The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards are in the books, and while the show as a whole felt a little scattered and unfocused, there were indeed some high points. Russell Brand, Tony Bennett, and Bruno Mars gave Amy Winehouse an excellent tribute, Beyoncé capped off a great performance with a nice little revelation about the future of her family, and Adele tore down the house with her stunning, jaw-dropping run through “Someone Like You.”
But there were a handful of amazing moments that happened between MTV’s rapid-fire camera cuts and commercial breaks. Luckily, I was inside the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live and can report the eight greatest things you probably missed during the show.
Obviously, Adele’s moving take on “Someone Like You” (which was co-written and produced by Dan Wilson, former frontman of Semisonic) was one of the best performances of the show, but the crowd really responded to her. As is the case with most awards shows, the audience tended to be distracted a lot, but as soon as Adele walked on stage to a huge ovation during a commercial break, people were completely riveted. People actually shushed each other while she sang, and there were a handful of guests openly weeping by the end of the tune. Yeah, she was that good.
Lady Gaga’s show-opening appearance as Jo Calderone (a gimmick she kept up for the entire night with decidedly mixed results) was unusual and a little jarring at first, but once she launched into a rugged version of “You and I,” things evened out. Her climb to the top of her piano was impressive but made me a little nervous, and at one point I thought to myself, “She’s spilling an awful lot of that beer on the stage.” I was worried for the camera operator trying to keep up with her, but when it came time to descend, Calderone couldn’t quite hold his/her footing. Her feet spun in place for a few seconds (you know, like when Scooby-Doo tries to run away from a g-g-g-g-ghost), but eventually gravity won out and she took a tumble. She recovered quite nicely, though, and finished the song strong.
Jessie J just wants to have fun
Pity poor Jessie J. The “house band” gig was a pretty raw deal, as it limited her TV time and awkwardly forced her to stay on stage all night despite the fact that she has a giant boot around her left foot thanks to a broken ankle. What’s worse, she started her evening by performing “Price Tag” as people were taking their seats, and was greeted with mostly apathy. But somewhere along the line, she completely converted people to her cause, and through a deft combination of her own songs (especially new single “Domino”) and some sly covers (including Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and TLC’s “No Scrubs”), she definitely won some new fans.
The Throne is hot
For their performance of the esoteric but lovable single “Otis,” Jay-Z and Kanye West brought both lyrical fire (West seemed especially amped) and actual fire. The pyro during their song was pretty thrilling, and the heat could be felt well into the crowd (both rappers must have been sweating something fierce). That’s what made the stage-crasher so frightening, as not only did he get too close to Jay and Kanye, but he also could have wandered into a dangerous effect. Another interesting note about that stage crasher: When he first jumped on, everybody totally thought he was a guest from the album who was making a surprise drop-in.
Lil Wayne loves Foo
Foo Fighters took home the prize for Best Rock Video, and when they were declared the winners, Lil Wayne was the first person to his feet to give Dave Grohl a round of applause. Another round of applause (albeit a quiet one) crept up when Grohl gave a shout-out to recently retired MTV president Judy McGrath.
There were a handful of instances that found audience members booing, none in excessive numbers. The first popped up when Britney Spears thanked God during her acceptance speech for Best Pop Video (apparently, there were some atheists in the house). The only other time was when Russell Brand was talking about Amy Winehouse’s alcoholism, and I’m pretty sure he got heckled a bit because he referred to addiction as a disease (which, for reasons that tend to escape me, always ends up being a prickly topic). Otherwise, the crowd was mostly respectful and positive.
Though I can’t imagine it came across well on television, Pitbull’s performance was probably the second or third most-beloved thing in the building. Why? Partially because of Ne-Yo’s sweet soul sounds, partially because the dancers were exceptional, partially because people like pumping their fists, and partially because that green laser effect looked extra-awesome from the middle section of seats. People were more alive for Pitbull than they were for any other performance, including “Otis” and Lil Wayne’s adrenaline-soaked show closer.
The wrong winner
That performance must have really stuck with the crowd in the house, because by the time MTV got around to handing out the Moonman for Video of the Year, everybody really wanted Adele to get the last acceptance speech of the night. It wasn’t that they were mad that Katy Perry took home the prize for “Firework,” but her victory certainly let the air out of the room a bit.
What was your favorite moment from the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards? Let us know in the comments!