By Chris Richards
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010; C09
At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, it was time to let bygones be bygones, and let insipid awards shows be insipid awards shows. Sunday's ceremony in Los Angeles offered a handful of trophies that felt less meaningful than ever, as viewers held their breath for a potential act of contrition from Kanye West.
West, who infamously interrupted an acceptance speech by Taylor Swift at last year's VMAs, was scheduled to unveil a new song at the close of the program.
Swift premiered a new tune of her own earlier in the night, its lyrics clearly directed at the rapper. "Thirty-two is still growing up," the country-pop princess squeaked, wearing her most serious face. "Who you are is not what you did. You're still an innocent."
So all is forgiven? Everybody cool? On to the awards, then. Lady Gaga led the award nominations with 13 and took home a bunch, including Video of the Year, Best Pop Video and Best Female Video. When she accepted the latter clad in an Alexander McQueen frock and a mohawk of feathers, it was hard to tell whether she was getting verklempt or just talks as funny as she dresses.
Eminem took home the awards for Best Male Video and Best Hip-Hop Video, while 30 Seconds to Mars won for Best Rock Video.
But who cares, really? The draw of the VMAs is the wacky frisson of having pop's A-list all squished into one auditorium and hoping they fight. Or make out. Or both.
But there was little smooching or feuding on Sunday, despite some nudging from the host. "I want to encourage everyone to be on their worst behavior," comedian Chelsea Handler declared in her opening monologue, a string of flat punch lines that felt a few degrees below crass. Sample zinger: "It's time to acknowledge the big black elephant in the room. Where's Kanye?" Ugh.
The performances were a smidge more interesting. British newbie Florence + the Machine gave a compelling performance of indie single "Dog Days Are Over." Rap rookie Drake and R&B queen Mary J. Blige's rendition of "Fancy" trumped an overcooked duet from rapper B.o.B. and Paramore singer Hayley Williams.
And of course, there was Bieber. The 16-year-old (first name Justin) performed outside the Nokia Theatre, capping off a pop-locking performance with . . . a drum solo. As he flailed away inexplicably at a silver drum kit, a drumstick went flying from his hands.
But he didn't go home empty-handed: He won the viewers' choice award for Best New Artist.