Ultimately, the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards was a battle of classy versus trashy.
The show's most talked-about moments -- performances by Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake, arguably -- generated online chatter for two very different reasons.
In one corner: Miley Cyrus, who was apparently determined to wage her final war against "Hannah Montana" comparisons. She gyrated on stage, flaunted stripper-inspired moves and demonstrated inexplicable tongue movements -- and that was just in the first half of her performance. Later, she stripped down to a bra/underwear getup to perform "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke.
In all fairness, Lady Gaga wore a similar bra getup earlier in the show, but somehow her form of sexiness didn't seem as forced and overt.
In the other corner: Justin Timberlake, whose 16-minute performance convinced many viewers the contemporary music world isn't only about shock value. Sure, JT pulled out some surprises -- chiefly, the highly anticipated *NSYNC reunion. Yep, it really happened, folks.
But he also demonstrated a professionalism that was lacking in other parts of the ceremony. He shared his Video Vanguard Award with his fellow *NSYNC members. Later, when he won Video of the Year for "Mirrors," he talked about his love for his grandparents.
I know, I know. We're talking about MTV, not the Oscars. But a little classiness is always appreciated.
In other highlights, the show was definitely all about reunions. In addition to the *NSYNC performance, we learned Danity Kane is reuniting -- sans D. Woods, apparently. Also, T-Boz and Chilli from TLC appeared on stage during the show.
Here's a full recap of the ceremony. Am I being too tough on Miley? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
9 p.m. - Lady Gaga opens the show by performing "Applause." The performance begins in an almost operatic manner, with Lady Gaga's head in a white box. She does some freaky eye movements as she sings the opening verses. Sadly, I've had this nightmare before.
Once the beat picks up, things get a little more normal. And by "normal," I mean there is no fake blood on stage. Gaga goes through multiple on-stage costume changes during the song, culminating in a bikini getup and face paint. I'm sure there's some complex meaning behind all this, but it's over my head.
9:08 - Best Pop Video goes to Selena Gomez for "Come and Get It." It's her first actual Moonman trophy and she's thrilled as she accepts the award on stage.
9:19 - Miley Cyrus performs "We Can't Stop" and I'm temporarily speechless. Miley is sporting a teddy bear leotard and yes, twerking is definitely involved. This performance is too much. I'm especially referring to the part when Miley rubs her face in someone's rear end. I'm not the only one who's a little freaked out. Many audience members look confused.
BUT WAIT. There's more. Miley ditches the leotard and strips down to a bra and underwear to perform "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke. Suddenly, she's flaunting stripper moves galore. And gyrating with one of those foam fingers that people bring to sporting events. What is happening here?? Perhaps 2 Chainz can save things when he joins them to perform "Give It 2 U." Um, no. Miley keeps gyrating.
9:24 - Lil' Kim is in the house. I've missed you, Kim. Welcome back!
9:25 - Best Hip Hop Video goes to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for "Can't Hold Us." They give a shout-out to "all the homies nominated."
9:32 - Confession: After hearing Gaga's "Applause" on a Kia commercial, I must admit the song is growing on me.
9:34 - Kevin Hart takes the stage and delivers a brief monologue. He says Miley needs a pregnancy test after her performance. I won't disagree.
9:37 - Wow...I still have trouble considering Jared Leto a rock star. Especially with that outfit, which may or may not feature blood stains.
9:38 - Time for a Kanye West performance. He performs "Blood on the Leaves." Well, there's not too much shock value with this one. The stage is dark, there's a background featuring trees and leaves...and Kanye seems really angry. The censors stay busy and Twitter gets the inevitable deluge of references to the Kanye West/Taylor Swift debacle. And what's up with the excessive autotune?
9:49 - Best Female Video goes to Taylor Swift for "I Knew You Were Trouble." This is one of the few times when I'm actually happy about Taylor winning something. Sorry, I just couldn't handle seeing Miley again. Taylor dedicates the award partially to the guy who inspired the song, "who knows exactly who he is." So...she's talking about Harry Styles, right?
9:51 - Best Video with a Social Message goes to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for "Same Love" featuring Mary Lambert. They say the gay rights song is a testament to what's happening in America. "Gay rights are human rights, there is no separation," Macklemore says.
10:00 - JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE!!!! He begins the performance with "Take Back the Night," but I can't stop thinking about the *NSYNC reunion. Don't let me down, guys. Then, he transitions into "SexyBack," which I enjoy...even though the audio seems a bit off. After that, we get "Like I Love You" followed by "My Love" and "Cry Me a River," "Senorita" and "Rock Your Body."
Side note: Is Lady Gaga still wearing her seashell bra in the audience? I believe so.
The music slows a bit...and then...IT'S TIME. Oh yes, *NSYNC is reunited and I feel so good. The guys start with "Girlfriend," followed by "Bye Bye Bye." Then, the *NSYNC guys disappear as Justin performs "Suit & Tie." Boo. As much as I love solo Justin, I really wanted more *NSYNC. A little anti-climatic, right? Anyway, JT stays on stage and performs "Mirrors." And...this performance has officially hit the 15-minute mark. JT wraps things up after 16 minutes. Too long, too short or just right?
10:17 - But JT isn't leaving the stage yet. He accepts the Video Vanguard Award from Jimmy Fallon and the crowd goes wild, chanting his name. JT says, "I don't deserve this award but I'm not going to give it back" and says the guys from *NSYNC deserve credit for the award, too.
When we finally go to commercial, it's 10:21. What did we learn during these 21 minutes? Justin Timberlake is awesome. End of discussion.
10:26 - Kevin Hart is back on stage. I don't appreciate him making fun of the other members of *NSYNC. He says they've gained weight.
10:30 - Best Song of the Summer is "Best Song Ever" by One Direction. Of course this is a fan-voted award. They thank their fans and plug their movie.
10:33 - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis perform "Same Love," joined by Mary Lambert. This is a great song. And it gets even better when Jennifer Hudson shows up on stage!
10:43 - Artist to Watch is Austin Mahone. "This is honestly one of the coolest things ever," he says.
10:45 - Speaking of reunions...T-Boz and Chilli from TLC are on stage! They introduce a performance by Drake.
10:46 - Drake performs "Hold On We're Going Home," followed by "Started from the Bottom."
10:55 - Best Male Video goes to Bruno Mars for "Locked Out of Heaven." It's apparently his first Moonman. He takes the stage and gives a brief acceptance speech.
11:03 - Bruno Mars performs his new single, "Gorilla." Major special effects lighting. It's a little intense. I'm not feeling the song at first, but it grows on me. He's a pretty awesome performer.
11:15 - Video of the Year goes to Justin Timberlake for "Mirrors." YES, YES, YES. "This is a really special video for me because it's a tribute to my grandparents," he says, adding that his grandpa passed away in December. "This is for you, granny." He adds, "This is amazing because it's so personal for me."
11:18 - Katy Perry closes the show by performing "Roar" outside in Brooklyn. The performance has a boxing theme. She's in a boxing ring and everything. As much as I love this song, I can't get over the fact that it sounds so similar to "Brave" by Sara Bareilles. But apparently, Sara is laughing all the way to the bank.
Back to the performance: "Brave" reservations aside, I really enjoy this. It's one of Katy's better performances and I have no shame in predicting I will eventually add this song to my list of personal power anthems.
11:22 - We're done! What did you think?