VMAs 2011: The Winners, the Losers, and Lady Gaga


Image Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

This year’s Video Music Awards veered wildly between emotional highs (the Amy Winehouse tribute, Adele’s performance) to a wide variety of desperately awkward lows (The Fake Beastie Boys? Why?) In some ways, the show felt almost deliriously schizophrenic, an attempt to honor VMAs past — Hi, Dave Grohl! — while also attracting the eyeballs of a generation barely old enough to be called a generation. Still, a few people stuck out from the quagmire of this year’s Video Music Awards… and a few other people undeniably fell victim to the show. Here are five winners and five losers from Sunday’s show:

WINNER: Tyler, the Creator
Give MTV credit: They prominently featured the Odd Future frontman, clearly praying he would do something interesting. Tyler did not disappoint: the young rapper dissed Bruno Mars, kept the Bleep Man working overtime, and generally seemed like the last person left on Earth who was actually genuinely excited about the VMAs. Upon winning the Best New Artist category, he proclaimed, “I wanted this s— since I was nine!”

LOSER: Essentially Everyone Else Who Gave an Acceptance Speech
All the Non-Tyler people who won a Moon Man were almost comically self-serious. Bieber thanked God and Jesus; Britney thanked God, her children, and her management team; Nicki Minaj generously called her mentor/benefactor Lil Wayne “the greatest rapper alive” in her speech; perhaps most disappointingly, Lady Gaga couldn’t seem to decide how much to commit to her drag look, which meant that watching her speech was like watching an alcoholic Ralph Macchio give an inspirational speech about snowflakes.

WINNER: Beyoncé
Turning a performance of “Love on Top” into a televised pregnancy announcement? Genius.

LOSER: Britney Spears
Poor Britney. Returning to the VMAs for the first time in three years to receive a Vanguard lifetime achievement award, the pop star was double-swooped by two other famous divas. Gaga-in-Drag trampled the first half of Britney’s acceptance speech, trying to convince Brit-Brit to re-enact her famous Madonna liplock. Then, Britney’s speech suddenly transformed into an introduction for the next performer: Beyoncé. And let’s not get into the decision to have the Sparkle Motion tweens re-enact the various phases of Britney’s career.

WINNER: Russell Brand
Brand tends to get a bad rap for his two years of hosting the VMAs, but the Brit comedian was a true breath of fresh air when he strolled onstage at the two-hour mark to give a passionate, funny, moving tribute to his late friend Amy Winehouse.

LOSER: Kevin Hart
Future generations will debate: Was Kevin Hart the host of this year’s VMAs, or not? The comedian introduced the show with an extended monologue that certainly sounded like a host’s monologue. He also featured prominently in skits that occasionally played during the show. One thing that’s not debatable: Hart just wasn’t very funny. Maybe the VMAs are toxic for comedians.

WINNER: Kanye West
West spent the 2011 awards playing the Best Friend role, collaborating with Jay-Z on a performance of “Otis” and then giving his mentor a friendly back-rub after Beyoncé’s performance. It was a far cry from West’s appearance at the 2009 awards.

LOSER: Anyone hoping for something unexpected
That said, some of us kind of dug West’s “I’ma let you finish” outburst: It was the rare burst of anxious energy in an awards show that feels more stage-managed every year. Maybe it’s because the show tends to feature ever-younger performers — who tend to be extremely respectful and cautious — but we could use more insanity.

WINNER: Perceived Authenticity3
Adele might not have won any big Moon Men last night — her multiple wins were all in technical categories — but the singer undoubtedly stole the show with a blessedly straightforward performance of “Someone Like You.” In general, the best moments of last night followed that no-frills aesthetic. Jay-Z and Kanye West, whose last few VMA performances have tended toward the grandly operatic, looked like a couple of dudes just hanging out onstage during “Otis.” The most moving moment of the night was video of Amy Winehouse singing with Tony Bennett, unadorned except for her natural talent. And Mrs. Jay-Z left behind her “Single Ladies”-esque pyrotechnics and showed off the best special effect of all: Life. The kids of today are all about realness, maaan.

