The 2013 MTV VMAs kicked off Sunday night (Aug. 25) with its first edition in Brooklyn, and the corresponding star power was, understandably, tremendous, with the long-rumored 'N Sync reunion, plus big performances from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Bruno Mars.
Justin Timberlake was, far and away, the star of the show. After the rumors of an 'N Sync reunion that persisted following the announcement that he would receive the Video Vanguard Award (the VMAs' equivalent of a lifetime achievement award), Timberlake broke onstage with a prolonged medley of some of his hit songs. He started from the top with his newest single, "Take Back the Night," regressing backward in time with "SexyBack," "Like I Love You" and more before the much-hyped moment arrived. His four former bandmates rose from the stage and, together for the first time in a decade, 'N Sync launched into a few choice verses from "Girlfriend" and "Bye Bye Bye," the latter prompted a cry from the assembled crowd that could have rivaled the screams at the boyband's shows back in the day.
The party wasn't over for JT just yet; after "Bye Bye Bye," the singer-turned-actor-turned-singer came back to the present with a double shot of "Suit and Tie" and "Mirrors" before receiving a rousing brag of an eulogy from Jimmy Fallon for his award, which he told the audience he shared with the rest of 'N Sync though slyly adding, "We can keep it at my house."
He followed up his stunning medley with, naturally, a win in the biggest category of the night, Video of the Year, for "The 20/20 Experience"'s second single, "Mirrors," a distinction he dedicated to his grandmother.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's improbable rise from Seattle favorites to indie DIY superstars continued with the duo's win for Best Rap Video, taking the Moon Man with "Can't Hold Us," which also won for Best Cinematography. About a half hour later, the rapper and producer won another award -- this time for Best Video with a Social Message with the gay rights anthem "Same Love." Macklemore, Lewis and singer Mary Lambert appeared onstage to accept the award, Macklemore calling the song the most important one he's ever written and capping off the acceptance speech with a rallying cry of "...gay rights are human rights -- there is no separation."
Right after their award win for "Same Love," Macklemore, Lewis and Lambert performed the hit track, making a star out of Lambert in particular before Jennifer Hudson joined the Seattle singer/poet on the outro of the song, trading hooks of "I'm not crying on Sunday" before embracing at song's end.
Lady Gaga kicked off the show with a long a cappella verse before breaking into an impossibly long stare at the camera while the opening notes of "Applause," the first single from her new "Artpop," sounded in the background. The singer went through a number of costume changes, dismantled and reassembled, before finally appearing in the seashell bikini look from the "Applause" video that premiered last week.
Gaga's "Applause" has been paired with its apparent rival, Katy Perry's "Roar," since both songs' release. True to form, "Roar" came at the very end of the telecast after being teased all throughout. Perry's giant golden semi truck made its home right beside the Brooklyn Bridge, Perry finding herself in a giant boxing ring, flanked by giant golden lions and an array of aptly dressed backup dancers and a live band.
The first award of the telecast went to Selena Gomez, who beat out Miley, Bruno and more for the coveted Best Pop Video award. "Come and Get It" was the winner, and the only person more excited than Gomez was her close friend and the person seated directly beside her in the crowd, Taylor Swift.
Of course, it wasn't a dry evening for T-Swift herself, either. The country/pop starlet scored a victory for Best Female Video with "I Knew You Were Trouble." After putting on her best Swift surprised face, she went on to thank the subject of the song -- purportedly Taylor Lautner -- throwing some shade in the process. "Now I got one of these," she taunted, waving her Moon Man.
Bruno Mars didn't make waves until the second half of the show, but when he did, all eyes on him. The man started his reign with a win for Best Male Video, capturing the honor with "Locked Out of Heaven." Shortly thereafter, Mars revealed the newest single off "Unorthodox Jukebox," "Gorilla," complete with green lasers and a video clip of a gorilla's primal scream behind him.
Kanye West continued to be unpredictable with his VMA performance. Rather than trotting out one of the more established songs from his new album, Yeezus came out with "Blood on the Leaves" against a forest backdrop, nothing but West's silhouette reflecting against it, twirling in and out of the shot.
Drake may have been shut out from winning awards during the evening, but along with many fantastic camera reaction shots throughout the telecast, the rapper and former "Degrassi" star got his day, crooning an excerpt of "Hold On, We're Going Home" before breaking into "Started From the Bottom."
Miley Cyrus was onhand for a few verses of her smash hit and oft-VMA-nominated "We Can't Stop," transitioning into Robin Thicke's it'll-never-die earworm, "Blurred Lines." Miley joined Thicke on a verse of the song before melting once more into a new tune -- this time, Thicke's newest single, "Give It 2 U," featuring 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar.
The evening's two fan-voted awards both went to teen heartthrob acts, understandably. Despite the reign of "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" on the charts this summer, One Direction's "Best Song Ever" was the victor for Best Song of the Summer. Meanwhile, Austin Mahone, a performer on the pre-telecast show along with Ariana Grande, locked up the Artist to Watch award, beating out The Weeknd, Zedd and more.
The first of two pre-show awards went to Pink's "Just Give Me a Reason," her chart-topping duet with fun.'s Nate Ruess that won Best Collaboration. In perhaps a sign of the genre's continuing lack of relevance on the pop charts, the award for Best Rock Video was also given out on the pre-telecast, this year to 30 Seconds to Mars's "Up in the Air." The boys of the band were there to accept minutes later, frontman Jared Leto sporting his new long blonde locks.
The telecast also featured the first promo for "MMLP2," the newest LP from Eminem, which is scheduled to drop Nov. 5.