Welcome to Sound of the City’s liveblog of the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, the cable channel’s annual paean to musically borne decadence and its own self-storied past. Tonight’s roster of performers includes Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Chris Brown, Pitbull, and Young the Giant, as well as a “surprise” performance by Jay-Z and Kanye West, a tribute to Britney Spears (not dead and celebrating the 10th anniversary of her dancing uncomfortably with a snake), an homage to Amy Winehouse (R.I.P.), and the looming possibility that Tyler, The Creator will crap himself onstage. The blogging starts below.
7:55 p.m. The back of Snooki’s hair is quite the rat’s nest right now. Then again, while watching the behind-the-scenes panopticon to prep for tonight, the front of her Jersey Shore co-star Deena’s looked even more ratty, in that “oh crap have to use the last of the Aqua Net and I don’t have time to really do anything else because class starts in two minutes” sort of way. Culture!
8:00 p.m. Sway to one of the Jersey Shore cast members, because what better way to launch MTV’s signature music-related event: “Just a few years ago, you didn’t wear shoes like this.” Were they barefoot wandering around the wilds of Seaside Heights in years past?
8:02 p.m. Sway is explaining the concept of the “step and repeat” to those people who don’t have party photographers attending their soirées.
8:03 p.m. Selena Gomez’s outfit makes her look like she’s going to attend an audition for a Jackie Collins film adaptation immediately after her guest-hosting stint.
8:04 p.m. YOUR TWITTER AVATAR ON MTV!
8:04 p.m. It is way too early in the broadcast to hear the word “Kreayshawn.”
8:06 p.m. Who is the robot? Let’s talk to the robot.
8:08 p.m. Oh, hey Mick Boogie, I was not expecting to see you this evening.
8:10 p.m. Everyone’s selling side projects. Every inch of TV time is being maximized.
8:12 p.m. More Jersey Shore synergy. Or wait, was that one of the cutting-room-floor scenes from the “Britney as Italian widow” cut of the “Gimme More” video?
8:13 p.m. I guess it’s in the interests of the Jersey Shore cast to redefine the acronym “STD.”
8:14 p.m. Watching this is giving me awful flashbacks to working the red carpet for the 2008 VMAs, where I was stuck next to someone from Chelsea Lately and summarily ignored because I only had a little digital audio recorder and not cameras.
8:15 p.m. Cobra Starship and Sabi hybridize the pre-show performance and the red carpet walk. Well, everyone’s singing live…
8:17 p.m. I don’t really have anything to say about this song, which is a shame, because Viva La Cobra! is a pretty fun record, and Hot Mess wasn’t bad either.
8:18 p.m. “Cobra Starfish.”
8:19 p.m. “I think flashing my boobs is funny.” Carrot Top to the white courtesy phone?
8:21 p.m. Ooh, this Sarah Michelle Gellar show on the CW looks like it’s heavily inspired by the Nicole Wallace arcs on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Maybe Olivia d’Abo will cameo?
8:22 p.m. AUGH KREAYSHAWN AUUGHGHHGHGHH
8:24 p.m. Way to rip off Gaga in the “Paparazzi” video, Jessie J.
8:25 p.m. I kind of don’t understand the appeal of Taylor Lautner? I mean, I guess he’s wearing a shirt right now, but still.
8:26 p.m. Tyler, The Creator is trying really hard to not swear.
8:27 p.m. Well, was trying. Also, nice fucking dick-sucking gesture you asshole God this fucking guy FOR SERIOUS
8:28 p.m. Really trying to not yell in “print,” but the Overhyped Triangle of Kreayshawn, Tyler, and Jessie J is already starting to wear on me.
8:30 p.m. We’re halfway through the preshow! And it’s time for “brand-new stars” from another MTV show!
8:32 p.m. Saying that “everyone else” thinks Awkward. is a good show sort of shrinks the world.
8:32 p.m. Hey, it’s time for the first award of the night! The very silly “Best Video With A Message,” and the winner is Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” The message of that video is… well… something about childbirth and ever-shrinking bathing suit sizes?
8:33 p.m. “My snake’s name is Johnson,” Justin Bieber says to his girlfriend. Benny Hill: Not dead!
8:35 p.m. Or, you know, the unsubtle shirts worn by hard rock dudes in Metal Edge back in the day.
8:35 p.m. Nicki Minaj is worried about SARS. Remember the ’00s?
8:36 p.m. NICKI MINAJ AND BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD. YES. FINALLY EXCITED.
8:37 p.m. Cool attempt to bring back Carlos D hair, guy from Foster The People.