LOSER: Outré Ridiculata
We may be reaching the end of the post-Gaga trend towards pop hyperbole. Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry might have won multiple awards, but their whole “Dress-as-Logan’s-Run-extras” act feels like it’s getting a bit old. And the VMAs really need to shake up their design a bit: The stage this year resembled the interior of the spaceship from Alien. Not everything needs to be a circle stage, guys.

You could argue that Gaga’s decision to spend the night in her drag persona, “Jo Calderone,” was awkward and annoying, a joke that went too long. And you’d be right. This was the rare instance in which Gaga did not fully commit to a look: She couldn’t seem to decide how much she was playing her role, and in her later speeches she fell back and forth between being “Jo” and being “Gaga.” Still, give Gaga credit for doing something different — especially since she could have easily tried to up the crazy factor with some sort of “Born This Way” alien-transvestite-robot-queen get-up. Also, Jo-Gaga got some of the best lines of the night: Don’t act like your TV didn’t explode when she/he introduced Britney Spears by saying, “I used to hang posters of her on my wall and touch myself.”

Tell us what you think, PopWatchers: Who was the big winner and the big loser of the 2011 VMAs?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Comments (285 total) Add your comment
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  • Adam J

    Jessie J owned the throne they gave her on the side stage. I loved seeing her on SNL earlier in the year. It would have been fun to see some full performances, especially that Cyndi Lauper cover she was teasing.

    • The Edge of Coffin

      Lady GaGa..worst opening show of VMA ..ever!

      • Stacface

        I AGREE!!!!!!

      • Ex-Fan

        as much as I love Gaga, she needs to step up. There is nothing to be excited about her alter-ego Annie Lennox performance. My friends thought it was kind of tacky. She needs to stop copying others or just sing.

      • Steph

        Most definately the performance made me want to throw up

      • Swiss Yodell

        Gaga turns BlaBla

      • Britney

        I am the legendary..

      • Melissa

        I thought Gaga’s performance was great during the actual song. I thought that part was REALLY wonderful. Could have done without all the talking though.

      • c

        Gaga is AWESOME…no matter what she does!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        LUV YA MOTHER MONSTER!!!!!!!

      • Rania

        Gaga was pathetic. The audience was cringing and smirking. She was mess. It was painful to watch Gaga. Brit and Bey looked gorgeous!

      • Zach

        Gaga was brilliant. YES, it went on for far too long, but it was great performance art when it started. People who don’t get it? Meh. You can have your Adele and eat Gaga too.

      • b to the p

        Alter egos are career killers. Just ask Andy Kaufman. Gaga’s performance reeked of desperation. In fact, all three–Minaj, Katy Perry, and Gaga–try too hard to be interesting and fail at every turn. Jessie J is the big winner–she sang every artist’s songs better than they do!!

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      • Nancy

        Those statistics up there don’t lie! Britney was robbed, and Adele didn’t even get an award. What is up with this mess?

      • P

        The disgusted look from Justin Bieber’s face when Gaga performed was..PRICELESS!BTW,I wanna share a good news to you.My best friend ,she just has announced her wedding with a millionaire man who is a celebrity !they met via
        Celebmingle.C óM ..it is the largest and best club for celebrity and their admirers to chat online. …You do not have to be rich or famous. ,but you can meet one , It’s worthy a try,Maybe you wanna check it out or tell your friends!


      • Lola

        i agree!!!!!

      • woo gaga

        i am a huge gaga fan and what she did was diffrent and i like the fact that she is a relly talanted actor as well as a singer. i love the fact that it wasnt her cause it just makes seeing her a lot rearer and when things are rear they aree worth more when usee them :) she potrayed a great image of her other side and acted it out the hole time witch takes a lot of skill. even with the brittney thing she did not taake all britneys spot light and brittney didnt take it seriesly because after the speach was over the camra whent to them and they were laughing about it and they were hugging and talking about it drrrr guyss u got it alll wrong abouther she is amazing

      • OMG

        should I waste my time on Gaga -The Galdiator Helmet Face !?

      • Yawn This Way

        Lady FLOPga was copying Madonna’s “Bye Bye Baby” performance from the Girlie Show tour. Madonna already did the drag thing almost 20 years ago. Then Gaga tried to kiss Britney just because Madonna did it. That tranny is desperate for attention.

