MTV no longer regularly airs music videos, but its annual gala honoring those videos is still guaranteed to get people talking. At this year's Video Music Awards, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber took home two of the most-coveted Moonman trophies (for Video of the Year and Best Male Video, respectively), but that's not what everyone is buzzing about. Here are six of the "undeniably strange" VMAs biggest moments:
1. Lady Gaga blurs her gender annoyingly
The craziest thing Lady Gaga could do is show up to the VMAs in normal clothes, says Darren Franich at Entertainment Weekly. "And that's exactly what she's done — except that those clothes are normally worn by a dude." Gaga opened this year's VMAs with a three-minute monologue as her male alter-ego Jo Calderone — a scrawnier, scrappier version of John Travolta in Grease. She stayed in character all night: Throughout a "beer-spraying, piano-banging, nearly falling-off-the-stage performance" of her single "You and I," while accepting her award for Best Video With a Message, and while presenting a Britney Spears tribute. Unfortunately, says Katie Hasty at HitFix, the experiment edged into "full-fledged shtick," as Gaga-as-Jo grew increasingly grating.
2. Britney Spears gets honored — and rattled
Lady Gaga's in-character presentation of the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award, a pseudo-lifetime achievement honor, was "the single most awkward interaction of the night," says Franich. Spears was visibly flustered by Gaga's hamming as Jo Calderone. And the actual tribute to Spears "lasted a mere four minutes and was just a horrible remix of her songs," says Willa Paskin at New York.
3. Amy Winehouse is remembered
Comedian Russell Brand kicked off a tribute to Amy Winehouse with a "breezy, yet heartfelt" eulogy for the singer that "perfectly fit the tone of the VMAs," says Shannon Donnelly at The Daily Beast. Tony Bennett then introduced a clip of himself recording a duet with Winehouse, before Bruno Mars took the stage to perform a cover of her 2007 hit "Valerie." Mars "brought his rockabilly best" to the song, says Leah Greenblatt and Melissa Maerz at Entertainment Weekly. But with all the women in attendance who have been influenced by Winehouse, says Linda Holmes at NPR, it's "odd" that Mars was the performer chosen to pay tribute.
4. Beyonce is with child
Beyonce made headlines before the VMAs even began when she announced her pregnancy on the show's "black carpet." While her performance of "Love on Top" was merely adequate, there was "no denying the sheer electricity in the room" when she ended the song by joyously revealing her tiny baby bump, says Franich. "The cherry on top" was Jay-Z's giddy reaction to the moment, with pal Kanye West doling out some proud backslaps.
5. Adele proves substance trumps spectacle
"It takes a real super power to make the seizure-inducing lasers stop," says Greenblat and Maerz. Namely, Adele. The chart-topping soul singer brought the proceedings to a transfixing halt with her "heart-wrecking" performance of the ballad "Someone Like You." Backed only by a piano, Adele "gave one of the most memorable VMA performances in years," says Donnelly. "Even the normally ADD-addled VMA live audience was stunned into silence."
6. Chris Brown flies
"What is the exact opposite of Adele's stripped-down, beautiful performance?" asks Donnelly. That would be Chris Brown's "Spider-Man-style" flying over the audience while performing a crowded medley of three decades of pop music, including a version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that had Brown's dancers jumping on trampolines. Not everyone was impressed. "The aerial stunts were sloppy and the time allotment too generous," says Hasty. "Tacky tacky tacky."