8:38 p.m. “Tyler, you’ve beaten Bruno Mars. I know you’re very happy. I can’t wait to hear your homophobic rap about that later.” LOVE YOU, PAL OF SOTC JIM CANTIELLO. NEVER CHANGE.
8:42 p.m. Oh no, Beyoncé’s designer never got past the draping stage on her dress 🙁
8:43 p.m. Foo babies!!
8:43 p.m. They really should have gotten Dave Grohl to host.
8:44 p.m. But you can tell that the MTV people wanted the Jersey Shore folks to host but realized that the cast members weren’t funny enough when not drunk and fighting and, most importantly, editable.
8:45 p.m. Um, can someone remind Ronnie of the year that Beyoncé didn’t “win every contest she was in”…
8:46 p.m. Sway on a Foursquare badge: “Do you have any idea what that means?” Oh, the questions of our time.
8:49 p.m. The great thing about the multiplatform age: Rumors!
8:52 p.m. Oh, right, the robot—”shufflebot”—was from LMFAO’s entourage. I knew it looked familiar. I guess he doesn’t have to have anything emanating from his crotch, since he’s, you know, made of metal.
8:54 p.m. “As she kicks off the show… and makes history.” Sigh. Let’s let it happen naturally, promo guys! It’s not like you knew about Kanye back in ’09. (Or did you? Because I thought you did when it first happened!)
8:56 p.m. Britney Spears! It always makes me feel good when she looks alive. Even if you can’t hear her because her mic isn’t on.
8:57 p.m. 30 Seconds To Mars: This year’s Neil Young. Well, without the Video Of The Year nomination, anyway.
8:58 p.m. I don’t even know what to say about Katy Perry’s outfit. It looks like Etsy threw up a sushi-and-spun-sugar dinner.
9:00 p.m. Gaga is The Fonz.
9:01 p.m. I know she’s Jo Calderone here. But.
9:01 p.m. Half expecting “Jo” to start reciting the opening lines to “Hickory Dickory Dock” here.
9:02 p.m. Gaga-as-male-alter-ego-talking-about-Gaga-being-great.
9:03 p.m. I really thought the “historic” aspect of this performance would involve some sort of quick costume change or “Unforgettable”-style duetting. There’s still time.
9:05 p.m. Justin Bieber: Not into drag kings, it would seem.
9:06 p.m. Maybe Haley Reinhart will come out and they’ll duet on “Bennie and the Jets.”
9:06 p.m. Oh, well, Brian May is just as good. It got Dave Grohl excited!
9:07 p.m. “Remember? He’s that guy who played with Adam Lambert.”
9:08 p.m. We almost had the wrong type of historic moment there. Also, I hope that Jo Calderone puts out an album of Queen covers!
9:09 p.m. Someday I’ll write my thinkpiece on how MTV’s shift to Los Angeles resulted in the dragging-down of the channel. Someday.
9:09 p.m. Thanks for that shot of people getting up and leaving, everybody.
9:10 p.m. This monologue is already a little indulgent for someone who I only know as “a guy who will be hosting Ne-Yo’s forthcoming mixtape.”
9:11 p.m. Lil Wayne : 2011 :: 50 Cent : 2007.
9:12 p.m. Bring back Chels—wait, no, don’t do that.
9:13 p.m. Nicki Minaj’s outfit is inspired by things you win at a carnival: balloons, mirrors, those plastic charm necklaces I wore to school in fourth grade.
9:14 p.m. Justin Bieber’s “uh, what’s happening” looks: Probably the most appropriate reaction shots of the evening.
9:15 p.m. Britney Spears’ “Till The World Ends” wins Best Pop Video. Given that her fans are batshit insane when it comes to stuffing Internet ballot boxes expect this to happen a lot tonight.
9:17 p.m. That Bob Ross/Rick Ross joke was “gotten” by approximately 0.0001% of the audience.
9:18 p.m. At least pairing the execrable “Price Tag” with the rundown of the night’s sponsors undercuts its completely insincere message. Stop trying to make Jessie J happen, record industry.
9:23 p.m. SURPRISE EVERYBODY! IT’S THE SURPRISE PERFORMANCE THAT WAS ANNOUNCED 48 HOURS AGO!
9:23 p.m. Kanye’s denim-on-denim getup looks suspiciously similar to the outfit worn by Scotty McCreery the other night. A bit looser, but still, similar.
9:25 p.m. Did Lil Mama just try to rush Jay’s spot again?
9:26 p.m. Shit, you guys, Justin Bieber is ice cold tonight.
9:26 p.m. Miley Cyrus thought she was going to a taping of The Sonny & Cher Show.
9:27 p.m. Foo Fighters win THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST THE BEST Rock Video.
9:28 p.m. Dave Grohl trying to evangelize on behalf of rock. Aw.
