2010, the start of a new decade. MTV obviously saw that as the perfect opportunity to have the MTV Video Music Awards revolve around the future, hence the futuristic stage design of the show. Despite this, quite a few VMA veterans were up for awards, including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Eminem. However, just as many fresh talents found themselves with nominations or performance slots as well, including Drake, Kesha, B.o.B, Florence + the Machine, and Justin Bieber. But I don’t know if anyone could have expected the stranglehold that one bold young pop star would have on this ceremony. A pop star who didn’t even perform on the show, but was still the biggest talking point of the night. As if her game-changing music videos that year weren’t enough, she upped the ante on ridicuous pop star fashion and left her stamp on VMA history. But is that enough to get this year’s ceremony a seal of approval? Let’s find out:
Straight from the late night shift of the E! Network came Chelsea Handler to take over the reins for the 2010 MTV Awards. Looking back on VMA history, the VMA hosting table has largely been a sausage party with only Bette Midler in 1984 and Rosanne Barr in 1994 being the only female hosts before Handler was given the responsibility in 2010. (Excluding the MTV VJ’s from 1986 and 1987.) And if there was ever a comedian who could carry baton of savagery after two years of mostly button-pushing from Russell Brand, Chelsea Handler is surely a worthy substitute. All the proof you need is on almost any episode of her now defunct Kardashian Network talk show. The biggest thing people came away talking about in regards to Chelsea was the fact that she got Lindsay Lohan, still in the process of trying to get her life back on track, to appear in her opening skit. Yes, not the fact that she predictably came right out the gate with a Lady GaGa parody get-up and had a dove fly out of her vaginal region. Not the references to smoking and drinking, which is a staple of Handler’s comedy in the first place. Not the fact that her funniest moments involved Justin Bieber, whether joking about him being his mom’s 401K plan or pondering the authenticity of his hair. Not even when she addressed the Kanye/Taylor thing from the year before by suggesting if it happens at this show, they winner should just kung-fu the rude asshole who cut them off. It was all “So how did they get Lindsay Lohan to agree to do that skit?” If only Lindsay’s movies can get that sort of buzz these days. Handler also encouraged fans to be on their worst behavior, which I approve of because that’s usually when the VMAs are at their most fun. For the record, her challenge fell on deaf ears because no debauchery and chaos happened on this entire show, but we’ll get to that. Chelsea ended her monologue with Rick Ross pulling up on a scooter and riding off into the VMA sunset with her. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a VMA monologue more predictable than hers; almost much every joke she did on this night, you could’ve guess before she even said it. At least she had jokes, unlike Jack Black in 2006, but there’s a reason Lindsay was more talked about than Chelsea.
I’m just gonna address this immediately before it stinks up my cerebrum with the reeking one-two punch of pickle juice and spray tan residue: the cast of Jersey Shore was on the show an I really wish they weren’t. That stain on the face of reality television and the stars that emerged from it were so very irritating, and the fact that they were inescapable, showing up in everything from an Enrique Iglesias music video to freaking wrestling programs (from not one, but TWO big companies), should be highly regretted in hindsight. They presented in a hot tub, because of course they did. They didn’t even present an award; they presented Sofia Vergara to the stage to present an award, and their entire appearance lead up to Chelsea Handler exiting their hot tub “pregnant” as the punchline. Who didn’t see that one coming?. The rest of the guest list, even people I don’t even like, was a major step up. Ellen DeGeneres had one of the funniest jokes of the show when presenting Best Female Video, the beautiful duo of Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj got a little flirty presenting Best Male Video, and the dudes from The Social Network looked incredibly nerdy while presenting one of the coolest modern rappers and coolest all-time R&B singers.
Four Glee cast members took the stage; not one of them was Lea Michele. No offense to Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Jane Lynch, and the late Cory Monteith, but I really wanted to see Lea Michele with them. Rachel Berry was the reason I started watching the show in the first place. Plus, she has an actual music career…even if her first music video did come out about three years after this show took place. Kesha presented with Trey Songz, and somehow found a way to look good while reportedly wearing a damn trash bag. Jared Leto looked and sounded disoriented presenting Florence + The Machine; hopefully he didn’t crash his bike during 30 Seconds to Mars’ red carpet entrance. Victoria Justice and Selena Gomez stunned while filling out the Nickelodeon/Disney Channel Star quota for the show. The cast of Jackass were back to promote Jackass 3D, the movie that featured that infamously gross Steve-O porta-potty scene. And though I’m not really a big fan of Cher, it was quite a surprise seeing her be the one to give out the biggest award of the night, big hair and all. Could’ve used some autotune though.
After abandoning the concept three years in a row, MTV decided to bring back pre-show performances. This year, however, they only booked one performance slot on it. That slot went to Nicki Minaj, back in that weird period of time where she and many other pop stars started resorting to cartoony gimmicks because Lady GaGa was doing it, and will.i.am, who accidentally started up a discussion on the ever controversial exercise of blackface. They massacre “Video Killed The Radio Star” and I can’t find the full performance anywhere. Have this condensed fan clip.