      • Reformed Gin Queen

        I agree with “Yawn This Way”. Most of the online (FB, Twit) comments regarding the VMA’s have been so freaking pos, I thought I had watched a different awards show. The whole enchilada was a mess, and not a glorious one. The best part, for me, was Russell Brand and the tribute to Amy Winehouse, altho I admit to scratching my head over the selection of Bruno Mars, and the brevity of the tribute. Everything else was derivative (yes, “Yawn”, Madge did it all…and way better than GaGAH) and embarrassingly awful.

      • Adelelover

        I loved what gaga did because it was different and unique and mostly what other people would never do. Thats a real artist. Adele was good too at Someone Like You

      • monster

        Gaga is so over rated, i didnt watched her performance. so bloated ego….. she is CRAP! I miss Christina Aguilera though, with her nice voice and a real singer.

      • sean

        Agreed. The joke has gotten old. What’s left for her to do but have her vajajay record an album while she’s dressed up like a sea lion and making out with a priest in a wheelchair? We’re done Gaga.

      • grow up

        lady gaga was amazing. although i agree that she kept getting confused between being gaga and being jo, i think her performance was great. her song choice was outstanding. she didnt perform born this way or the edge of glory like some may think because those are the songs everyone knows and most like, instead she chose a song which is on the rise to popularity, has a little guitar which rock n roll music lovers may enjoy, and overall has a lot of components for a wide variety of viewers. and to all the people that bash on lady gaga, i think you people are a load of judgemental crap. lady gaga doesnt have an ego, she just is who she is. whether some people think her “look” is manufactured or not, its still a good message and its as simple as her song. be who you are, no matter what, you are you and thats all that matters. my friend who is gay came out to her parents because of everything lady gaga is about and lady gaga really changer her life for the better. and personally, whether you like the music or not, i love it. i think she is very talented. she can dance and sing. and i mine as well compare her to britney spears whos song have no meaning whatsoever and her voice isnt that great. all she really has going for her is her dancing, which is in no way comparable to michael jackson and the only reason she got that award was because they had to give it out. basically my main point her was just the i thought lady gaga did well at the vmas.

    • Beyoncilicious


      • KoKo

        time for LGG to take a rest.

      • pointofview

        Here’s why I can’t stand Lady GaGa. She pushes the envelope with her clothing and with her points of view, but her songs are Madonna knock-offs and boring party tunes. If you’re going to base your entire career off pushing the envelope, acutally PUSH THE ENVELOPE and create something no one’s ever heard/seen/done before. Otherwise, you’re just Madonna in bad drag.

      • Didi

        I thought Gaga’s performance was really good. Madonna could NEVER get up there and play the piano with Brian May. Gaga’s music is so much more than Madonna’s ever was because she has a lot of rock in her, and those amazing piano skills.

      • The Flake Monster

        Gaga copies Annie Lennox 1984 Sweet Dreams Grammy performance. How cheap can it be?

      • Rania

        The audience was cringing and smirking at Gaga. She was a mess. It was so painful to watch Gaga. Gaga is over. Brit and Bey looked gorgeous!

      • Boycott Her

        Grace Jones, Christina, Kylie, Madonna, Bette Midler and now Annie Lennox…

        Gaga is the biggest fraud and copycat in the pop music industry America has ever produced in history!

      • Zzzz

        Lady Gaga intended her latest album “Born This Way” to be her magnum opus, she predicted it would be the album of the decade. It turns out Lady Gaga is a lousy artist and a lousy psychic. Considering how much Lady Gaga hyped “Born This Way”, it’s one of the biggest bombs in history.

      • Wake Up People

        just give her chance, she would copy the exact frown a person has on thier face if they were constipated. lady gagme SUCKS. LAMEST copycat in history.

      • Nancy

        fonzi at least had water skis

      • Ridiculous

        How could the :Born This Way” album be a bomb when it sold over a million in the first week… lousy songwriter??
        Go look up the songs:
        Bloody Marry
        Marry The Night
        Government Hooker
        I could go on…but If you understand what these songs are about (particularly in Americano) her writing is actually very creative and relevant. oh.. and do tell me who she is copying with these songs???

    • Someone Like You

      Adele is the real winner !

      • The Xerox Monster

        she copies Mariah.. LOL

      • Fed Up With Mess

        i stop buying Gaga music since Born This Way…cheap, classless and imitation. I am done with her.

