MTV Video Music Awards Performances: The Hits and Misses

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On Sunday (Aug. 25) night, some of music’s biggest stars landed in Brooklyn, New York for the MTV Video Music Awards. The big budget performances featured wild effects and surprises.  Justin Timberlake brought sexy back and also dusted off ‘N Sync. Katy Perry entered a boxing ring. Kanye West created his own forest.

But were they worth their weight in hype? Check out our list of the hits and misses of the VMAs.

Justin Timberlake Brings ‘N Sync Back

Hit or Miss: Hit

Lord knows there were millions of fans that let out a collective squeal when rumors first broke earlier this week of Justin Timberlake potentially bringing out ‘N Sync for the VMAs. At first it seemed like a pipe dream, at best. But the whispers grew louder. Then the fellas added to the noise by joining Twitter on Saturday (Aug. 24). It all culminated with them, yes, hitting the stage alongside JT. Justin, the evening’s Michael Jackson Vanguard Award winner, brought the boys out after he performed a hearty medley of his solo hits. Then the ‘N Sync boys (clearly men now) rose from beneath the stage to sing “Girlfriend” and “Bye Bye Bye.” It was brief, but sweet. Comedian Kevin Hart would later joke that the guys looked a bit rusty, winded even. Still, it was a major moment.

Drake: Started with a Snoozer, Then He Rapped

Hit or Miss: Miss

It’s not that Drake was bad, per se. He just wasn’t that entertaining. He began his set seated with a cloud backdrop that mirrored his “Nothing Was The Same” album cover and sang (a rarity for the rapper live) his groovy ‘80s-vibey new single “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” The effort was valiant, but not dynamic. By the time he got to his livelier smash “Started from the Bottom,” it was too late to grab the TV audience back. Though a load of pyrotechnics tried.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert and J-Hud

Hit or Miss: Hit

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s set was stirring. With U.S. flags hanging around their stage, the duo, singer Mary Lambert and a full band thoughtfully performed their opus for human rights and marriage equality, “Same Love.” What took the performance over the top, however, was a guest appearance by soul singer Jennifer Hudson—who came out to sing the second hook and then go back and forth with Lambert to wrap the offering and take a bow.

Kanye West: Woodland Vigilante

Hit or Miss: Miss

Artistically, Kanye West’s performance was a dark beauty. He ran through the first half of his “Yeezus” cut “Blood on the Leaves.” West appeared as a shadowy silhouette in a murky forest, spastically singing his ass off via Auto-Tune. So what’s to gripe about? Well, fans watching couldn’t tell if Kanye was truly present on stage at all, or if MTV was just playing a prerecorded clip. That is, until the lights came and he was standing front and center. It was cool. People just didn’t “get” it, which is kind of important some times.

Page 2: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and More

Perry Closes VMAs With a 'Roar'
Lady Gaga Opens the VMAs
VMAs' 55 Outrageous Fashions
10 Best VMA Performances Ever
MTV VMAs Quiz: 13 Questions
Timberlake, Gaga Rock Brooklyn
'N Sync Joins Justin Onstage
Miley Cyrus & Robin Thicke Team Up
Top 10 Crazy VMA Moments

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke Blur Their Performances

Hit or Miss: Both

As we’ve said already, Miley Cyrus’ set was very much so a clusterf… fantastic performance. After whipping through her smash “We Can’t Stop” wearing a fuzzy one piece bikini, the spotlight somehow drifted to Robin Thicke, looking like a charming Beetlejuice. Robin jumped into his Hot 100 chart-topper “Blurred Lines.” Now in a nude two-piece bikini and wearing a foam finger, Cyrus rubbed up on Thcike—even hitting him with a little twerk action. Somehow, rappers 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar joined the fray for Thicke’s new single “Give It 2 U.” It was, um, a lot to handle.

Bruno Mars Goes Ape

Hit or Miss: Hit

There’s something to be said about simplicity when whatever’s simply being done is awesome. Bruno Mars never moved more than three steps in any direction during his performance of new single “Gorilla.” But boy, did he sing! His voice soared and his passion was palpable as he performed the bedroom jam. Sure, it’d be tough to find many people who watched the VMAs for Bruno specifically. Names like Timberlake and Gaga eclipse is celebrity. But when his time came, Mars left his mark.

Lady Gaga Earns “Applause” 

Hit or Miss: Hit

Lady Gaga’s “Applause” show opener was an attention-grabber, for sure. Her performance began with her in a boxy white, nun-like outfit. Her dancers soon yanked her out of that and into a more form-flattering black bodysuit. That soon transformed to a blue getup with a blonde bob wig (like a younger Gaga once sported). Then came a yellow wig and face paint. And then another outfit change—a shell bra and floral panties. Gaga worked hard up there, earning a well-deserved ovation.

Katy Perry Knocks ‘Em Dead with “Roar”

Hit or Miss: Win

Katy Perry dropped all the imagery of her candy-coated “California Gurls” days and went Rocky on the VMAs. With the eyes of a tiger, Perry closed the show in a boxing ring with her new single “Roar.” After getting rubbed down and hands taped up in the corner, Katy was good to spar.  By the time the battle was done, she’d won. Her full voice roared at its peak. Seeing her raise a championship belt capped solid VMAs.