9:33 p.m. When he did the camera cut to LMFAO. Aw.
9:34 p.m. Kreayshawn and Rebecca Black. This is your future, Kreayshawn. Dougieing in a dinosaur costume while looking miserable.
9:35 p.m. Oh, Odd Future and the “future Beastie Boys” (famous people dressed in “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” drag) engaging in a dance-off. What will the white male hip-hop fans do?
9:37 p.m. Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” wins Best Hip-Hop Video. Hooray for the shout-out to South Jamaica!
9:38 p.m. How many times are you thinking “Shut up, Jessie J” this evening?
9:39 p.m. Beavis and Butt-Head on the Shake Weight is a total layup. But after Kevin Hart and that banter between Nicki and Jonah Hill? It’s like a bottle of ice-cold water in a barren desert.
9:45 p.m. Katy Perry and Kanye West win Best Collaboration for “E.T.” And of course, Katy makes a Taylor Swift joke and fucks up the facts about whether or not Kanye’s already won awards while trying to be all Viva Variety.
9:46 p.m. Kanye shouts out Chris Brown. Oh, world.
9:47 p.m. Did the writers really force Paul Rudd, during his bit with Rick Ross, to rip a joke off from The Office?
9:48 p.m. Ne-Yo is so much better than this song. I say this every time I hear it. (I say this a lot.)
9:53 p.m. Thinking about what the world will be like if Justin Bieber never smiles again.
9:57 p.m. Katy Perry’s styling by Frederick’s Of Hollywood.
9:58 p.m. Here’s Adele. Her dress > Katy’s dress, although the whole lace-overlay trend that’s running rampant tonight is something that needs to be stopped before it runs any further.
10:00 p.m. Adele’s hand gestures are a hybrid of Bill Clinton and my sixth grade teacher.
10:02 p.m. This is a solid performance. Very un-VMA-like,though, although I suppose there’s still time for Sammi and Ronnie to twirl around the stage in a ballet interpretation of the track.
10:03 p.m. Adele looked like she was going to throw up when all was said and done, but then again, the prospect of hearing Jessie J try to make America care about her by singing “Firework” was a bit quease-inducing here too.
10:07 p.m. Pairing the night’s first X Factor ad with Adele’s performance: So appropriate. AUTHENTICITY CHARMS FOR EVERYONE.
10:09 p.m. This Beavis and Butt-Head sketch is making me realize: Nicki Minaj is a certain generation’s Cher. Which one, I don’t know.
10:10 p.m. Lots of cleavage on display tonight.
10:11 p.m. Justin Bieber: Not really smiling, despite the song he won the Best Male Video for being called “U Smile.” Is it the glasses?
10:12 p.m. What if Bieber’s next album is his Christian-rock opus??
10:13 p.m. Why are Chris Brown’s backup dancers dressed like punk rock Lauren Alainas?
10:15 p.m. No Chris Brown you don’t give the metal horns during “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Also, did “Protect Ya Neck” get included in this medley so every hacky Twitter comic could make a Rihanna joke?
10:16 p.m. This will end with Chris Brown being assumed into heaven. It has to now.
10:17 p.m. Or maybe he’ll just spin in the air to “Porpoise Song.”
10:18 p.m. You smile for that, Justin Bieber??
10:18 p.m. And now Jessie J is butchering “No Scrubs.” This is what happens when Remembering The ’90s Goes Wrong.
10:18 p.m. Jessie J is just learning about the concept of “key.”
10:23 p.m. The remake of Footloose seems… out of sync with everything.
10:24 p.m. Gaga working in single-costume mode tonight.
10:24 p.m. Seriously, though, she needs to just go all Diceman right now.
10:25 p.m. Or at least she needs to pay Murray Hill royalties.
10:26 p.m. Toxic Britney in this pantheon of Britneys Past looks a little like Ke$ha? Also, this is something of a ripoff of the Parade Of Eminems from a few years back, no?
10:28 p.m. Britney’s lip big-time trembled when she was about to go into the kiss.
10:28 p.m. Britney: Not playing along. Gaga looks like she wants to cry.
10:29 p.m. Christ, Britney looks like she’s going to cry. This is incredibly awkward. SAVE US, BEYONCÉ.
10:31 p.m. Really hope the producers force Jessie J to grimace her way through “Single Ladies” after this.
10:33 p.m. “Love On Top” is such a fantastic song. Every! Single! Key! Change!
10:34 p.m. I actually said “yeah!” out loud. And now she’s rubbing her belly, which I guess means that the pregnancy rumors are true?
10:36 p.m. Somewhat surprised that Kanye didn’t break out a cigar for that “Yeah, you hit that!” moment, but maybe that’s the big finish? At the very least they can bring B out again to do “Countdown.”
