(LOS ANGELES) — Going into Thursday night’s MTV Video Music Awards, expectations were high, as viewers wondered if the network could top last year’s extravaganza, featuring Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement, Lady Gaga in drag, and Adele blowing the roof off the joint. In the end, it proved an impossible task; the 2012 VMAs didn’t even come close — but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
There were big stars, over-the-top performances and crazy outfits, but things seemed to fall a bit flat. Even this year’s red carpet pregnancy announcement — rapper Wiz Khalifa announcing that his fiancee Amber Rose was expecting — just didn’t have quite the same impact as Beyonce’s big reveal.
The big winners were One Direction, who scooped three trophies: one during the pre-show for Most Shareworthy Video, and then two more during the show: Best Pop Video and Best New Artist. It was an unsurprising turn of events, since most of the awards were fan-voted.
The British boy band also made their VMA debut performing their hit “One Thing” — during that performance, Katy Perry was seen putting her head on her BFF Rihanna’s shoulder and singing along dreamily into her ear.
Speaking of Rihanna, she grabbed the coveted Video of the Year trophy for “We Found Love,” fighting off stiff competition from the likes of Perry and Gotye.
Shouting out to her fans, who she calls the Rihanna Navy, the singer said, “It’s Navy or die! It’s me and y’all ’til we go!”
Rihanna also opened the show with a remix of her song “Cockiness (Love It)” featuring rapper A$AP Rocky. She started the performance sitting in a giant throne in the shape of a snake’s head, which had green lasers shooting out of its eyes. Then Rihanna left her throne and waded into the audience, segueing into “We Found Love” as the crowd completely surrounded her and big white balloons rained down from the ceiling.
Calvin Harris, who wrote and produced the song and was serving as house deejay for the evening, provided musical accompaniment for Rihanna from a giant silver futuristic deejay booth. He’d picked up his own Moonman for Best Electronic Dance Video during the pre-show ceremony for “Feels So Close.”
Pink also got down into the crowd at one point during her performance of “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).” She began by singing a bit of her early hit “Get the Party Started” and then “flew” over the crowd, with the help of a harness, to another stage, where she kicked into “Blow Me,” accompanied by giant dancing lips that shot confetti into the crowd.
Later, Lil Wayne crowd-surfed during his performance of “No Worries,” and even Taylor Swift fell into the arms of the fans during the show’s finale.
Green Day, the only actual band that played during the ceremony, delivered their new song “Let Yourself Go” from the floor of the Staples Center, also surrounded by fans, who then rushed in to mob them at the invitation of front man Billie Joe Armstrong.
Alicia Keys debuted her new song “Girl on Fire” and was joined by two special guests: Nicki Minaj, who ended her verse by rapping, “Cause I win the gold like Gabby,” and then gold-medal-winning Olympian Gabby Douglas herself, who did a few handsprings and flips around the stage during the performance.
Taylor Swift closed the show with the TV debut of her smash “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which featured her strutting defiantly with a big crowd of dancers, some of which were wearing animal costumes just like in the song’s video.
The only truly sedate performance was Frank Ocean’s emotional reading of his song “Thinkin Bout You.” He performed it on a burning stage, accompanied by a lone guitarist. MTV said it was one of the most tweeted-about moments in the show.
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