      • monsters

        we have been had

    • Damita Jackson

      The disgusted look from Justin Bieber’s face when Gaga performed was..PRICELESS!

      • Rachel

        Beiber looked that way during the whole show. It seemed like he was a junior high school kid visiting the high school and no one but Selena would talk to him. He was POUTING. hysterical!

      • R I P

        Greatest album of this decade?” By God no, there’s only two tracks we really liked in Gaga’s album.

        Time to go away for good, Mrs Carbon Copy Gaga.

      • Lady Sheba LaLa

        …of course even teens start to notice that Gaga is starting to look sad, insipid and pathetic.

    • Pathetic Gaga

      GaGa won Video With A Message?

      Yeah right…Video With a Copycat Machine stuck to her left ball..

      • madness complete madness

        Yeah Madonna should have been awarded as well

    • Yvonne

      So True! I just wanted Jessie J to perform the whole show and Adele. I was sold by Cyndi Lauper cover, and those people in audience were lucky to have her, they could hear the whole songs. :)

    • BS GaGa

      Lady GAGA is desperate for sales …. She stoops to the lowest Morals … she has a good voice but is loosing herself and her soul in the mist of so much ugly display of what she wants to call talent…

      She is trying to show how lost she is in her disappointing life… What profits a man if he gains the whole world but looses his soul…

    • Rebecca Schaeffer

      “Future generations will debate: Was Kevin Hart the host of this year’s VMAs, or not?” Umm… I doubt it. And who is Kevin Hart?

  • Court

    adele was amazing. lady gaga was lame and is played out.

    • GaGa The Queen of 99cents album

      LGG ..You and I sucks!

      • Copycat This Way

        Voted Gaga. Someone 5 minutes of fame is up.

  • Jeff from Jersey; yes New Jersey

    I didn*t know Ms. Perry was a spokesperson for the American Cheese Association.

    • NonEntity

      Cat-Hiss Pear-eye has always been a blockhead, but now we know what exactly the block is made out of: cheese! She should go to the moon moon moon and breathe in without a space suit. Now that would be pop!

  • C. McKnight

    I thought the loser of the night was Katy Perry. She tried so hard to be like Lady Gaga. Her dresses were stupid.

    • Michelle

      I agree. Katy doesn’t seem to know who she is. She is trying to be like Gaga, but without the creativity or full commitment.

    • Gaga Queen of Copycat

      Gaga is a MESS!

      • whatever

        Adele is very classy. Not a clown..or a freak.

      • madness complete madness

        she is more than a mess, she is finished her music these days arent up to par with her counter parts! Bub Bye

  • Kris

    Adele was great! But when they do all the bleeping when people are singing , sometimes it just makes
    it worse than just hearing the bad language in the
    first place. And its not like everyone knows what is being said anyway.

  • Templar

    Gaga gets the copycat award [again] by taking her schtick from the tomboy {Anybody’s] who hangs around The Jets in West Side Story. If Gaga ever had an original thought it would die of loneliness.

    • Godney Spears

      Who will she copy next? Whoopi Goldberg ? LOL

      • Templar

        Fat Elvis, Minnie Pearl, Tiny Tim, Pee Wee Herman. The possibilities are endless. And doubtless will become even more lame.

      • English Man in NY

        agree 120% ..the more I listen to Gaga I think she is just hype no substance. Cant wait for her super stardom to fade away in 2 years.

      • NonEntity

        I thought Heshe was doing the Fonz. Or Hilary Swank.

  • the fact hurts

    Lady Gaga chose to look like an Italian lesbian truck driver is beyond me.

    L A M E !

    • I just cant help

      LMFAO almost peeing myself!

      • Reality Chic

        Please people stop dissing Gaga..she is the best so far. I mean the best copycat from USA..opsss!

  • pdt

    Poor Britney. She looked genuinely touched when she won that first trophy, and she was kind of emotional when she won the Video Vanguard award…and then Gaga creeped the crap out of her. It was really a half-assed tribute that was designed as a way to get her to attend the show.

    But good for Beyonce. That was a really great moment for her. And Jay-Z’s face afterward was priceless. Hard knock life, indeed.

    • Liza

      Gaga didn’t actually creep her out. IT WAS REHEASED REPEATEDLY, IT WAS MEANT TO GO LIKE THAT.

