracting forces. Unfortunately he didn’t thank TACO BELL who sponsored the award.

The show cuts to the surviving members of TLC (T-Boz and Chili), whom are here to introduce Drake, whose standing in front of a video screen in a manner that’s mildly reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s “Forrest Gump” performance from the Grammys. He gets mobbed by fans while trying to get to the stage to perform “Started from the Bottom”.  Drake ends up in the pit by the second verse.

Looks like most of the awards are finished…we’re down to just Best Male Video and Video of the Year if my account is right.

10:58 PM: Taylor swift comes out to announce the award for best Male video

Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”, Bruno Mars “Locked out of Heaven”, Ed Sheeran “Lego House”, Kendrick Lamar “Swimming Pool (Drink)”, Robin Thicke ft. TI and Pharrell “Blurred Lines”.

And the winner is: Bruno Mars “Locked out of Heaven”.

We get a lightning quick thank you out of Bruno before cutting to commercial.

11:10  PM:
A quick update on the technical awards front — only posting the winners so that I can keep up on play-by-play

Best Directing — David Fincher for “Suit & Tie”
Best Choreography — Bruno Mars (self-choreographed) for “Treasure”
Best Visual Effects — Capital Cities “Safe and Sound”
Best Art Direction — Veronica Hodgson for Janelle Monae ft. Erykah Badu’s “Q.U.E.E.N”
Best Cinematography — Macklemore ft. Ryan Lewis “Can’t Stop Us”

Selena Gomez is out to introduce Bruno Mars, who’s here to perform his new single, “Gorilla”. Bruno’s performing this slow jam in a leopard-print heavy version of his standard look.  It’s a pretty blase performance surrounded by a ton of pyrotechnics. Earlier in the show I would have probably enjoyed it more, but after Kanye, JT, and Macklemore tore it up in their own respective ways this performance feels like it’s just there to fill time until Katy Perry’s show closing performance. It probably didn’t help that his big falsetto note was completely overpowered by the backing tape.

In other news, Katy Perry is walking towards the Brooklyn Bridge to perform “Roar” in about 15 minutes. She’s rocking some boxing gear, which I’m pretty okay with on the basis of how prominently the words “Eye of the Tiger” are placed in the song.

11:23 PM:
During the break, Pepsi announced that Katy Perry’s new single “Dark Horse” will drop on September 17th. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt comes out to announce the nominees for Video of the Year in what could be described loosely as “an old timey western voice”  which was clearly appropriate for the situation. 

The nominees for video of the year are: Bruno Mars “Locked Out of Heaven”, Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis “Thrift Shop”, Taylor Swift “I Knew You Were Trouble”, Robin Thicke f. T.I. and Pharrell “Blurred Lines”

And the winner is: Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”

Justin gives props to all of the performances, before mentioning how the video was a tribute to his grandparents.

Allison Williams from Girls enters to introduce Katy Perry, who is performing her single “Roar”. The boxer gear goes with a fuller motif as the entire performance takes place in a makeshift boxing ring dance floor by the Brooklyn Bridge. I feel like this performance would have actually been better inside if only for the acoustics being better captured allowing for better use of the crowd roars.

I’ll be back in a few minutes with some final thoughts from the show.


Final Thoughts: 

Well…that first hour felt like a trainwreck, moving at I Love Lucy conveyor belt speed. However, 10p.m. hit, the VMA’s officially ended, and the Justin Timberlake Show began, things became a lot better. And that’s important, because even with strong performances by Kanye, Macklemore, and Katy Perry, do not kid yourself…this was entirely Timberlake’s show. It seemed like most of the awards were taken by either himself or Macklemore. Of course, while they took a sweep of the awards this show truly felt like MTV treats awards shows the way they treat music 365 days a year, as many of the awards felt like window dressing compared to the performances. If you’re catching this on tape delay, the best approach is to just fast forward through every talking bit and go straight to the performances, which were either really good or really weird.

That’s it for me tonight, it’s been three whirlwind hours and 2500 or so words. Next week there isn’t much new TV so I’m taking the opportunity to roll out some fall previews for the major networks (and the CW even!) Thanks everyone for tuning in, and stay connected to Manhattan Digest tomorrow for Ryan’s report from Brooklyn!