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Commentary: Viewers had good reason to go gaga for VMAs

Courtesy of MTV

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An MTV-record 12.4 million viewers tuned in to the Video Music Awards Sunday night, according to Nielsen Co. data. But should that be any surprise?

The answer, in a word, is no.

MTV corrals all the biggest names in music for one huge night of pop music spectacle at the twilight of every summer. The 2011 edition was no different, featuring performances from superstars Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, The Throne (Jay-Z and Kanye West), Chris Brown and a tribute to Britney Spears.

A popular phrase I’ve been seeing floating around the Internet in reaction to the ratings is, “You can’t account for taste.” Yes, a lot of folks look down their noses at the VMAs, but those people need to realize that the VMAs aren’t designed to celebrate the Radioheads of the world. They’re designed to celebrate the power of pop music.

Pop is divisive … we know that. You either love it or hate it. But this year’s VMAs was pop on its biggest scale, and with so many of the genre’s biggest players in attendance, it’s no surprise that the show shattered ratings records.

We first found out in the pre-show that Beyoncé was pregnant … and Twitter nearly went down in flames in reaction. But hey, from a journalistic standpoint, if MTV can get that scoop over TMZ, more power to ‘em.

Possibly the best moment of the night was Bey’s, when after she performed “Love on Top,” she threw down her mic, took off her jacket and proudly rubbed her new baby bump. Cut to hubby Jay-Z and Kanye West celebrating like they just won the lottery and you get a seminal, sentimental moment that will likely be played out in all of the 2012 VMA promos next year.

Oh, and Lady Gaga was there.

I liked Lady Gaga’s – err, Jo Calderone’s – opening number.  Under the guise of her male alter ego, Gaga performed her latest single, “You and I,” with Queen’s Brian May on guitar … strangely enough.

As I said, I liked Gaga at that point, but then it started to get cumbersome. She played out the Jo Calderone guise much too far, and when it came time to present Britney Spears her honorary award, she stole the limelight with her (his?) awkward sexual advances.

That’s not to say I’m not a fan of Gaga’s, as I certainly appreciate her starpower. Her voice is incredible (if you don’t believe me, listen to her sing without a raging club track blasting as accompaniment to her vocals) and almost all of her tunes are catchy and fun radio fare. But come on, Gaga … we get it. We know you dress funny, and, most importantly, we know what your message is. No need to shove it down our throats for the duration of the show.

More simply, Britney Spears changed my life as a pre-pubescent fifth-grade boy. You don’t steal the spotlight during a tribute to her.

Chris Brown performed something, too. I can’t remember what song it was, because as he was flying around in the air doing acrobatics, I kept mentally preparing myself for the fact that he was going to culminate his act by landing in the crowd and punching someone in the face in one fell swoop.

Watching Kanye and Jay perform “Otis” from “Watch the Throne” was a treat – you can tell they’re genuinely having fun performing together. It was fun to watch, so much so that one guy in the audience felt the need to run on stage and join them. Sorry buddy, but you don’t interrupt The Throne.

And then there’s Lil Wayne. Goodness gracious. MTV hyped up Wayne’s performance on the show like none other, with Wayne even going so far as to officially release his new album, “Tha Carter IV,” at midnight after the show had concluded. Probably wasn’t the best idea to lead in to the sale of your album as his performance was absolutely dreadful.

Performing two songs from the new album, Weezy really tanked on the second, called, quite simply, “John.” In actuality, it was a good move to perform that track, as the one-word title of the track might have been the only word muttered in the performance that wasn’t censored. And not only were the lyrics almost entirely indecipherable, but to make matters worse, Weezy stripped off his shirt to reveal a pair of cheetah-print jeggings. My worst nightmares had been realized.

All that aside, Adele performed. Thank you, Adele.

However, the awards themselves – and this is nothing new – were questionable at best.

Katy Perry won Video of the Year for “Firework.” All right … whatever. It was a pretty good pop video with a semblance of a message. But does it really make sense that she lost the Best Female Category to Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a video that didn’t even get a nod for Video of the Year?

In what freaking world is Justin Bieber’s “U Smile” video worthy of Best Male Video? The category was stacked, with Cee-Lo’s awesome “F— You,” Eminem’s terrifying “Love the Way You Lie” and Kanye’s epilepsy-inducing “All of the Lights” videos competing in the same category. Choosing Bieber over those easily superior vids is nothing short of laughable.

And isn’t it laughable that there’s a category called Best Pop Video? I implore somebody out there to find more than two or three VMA nominees (outside of the Best New Artist category) who can’t be considered “pop.” Cage the Elephant, maybe? The Black Keys?

Assessing logic to VMA results is a hopeless affair, I know. But if you’re celebrating pop, celebrate good pop. Celebrate “All of the Lights,” not “U Smile.” Celebrate “Born This Way,” not “Firework.”

More importantly, celebrate the fact that if you missed the VMAs, MTV will show the reruns 8 trillion times in the coming days.

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