      • pdt

        Believe what you want. I’m sure part of it was rehearsed, obviously, but Gaga took it to levels of extreme. It’s completely unnecessary for someone with a voice like hers to resort to gimmicks. See Adele for further clarification.

      • deew

        Well some people actually want to be entertained, if all the performances were like Adele’s I would have either fell asleep or not bothered to watch it. The fact that GaGa does something completely different and unexpected is what makes a lot of ppl want 2 watch it. me for 1

      • Sia

        deew- Everyone is different and that’s good but ADELE IS JUST PURE TALENT. Half those pop singers can’t carry a tune and we actually need more singers like Adele not her style but CAN ACTUALLY SING FOR ONCE.

      • Meh

        This was a complete shame. It was a great vocal moment for her, but she had to go and put on this shtick. This chick is nothing without the next gimmick.

    • madness complete madness

      Britney deserved more

      • stacey

        i agree! Britney was totally ripped off in her moment and MTV should be ashamed of how they did that!! after all the years of hard work she has done etc ..
        <3 Britney to pieces ..

  • Ben

    The biggest winners were those people who stopped watching MTV when it went from a music channel to a mostly “reality shows” channel. It has got about as much to do with music as the SYFY channel has to do with science-fiction/!


      Ben, I could not have said it any better! I missed the VMA Awards from the mid-late 80’s and early 90’s. The VMA’s were all about pop, rap, hip-hop music. MTV has changed a lot!

    • Tiffany

      So true! MTV having a video award show is like the Food Network having an award show for best car of the year. MTV doesnt’ play videos!!!!

  • Epic Fail

    The problem with Gaga is; she is trying hard to be mediocre and forgettable.

    *close coffin*

    • Snoozefest Named Gaga

      Gaga pulled a 2 out of 5* performance as usual :(

  • Lem

    EW looking for ways to bash Britney as usual. Why am I not surprised?

    Lets ignore the fact that she won the Vanguard award and WON for Pop video (and actually gave a speech), but yeah…she “lost” the night.

    • Lem

      To add on…LMFAO at them saying Britney lost the night. Katy Perry gives a DRUNK acceptance speech and only wins like 3/9 awards — being deemed the frontrunner from the getgo, and she’s not even an option for “loser”?

    • Marissa

      I’m a huge fan of Britney, but that tribute was pitiful and she deserved more. That’s why she’s a “loser” of the night. She got the short end of the stick!

      • Lem

        I totally agree, but in that case MTV should have been the loser for putting on a lame tribute, not Britney herself.

      • Marissa

        Oh, but also, I voted for Lady Gaga.

    • Lina Morgana

      Britney is amazing and the tribute wasnt what i expected, for all the bells and whistles the stage and set up , the show itself fell flat! Mtv threw ALOT of shade at Britney. Britney is so down to earth, love her

    • Ace

      They’re sympathizing with her in this instance, not bashing her (other than to question why anyone should receive a lifetime achievement award at 29, which I think is reasonable). The only reason they put her in the “loser” category is because her moment in the spotlight got lost between Gaga being ridiculous and Beyonce being pregnant.

  • Mr E

    Sometimes, I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

    • Melissa

      BEST COMMENT!! ;)

  • Stacface

    I was so disappointed in Lady Gaga. Her decision to dress like a dude was not a wise one. And she sang my least favorite song from her newest album. :( I thought she would top the meat dress from last year but instead she was disappointing! :( I felt like alot of people were stumbling over their introductions and speeches. The whole show didn’t feel very “put together”. Pre-show was kinda lame too. What happened to you, MTV?!! :( When I was a teenager we used to live for the VMA’s. We never knew what was gonna happen…it was exciting. Not anymore. :(

  • what a joke

    Lady Gaga won a Video With A Message?

    WTF, a Video With A Xerox Machine stuck at her left ball.

  • Max

    I feel Jessie J was the winner of the night. She was better than the rest of the performances. I wish they would’ve shown more of her. Too much swearing, the TV council needs to get on MTV for that.

    • tree of life

      I have to agree. I love that Jessie J sang the hell out of every single song…she can sing anything!!! And props to her for singing TLC.

      • stacey

        Jessie J rules!! good choice for a DJ!!

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