The Scene’s VMA Recap

The highs and lows of the 2013 MTV Music Video Awards

Between Miley Cyrus’s twerking and Justin Timberlake’s reunion with the boy band *NSYNC, the “2013 MTV Video Music Awards” was a relatively steady affair. The Eagle’s Mark Lieberman analyses the highs and lows of the night’s proceedings.

Lady Gaga, ““Applause”:: Costume changes, bowling balls, fake boos and (some) real applause. The one thing this performance lacked? A thrilling, game-changing moment to send this rather good song into the stratosphere. Also, the vocals were shoddy in places, but props for singing (mostly) live with difficult choreography. B-

Miley Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop”; Robin Thicke & Miley Cyrus, “Blurred Lines”; Robin Thicke, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar, “Give It 2 U”: This disjointed medley leaned heavily on the spectacle, between Miley’s twerking and other provocative antics, Thicke’s gaudy pinstripe suit and whatever those giant bears were supposed to be. A little more attention to, you know, the vocal performances, wouldn’t have hurt. And maybe more than a minute of each song? C

Kanye West, “Blood on the Leaves”: The most visually striking performance of the night found the newly paternal self-proclaimed god gesticulating in front of a haunting forest backdrop. Though the Auto-Tune continues to grate, Kanye’s commitment to the drama of this mesmerizing song rendered the performance a winner. A-

“Justin Timberlake,“Take Back the Night,” “SexyBack,” “Like I Love You,” “My Love,” “Senorita,” “Cry Me a River,” “Girlfriend” and “Bye Bye Bye” (with NSYNC), “Suit & Tie,” “Mirrors”: So it turns out that this JT kid really knows how to sing and dance. Someone should give him a record deal or something. In all seriousness, the current King of Pop asserted his throne for nearly ten minutes without breaking a sweat. The NSYNC reunion felt like a bit of an afterthought (Justin’s moved on to bigger things), but it provided a newsworthy hook to an excellent performance. A

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert and Jennifer Hudson, ““Same Love”: A simple, direct, powerful rendition of a song with a distinct and daring social message. The back-and-forth with Lambert and Hudson provided the night’s most genuine emotional thrill. A-

“Drake”:“Hold On We’re Going Home” and “Started from the Bottom”: As with most of tonight’s sets, Drake would have been better off doing one of these songs or the other. Nonetheless, he was equally convincing with the melody on the first song as he was with the rap verses on the second. *B *

Bruno Mars, ““Gorilla”: Anyone who thinks Bruno Mars is just a sugary-sweet pop softie need only look at this performance to recognize the scope of his abilities. He chose the most aggressive and bold song on his album as the next single, and he delivered it with all of the necessary passion and sex appeal here. Top to bottom, best vocal of the night? A

Katy Perry, ““Roar”: This song is pretty much scientifically engineered to be an enormous hit, and Katy did nothing to stifle her own momentum with this energetic, smooth performance. *B *

Best Moments:
1. Whatever you thought of Miley Cyrus’ twerk-laden antics, Rihanna’s utterly bemused reaction to the wild happenings onstage stole the show.
2. Though the censors stayed vigilant throughout the night, muting everyone from Kanye to Bruno, Macklemore delivered the gay slur in “Same Love” without dulling the impact of hearing that word.
3. Jimmy Fallon’s characteristically ecstatic lead-up to Justin Timberlake’s Video Vanguard Award, and Justin Timberlake getting choked up at the end of his stunning set.

Worst Moments:
1. So many technical snafus in between the big performances. Maybe the behind-the-scenes crew wasted their rehearsals competing in twerk contests.
2. A$AP Rocky shamelessly plugging his labelmates new album right after Jason Collins delivered a heartfelt monologue about prejudice. Keep it classy, Rocky.
3. Daft Punk cancelled on Colbert for a music video preview and a silent presentation of a minor award? Why assemble DP, Pharrell and Nile Rodgers if they’re not going to do “Get Lucky”? Colbert got the short end of the stick, that’s for sure.

mlieberman@theeagleonline.com

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