Speaking of rap collaborations, Shady was back! Eminem opened the show with a surprise drop-in from Rihanna. People may be right in stating that Eminem’s older discography greatly differs from and holds up much better than what he’s put out since Encore, but Recovery definitely has its defenders. It’s seen as Eminem coming back big after an embarrassing period of stagnation, and MTV had to be happy Eminem got his even a fraction of his mojo back because his performance was fantastic. (Rihanna’s vocals weren’t the best on this night, but what can you do?) Another big collaboration performance that delivered my opinion was B.o.B, Bruno Mars, and Paramore. Bruno’s only in it for a couple of seconds, but trust me: seeing Hayley Williams and B.o.B finally in the same place to perform “Airplanes” was awesome. Hayley then slayed along with the rest of her bandmates, and this was back when Paramore had five members instead of….I think they’re a duo now; it’s hard to keep track at this point. But I really liked this performance; sucks this has been Paramore’s final VMA appearance to date though. This was also the show where I really started to get into Florence + The Machine; Welch’s vocals while performing “Dog Days Are Over” was so good, I printed out my Stan card immediately.
Linkin Park did an on-location performance of their underrated song “The Catalyst”, and the setting actually worked for a song that massive-sounding. That said, you’d be better off listening to the studio version; it sounds way more epic than this performance did. Drake, Mary J. Blige, and Swizz Beatz went elegant and classy for their performance and it was fine. Usher performed, and it was probably my least favorite performance. I even preferred his pipsqueak-voiced protege Justin Bieber’s performance over his. I didn’t care much for Bieber’s performance either; but I did appreciate the closing seconds where The Biebs hit a drum solo at least. But the performances that really got people talking were from Taylor Swift and Kanye West, as they’d both written songs that came out of that incident from a year earlier. “Innocent” is one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs; it’s a song about forgiveness and growing up, and is one of Taylor’s best-written songs. That said, her vocals were quite off on this night and that’s a shame. Meanwhile, Kanye’s song was a salute to people who do dumb stuff all the time. It wasn’t even the best single from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “Monster”, “All of the Lights”, and “Power” are all better than whatever that was. Also, he threw an unneeded autotune mic in the performance and that almost killed his whole set for me. Almost. Song-wise, I prefer Taylor here, no question. Performance-wise, however, Kanye does win out. See, I can be fair. We’ll check back with these two for Chapter Three in 2015.
Excluding the technical categories because nobody really talks about them, there was only five winners total at this award show: Lady GaGa, Eminem, Justin Bieber, 30 Seconds to Mars, and The Black Keys. Basically, Lady GaGa snatched most of the trophies and left the scraps for everyone else. Eminem grabbed most of the scraps, leaving Bieber, 30 Seconds to Mars, and The Black Keys to take whatever was left. Make no mistake, Lady GaGa was the star of this show, and for good reason. Today, she may be out of the pop music bubble for the most part, but Lady GaGa was THE pop star at the time. She wore weird outfits, so everyone started doing it. She started making provocative videos, so other artists tried to push the envelope, most of the time with laughably catastrophic results. So in addition to wearing Moo and Oink at the end of the show and actually making it into a pop culture phenomenon, she won Video of the Year, Best Female Video, Best Dance Video, and Best Pop Video for “Bad Romance”, beating out artists like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Kesha in the process. In addition, her collaboration with Queen Bey somehow beat out “Airplanes” for Best Collaboration. I know “Telephone” was featured two pop titans on it, but B.o.B and Hayley Williams had an inescapable, certified banger of a song with that.
Speaking of B.o.B and Hayley Williams, neither of them won anything. In addition to losing Video of the Year, “Airplanes” was taken out by Eminem’s “Not Afraid” in both Best Male Video and Best Hip-Hop Video. Meanwhile, Hayley’s band Paramore suffered their third VMA loss in a row when “Ignorance” lost to “King and Queens” from 30 Seconds to Mars in Best Rock Video, a category which also included “Uprising” by Muse and “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + The Machine. Overall a good field, but I still haven’t gotten over the fact that Paramore have never won a VMA…OK, Hayley did win one solo down the road, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. And then there’s Bieber, beat out Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj, Kesha, and Broken Bells (whose nominated video featured the always beautiful Christina Hendricks going into space) for Best New Artist, which frustrated me because I voted to get Kesha that award for weeks. But of course, as I would eventually learn, it’s useless to vote against the male heartthrob acts at the VMAs. Finally, The Black Keys won Breakthrough Video for a clip where the two members beat each other down on a playground to get the attention of a beautiful woman. They beat out Gorillaz in a car chase with Bruce Willis for this award. You can probably guess who I would’ve preferred winning. Hell, “Stylo” would’ve won Video of the Year if I had a say in the matter.
Meat dress. That’s literally the only thing most people remember about this show. That meat dress, which is now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, was the biggest talking point of this show, aside from maybe Lindsay Lohan. On a show that featured decent performances from artists like Eminem, Florence + The Machine, and Paramore, Lady GaGa’s poultry ensemble won the night. Lady GaGa’s meat dress certainly grabbed more headlines than all of Chelsea Handler’s predictable jokes. Even with the performances from my favorite artists, they all delivered more creative, electrifying, and flashy performances at other VMAs or other award shows in general. All in all, the 2010 VMAs were pretty average. But of course after her dominance on this night, is it no surprise everyone assumed GaGa would rule the VMA’s again the following year? In due time, we’ll find out if that was the case.