By John Connor Coulston // Contributing Writer
The 2013 MTV Video Music Awards was an event filled with over the top performances, surprising appearances, triumphant returns and, of course, music.
This year’s ceremony boasted a solid set of performers including: Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Drake, Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Bruno Mars, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award recipient Justin Timberlake.
Lady Gaga opened the show with a performance of her latest single “Applause.” Compared to Gaga’s previous appearances, this one was toned down a bit. It did feature four outfit changes, but no attire was as shocking as her infamous meat dress from the 2010 ceremony. As for the performance itself, it was solid return for Gaga who hasn’t performed since undergoing hip surgery earlier this year. It was an energetic performance that started the show on a high note.
The second performance of the show featured both Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke performing their summer hits “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines,” respectively. While the performance itself was not terrible in theory, it was a bit overblown. Cyrus entered the stage through an enormous teddy bear to join life-size teddy bear back up dancers. She made every effort to solidify her new adult image by constantly twerking and grinding on anyone and anything. After performing her hit, she stripped down to flesh colored underwear and joined Thicke for a duet of “Blurred Lines.” She then continued to dance and grind wildly for the time thereafter. The performance was rounded out by guest appearances by 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, who are both featured on Thicke’s latest single “Give It 2 U.”
While Cyrus/Thicke’s performance was over-the-top, two performances were the complete opposite. Kanye West continued his current phase of minimalism with his performance of “Blood on the Leaves” from his latest album Yeezus. West was silhouetted in front of an image of a forest throughout the performance. Another act that went for a smaller-scale approach was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. They performed their track “Same Love” with singers Mary Lambert and Jennifer Hudson on a small stage with a live band supporting them. The focus was on the message of equality in the song – not elaborate choreography or twerking teddy bears.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were two of the big winners of the night by taking home the awards for “Best Hip-Hop Video” and “Best Cinematography” for “Can’t Hold Us.” They also received “Best Video With a Social Message” for “Same Love.” Macklemore took the acceptance speech as a platform to further voice his support for gay marriage and human rights.
The star of the night had to be Tennessee’s own Justin Timberlake. He took home the awards for “Best Direction,” “Best Editing” and the coveted “Video of the Year” for his single “Mirrors.” He was also the recipient of the VMA lifetime achievement award, which is also known as the “Michael Jackson Video Vangaurd Award.” Sixteen minutes were devoted to JT, who performed a medley of his biggest hits. He blazed through renditions of “SexyBack,” “Cry Me a River,” “Suit and Tie,” and more. There was even a brief reunion of NSYNC with all the group’s members reuniting to perform their hit “Bye Bye Bye.”
Timberlake accepted the award by saying, “I don’t deserve this award, but I’m not going to give it back.” He also credited his former bandmates for his success adding, “Half of my moonmen that I ever won, I won with those four guys right there, so above all else… I’m gonna share this award with them.”
Overall, the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards was a solid event. There was great music coupled with fitting performances – whether they were over-the-top or minimalistic. There was a little bit of something for everyone, and that’s what makes the VMAs such a spectacular event. It’s the one night in music entertainment where performers from varying genres can come together to celebrate and spread social messages.
Follow John Connor Coulston on Twitter at @JCCoulston.