We salute the best and worst moments of MTV's big night: Green Day ruled, Kanye West rocked, R Kelly lip-synched something strange, and host Diddy kept the focus on himself
Kanye West
Credit: Kanye West: Kevin Kane/WireImage.com

The MTV Video Music Awards: Bests and worsts

From the archway of water that lined the path to the podium to the torrents unleashed on Kelly Clarkson during her crowd-pleasing finale, the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards, held in Miami, were certainly wet, but at some 210 minutes, not exactly wild. Maybe it was the lack of unexpected mash-ups and outrageous high jinks that usually typify MTV’s awards shows. Perhaps it was the consistently poor choices — frantic editing that obstructed the action in the crumpin’-clownin’ dance-off, camera angles that rendered M.C. Hammer virtually indistinguishable from his backup crew, having celebrities come out only to introduce other celebrities. Or maybe it was the performers’ failure to mention the suffering that Hurricane Katrina was continuing to cause throughout the region. Whatever the reason, this year’s VMAs were both literally and figuratively waterlogged.

To be fair, something kept us glued to the TV — and it wasn’t the sight of a certain rapper grabbing his leather-clad crotch fitty-something times during his performance. In the spirit of the evening, we have come up with 11 sometimes redundant, usually overlapping categories of awards to honor the night’s most compelling moments, whether they soared, sank, or left us scratching our heads. (Yes, R. Kelly, we mean you.)

Best Performance Several acts offered up energetic, faithful takes on their recent hits, but a rousing ”Gold Digger” by Kanye West, with solid backing from Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, was like an electric paddle to the heart of the VMAs, shocking viewers back to attention at the precise moment it seemed the telecast was about to flatline.

Most Desperate That skimpy rose-colored swimsuit worn by Eva Longoria during her robotic introduction of Mariah Carey’s performance may have revealed more than the Desperate Housewives star bargained for — namely, a transparent ambition to score the kind of press J. Lo got for her barely there green Grammy dress back in 2000. (Oh, and Eva, there’s nothing less sexy than making a lame joke about a hurricane that had already caused extensive damage and at least nine deaths in Florida.)

Least Egotistical Huzzah to Kelly Clarkson for not taking herself too seriously. Picking up her Moonmen for Best Female Video and Best Pop Video for ”Since You Been Gone,” the original American Idol displayed a dorky bewilderment (”I don’t really know what’s going on,” she blurted from the podium) that provided the kind of unscripted fun in short supply at this year’s VMAs.

Most Egotistical Bad enough that the show’s momentum came to a screeching halt every time host Diddy tried to score a laugh (Seandoleeza Diddy Rice?), but even worse were the repeated efforts to make the night all about himself. From the all-wet opening blather to the Diddy Fashion Challenge to his boast that My Chemical Romance performed as a personal favor to him, Diddy’s labored shtick lacked any sense of spontaneity, humility, or excitement. ”You’re about to witness something you’ve never witnessed before,” said Diddy. And if we’re lucky, never again.

Worthiest Winners Sure, the Grammys have more clout and bigger ratings than the VMAs, but by inundating Green Day with statuettes in seven categories for both ”American Idiot” and ”Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” MTV proved its show might just be the one with superior taste.

Most Disappointing Why have Fat Joe spend eons babbling about a historic meeting of three reggaeton stars — Don Omar, Tego Calderón, and Daddy Yankee — then allot maybe 28 seconds of performance time to each one, without any collaboration among them?

Most Unbelievable Was R. Kelly’s overwrought lip-synch of the latest chapter of ”Trapped in the Closet” a piece of audacious performance art; a knowing wink at the ridiculousness of his ”urban opera”; a moment of pure, unintentional comedy; or part of a high-concept episode of Punk’d? More important, was Kelly being serious when he reduced ”Chuck” to the charming stereotype of the mincing, hands-on-hips homosexual? If so, then, as another embattled R&B star likes to say, ”Hell to the no!”

Least Believable Watching Jessica and Ashlee Simpson try to pass themselves off as the new spokeswomen of R&B — it’s ”all about soul…take it from two girls from the dirty South,” cooed the former, dressed in a bizarre, St. Pauli Girl-in-a-wind-tunnel debacle — was downright blush-worthy.

Most Enjoyable Pairing Who’d have thunk Common’s freestyle rapping and Johnny Knoxville’s zany non sequiturs would make such an organically enjoyable combination?

Most Awkward Pairing Watching Ricky Martin and Joss Stone try to flirt was about as appealing as a hair sandwich, but the gold medal in the Mortifying Olympics goes to Entourage star Jeremy Piven’s cracking jailhouse jokes to the soon-to-be-incarcerated Lil’ Kim. Gah!

Best Use of a Terrible Setting I’m getting the impression that the Killers and Mariah Carey each did something to upset the suits at MTV. How else to explain why their respective performances were banished to Miami’s finest hotel courtyards? Still, the Killers’ ”Mr. Brightside” rocked hard enough to drown out the voice in my head that fretted about those unfortunate hotel guests with Monday-morning wake-up calls. And Carey’s glass-shattering range and attention-getting gams (that’s how you work a look, Eva) almost made me forget about the weird scene with Jermaine Dupri happening in that nearby cabana.

What do you think? Did we miss any deserving award recipients? How did this show compare to other years? Should MTV have Diddy host again?