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Commentary: The fortunes and the mishaps of the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards

Courtesy of MTV Press

Thursday night’s MTV Video Music Awards confirmed to viewers what listeners of pop radio already knew – One Direction has got that one thing. Essentially a public coronation for the quintet, One Direction received honors for Best Pop Video (“What Makes You Beautiful”),  Most Share-Worthy Video (“What Makes You Beautiful”) and Best New Artist. The latter of which was an impressive coup that satisfied even the most ardent Directioners and, along with the success of the United Kingdom’s The Wanted, suggests the dawn of another British invasion, boy-band style.

Rihanna won the most coveted award, Video of the Year, for her Calvin Harris collaboration “We Found Love.”  In an alarming breach of etiquette, Rihanna failed to mention Harris in her acceptance speech, but the producer took to twitter to quell any fears of a prolonged feud between the two: “I knew u meant to thank me @Rihanna its cool we’re fine lol #VMA”

The greatest upset of the evening occurred in the Best Hip-Hop Video category, where the heavily favored, “N—– in Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West was rightfully trounced by “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right),” by Drake featuring Lil Wayne.

The video for the Young Money anthem may have been the year’s funniest. It depicts Drake’s bar mitzvah, replete with chair-dancing, hip-hop dignitaries (a pious DJ Khaled comes to mind), and previously-unseen footage of an elementary school-aged Drizzy (Drake’s nickname). In his acceptance speech, a candid Drake spoke movingly about his Jewish and Canadian roots, and dedicated the VMA to “any kid that’s ever had a long walk home by yourself.”

Performance wise, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne stood out for their stirring rendition of “Yuck!” ‑ a profanity-laden testament to substance abuse and the female anatomy. 

R&B golden child and OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) card-carrier Frank Ocean crooned his smash “Thinkin‘ About You” from the critically-acclaimed album “Channel Orange.” His night, however, turned sour when he lost the aforementioned Best New Artist award to One Direction.

All the while, gossip-hounds were abuzz over Demi Lovato’s relegation to the pre-show, a surprising slight for the “Give Your Heart a Break” singer.  In fairness though, Lovato’s night wasn’t all bad as she reigned victorious in the Best Video with a Message category for “Skyscraper”.

Also notable was Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, who entertained the crowd with a floor routine during Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire.” Her teammates, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross, introduced Keys but were not offered the opportunity to perform like their Fab Five counterpart.

Taylor Swift, clad in a getup reminiscent of “Where’s Waldo?” closed the show with her new single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which probably presented a perplexing conundrum for Swift’s beau Conor Kennedy, whose relative Caroline Kennedy was speaking at the Democratic National Convention while the VMAs aired.

Other winners included:

Best Male Video: Chris Brown’s  “Turn Up the Music”

Best Female video: Nicki Minaj’s “Starships”

Best Rock Video: Coldplay’s “Paradise”

Best Electronic Dance Music Video: Calvin Harris’s “Feel So Close”

Best Direction: M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls”

Best Art Direction: Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake”

Best Choreography: Chris Brown’s “Turn Up the Music”

Best Editing: Beyoncé’s “Countdown”

Best Visual Effects: Skrillex’s “First of the Year (Equinox)”

Best Cinematography: M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls”

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