Despite all the big-name performers and presenters, the MTV Video Music Awards on Thursday were generally underwhelming. There’s usually a singular “goosie” experience (for instance, Adele last year) or an instant headline (the Kanye interruption). But this year there were no such capital-M Moments. That’s not to say there weren’t some truly enjoyable moments. Head below to catch what we singled out as our five favorite and five least favorite parts of the show.
5 VMA HIGHLIGHTS, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
1. The first-timers
Frank Ocean, 2 Chainz and One Direction all turned out magnetic performances, all with different approaches. 2 Chainz was palpably giddy, at one point sitting on Lil Wayne‘s skateboard and scooting across the stage. Nobody had more fun than Mr. Chainz. Frank Ocean fell on the other end of the spectrum but was just as compelling, delivering an intimate, vulnerable performance of “Thinkin Bout You.” And 1D looked like consummate pros during “One Thing,” working the crowd and mugging for the camera (though, they could’ve worked on their dance moves a bit more).
2. Rihanna and Katy Perry‘s adorable friendship
During 1D’s performance, Katy was singing along into Rihanna’s ear. Then, as the nominees for Video Of The Year were being read, KP and RiRi tapped each other on the leg when their names were mentioned. It’s a shame only one could win that final award.
3. Rock Lives Another (Green) Day
Green Day proved that rock isn’t dead, you just have to do a tour of duty on Broadway and get an Angry Birds character to keep it alive. They unleashed new song “Let Yourself Go,” and their extra touring guitarist rocked a “Free Pussy Riot” shirt. Then it all descended into mild chaos as the recently hospitalized Billie Joe Armstrong invited fans to storm the stage and politely mosh. m/
4. The Alicia Keys-Nicki Minaj-Gabby Douglas extravaganza
The Fierce Five US gymnasts were uncharacteristically (and endearingly) stiff when introducing Alicia Keys, who gave a confident performance of “Girl On Fire (Inferno).” Nicki joined the song late, crotch right up to the camera, before Gabby Douglas did a few flippity flips across the stage. The thing is, Gabby had on this flowy blouse and it fell over her head (luckily, the girl was wearing a bra). Didn’t they plan the whole “flipping” thing? The spectacle was bizarre, cute, disjointed and totally enjoyable.
5 VMA LOWLIGHTS, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
1. That Wack-Ass MCA Tribute
Adam Yauch‘s verse in Beastie Boys‘ “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” kicked in, and we perked up for the inevitable sad and funny montage of MCA’s classic VMA moments (Nathanial Hornblower invented the Kanye interruption!). Except, it never happened, and we only got a couple images on the bump to commercial. But hey, it’s not like the guy’s band played a huge role in making MTV the cultural force it is today.
2. Host Kevin Hart blew a GREAT opportunity
The comedian opened with a riff about the Chris Brown-Drake fight. It had the chance to be one of those rare biting, enlightening pieces of topical humor that occur at awards shows because the targets are in attendance. Unfortunately, it was just a long joke(?) about how Drake is Canadian so he recycles hence the bottle being thrown. Or something. Also, the less we say about his Frank Ocean bit, the better.
3. The Wanted get lost in the dust
Aw, poor The Wanted. While 1D got to perform and take home a bunch of hardware, all you guys got was a chance to feign (or maybe not feign?) disgust as Rebel Wilson pretended (or maybe didn’t pretend?) to hit on you. Look on the bright side: your new single “I Found You” is here!
4. No wins for Gotye and Carly Rae Jepsen
Not to take anything away from the acts who won in their categories, but we like ourselves an underdog story. Although, a combined 553 million YouTube views isn’t much of an underdog story.
5. Taylor Swift trying on the “popular chick” persona
Taylor Swift closed out the show with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” She sounded good. She was a (surprisingly) fluid dancer. She delicately stage-dived in her Where’s Waldo Beach Edition outfit. Those were the good things. The bad thing was the overwrought play-acting, as she emphatically swung her hips and craned her neck to so clearly convince you she was the sassy chick. It can be hard to remember that she’s not a 16-year-old, because of performances like this. It’s like watching a girl play Sandy in a high school production of Grease: she knows the big picture of how “the popular girl” is supposed to behave, but she doesn’t have the details down. Commence hateful comments below.