10:39 p.m. Wait did they really just give up on having Jessie J intro post-ad breaks? Yessss. It’s working!
10:40 p.m. Best New Artist time!
10:41 p.m. Tyler, The Creator wins. Great. Just fucking great.
10:41 p.m. Well at least he didn’t use a homophobic slur. I think.
10:42 p.m. Why is Jared Leto dressed up like a fourth-rate Gabe Saporta clone?
10:43 p.m. “You have no idea who this next act is, so we’re just going to throw a lot of platitudes at you about rock bands that are hungry and really want it. Authenticity! Doesn’t that make you care?”
10:44 p.m. Young The Giant: For those people who think that Big Country’s aesthetic needs a Coldplay edge.
10:46 p.m. Oh, 2011:
I’m a trending topic right now thanks to @ladygaga on VMA’s! Respect.
10:47 p.m. Just remember, those fans came all the way from Irvine. That’s like almost an hour away from LA!
10:47 p.m. Jacob Lusk doing Cee Lo > Jessie J doing Cee Lo.
10:51 p.m. Miss Info has helpfully transcribed Tyler’s acceptance speech!
“to all the kids watching, you cuh’ ‘il fu’ mu’ sh’ ‘um buh’ ‘olfwang”
10:53 p.m. Remember when Robyn was in Jessie J’s slot?
10:53 p.m. Cloris Leachman and Jersey Shore. I hope this turns into an announcement of a Facts Of Life reboot starring these five ladies.
10:54 p.m. Lol at old people saying sexy things!
10:55 p.m. Time to see if all that whiskey results in Jo Calderone breaking character for the Best Female Video acceptance speech.
10:57 p.m. During Gaga’s show at the Garden in February she went on an extended rant about how one of her NYU professors didn’t like her acting. I can kinda see why.
11:00 p.m. Also, real talk, “Born This Way” is a terrible video. It’s a mess of Vaseline lens and skimpy costumes.
11:00 p.m. Also, wait, what’s left to close the show? 15 minutes to go, everyone!
11:03 p.m. Oh, OK, here’s Russell Brand to introduce the Amy Winehouse tribute, which makes sense. His eulogy for her was lovely.
11:06 p.m. An assignment for you: 300 words on how Katy Perry’s Amy Winehouse influence is obvious. Like, at all.
11:06 p.m. Tony Bennett on MTV! Remember the ’90s??!?
11:08 p.m. A clip of Amy Winehouse singing with Tony Bennett in March. Oh this is incredibly sad. When she was on, she really was on.
11:09 p.m. Bruno Mars to sing “Valerie.” I like Bruno but… no.
11:10 p.m. This sounds good so far though. Keep in mind though that a) I’m a fan and b) I was actually cringing at the prospect of Russell Brand reintroducing Jessie J.
11:11 p.m. Also it was probably not the best idea for Bruno to be styled by the people who did the set design for Billy Joel’s “Keeping the Faith” video.
11:12 p.m. There is surely some sort of wisdom behind not having the Amy Winehouse tribute involve a song that she actually wrote?
11:13 p.m. Tyler, The Creator is clapping. Because, you know, he really hates Bruno Mars. (Here if I were on Twitter I would put a #seriouslyfuckthatguy hashtag, because, seriously, fuck that guy.)
11:18 p.m. “Here’s the first glimpse of the movie that is going to save us from the post-Twilight doldrums.”
11:19 p.m. We are so close to never having to care about Jessie J again.
11:20 p.m. The big prize! Video of the Year!
11:20 p.m. And it goes to… Katy Perry. Who is wearing an outfit that doesn’t fit her? And an abstract representation of a Wisconsin cheesehead, perhaps to distract from her roots?
11:21 p.m. “I feel like I am doing something right when singing [“Firework.”]” Yet you still sing “U R So Gay,” Katy Perry. Just shut up.
11:22 p.m. Drake is dressed like he got lost on the way to host Masterpiece Theatre.
11:23 p.m. Ah, Lil Wayne, engaging in some vocal processing on the fly!
11:24 p.m. The melodic counterpoint on this version of “How To Love” is, I swear, the chorus of “I’m Yours.”
11:25 p.m. Say what you will about this, uh, inscrutable-because-of-censorship song, Lil Wayne’s jumpy performance style is pretty awesome.
11:26 p.m. No, Wayne, put down the guitar and keep dancing!
11:27 p.m. Uh, the end?
11:29 p.m. I saw approximately 45 seconds of that show about Brooklyn and I thought about how I’m really proud to live in Queens. Good night, everybody! More on everything that transpired in the morning.