Sunday night's Video Music Awards featured a number of firsts -- the show's first foray into Brooklyn, Lady Gaga's first post-surgery live performance and the first, blink-and-you-missed-it reunion performance by 'N Sync.
That last interlude, a quick blast of "Bye, Bye, Bye," came in the middle of an extended segment celebrating man-of-the-hour Justin Timberlake. J.T. trotted out the old trick of starting his performance of "Take Back the Night" in the lobby of the arena before making his way to the stage for a medley of older hits like "Sexy Back" and "My Love." He showed off some impressive dance moves and a few nifty keyboard tricks before bringing his old mates on for a cameo -- then returning to accept the Video Vanguard Award from Jimmy Fallon.
Justin delivered a nice speech in accepting that honor, but didn't offer anything terribly quotable in the process. In fact, none of the year's winners made many waves, with the biggest "gotcha" coming from Taylor Swift, who thanked the guy responsible for her writing "I Knew You Were Trouble" -- but declined to name names in the process.
- The show opened with a closeup of Gaga, her face framed by a piece of white cardboard, singing the opening lines of "Applause" a cappella. As the song built, she had minions perform onstage costume and wig changes -- until she wound up the tune in the clamshell bikini she sported in the video. On her own one-to-ten scale of inventiveness, it scored a five, tops.
- Miley Cyrus lip-synced "We Can't Stop" amid a sea of furries in an apparent attempt to push the envelope -- which only succeeded in reminding us that she's a Disney girl at heart. Robin Thicke joined her onstage in a knockoff NFL referee uniform for a medley of "Blurred Lines" and "Give It To You" that coaxed Miley into trotting out some suburban strip club moves.
- Kanye West turned up the autotune for a shortened, censored version of "Blood on the Leaves," delivered in near-darkness in front of a backdrop of trees designed to evoke the lynching theme of "Strange Fruit," which is prominently sampled in 'Ye's song.
- Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who took home two of the night's big awards, performed their marriage-equality anthem "Same Love" after an introduction by NBA playerJason Collins, who made history as the first active pro athlete to come out of the closet.
- Drake delivered a solid one-two punch with a silky smooth singing performance on "Hold On, We're Going Home," and some sharp rhyming on "Started From the Bottom" -- a boast that disregards his suburban upbringing.
- Bruno Mars pulled out all the stops in typical fashion on a performance of his new single, "Gorilla," a rock ballad accompanied by an appropriately '70s-styled laser show.
- Show-closer Katy Perry had to top that, and went the extra mile to do so -- literally, by heading to the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge for the first-ever performance of her new tune, "Roar." She was supposedly hoping to sing the tune from the top of the iconic span, but even MTV couldn't flex enough muscle to make that happen.
2013 VMA Winners
Video of the Year
Justin Timberlake: "Mirrors"
Best Pop Video
Selena Gomez: "Come and Get It"
Best Hip-Hop Video
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: "Can't Hold Us"
Best Male Video
Bruno Mars: "Locked Out of Heaven"
Best Female Video
Taylor Swift: "I Knew You Were Trouble"
Best Video With a Social Message
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: "Same Love"
Artist to Watch