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I bemoaned last year’s MTV Video Music Awards as lacking the usual raucousness usually associated with the water cooler-worthy awards show. But last night’s VMAs, hosted once again by British comedian Russell Brand, didn’t disappoint. Intended to be a fitting tribute to the musical genius of the late Michael Jackson, it quickly turned in to one of the most awkward moments of television, ever.
The evening started out heartfelt with Madonna eulogizing Michael (in an outfit I can only assume was a nod to his “Bad” days) and Janet Jackson giving an impassioned performance as part of an MJ retrospective. People were feeling the love, as Brand kept urging, until minutes later when Kanye West pulled a Joe Wilson on Best Female Video winner Taylor Swift by grabbing the mic from her during her acceptance speech and proclaiming that Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was one of the best videos of all time. All time!
Swift, looking genuinely shocked and at only 19-years-old, couldn’t gather her wits about her quickly enough to respond and stood on the dais looking stunned. Beyonce looked stunned. The audience was stunned. Cue hasty cut to commercial.


Yes, we want the VMAs to be bawdy and irreverent and controversial–this is the original anti-awards award show, after all–but not at the expense of a seemingly sweet, hard-working country-pop-crossover star. This wasn’t like Brand poking fun at the Jonas Brothers’ purity rings and their squeaky clean image, this was stealing another artist’s victory lap.
This moment of hubris and incivility was so shocking and appalling that nothing that came after, not even Lady Gaga’s declaration that her win for Best New Artist was “For God and for the gays!,” or her blood-soaked performance of her new single, or Brand’s comments on the health care debate, could even compete for the controversy crown.
But, even worse than eclipsing Ms. Swift’s moment-in-the-sun, Mr. West eclipsed the rest of the spectacular show. Are people talking about Pink’s phenomenal Cirque de Soliel-esque, cardio/lung-shattering performance of “Sober?” What about Ms. Knowles’ knock-em’-down-drag-’em-out performance of “Single Ladies?” Or even my favorite moment: Eminem trying to navigate a congratulatory hug with a crown-to-toe red lace draped Lady Gaga upon awarding her a Moonman?
While people won’t soon stop talking about Kanye’s outburst, hopefully they will also remember Beyonce’s gracious retort. Upon winning the award for Best Video of the Year, Ms. Knowles invited Taylor Swift out to continue her thank yous.

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