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MTV Video Music Awards: Rihanna goes dark, Pink plays an oldie

September 06, 2012|By Todd Martens
  • Singer Rihanna performs onstage.
Singer Rihanna performs onstage. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images )

The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards didn't even begin with a single Thursday. If MTV is no longer the place to go for the latest videos, why should the network play it straight when delivering a song?

Rihanna, coming out of a pyramid-like structure, opened the show with the remix of her "Cockiness." It was surprisingly murky and cold-blooded, with Rihanna starting an awards show by declaring, “I want you to be my sex slave.” You won’t hear that at the Grammys. Or the Oscars. Or pretty much any awards show.

Honestly, there’s good reason. Rihanna didn’t possess a totally commanding look, for one, sporting a half-dress, half-lingerie outfit, all of it pink, and this song is all late-night shadows, not a party starter.

PHOTOS: 2012 MTV Video Music Awards | Arrivals

Even with superstar DJ Calvin Harris giving the song a more colorful backbeat, it was still one of the more industrial, dark openings for what is to be a two-hour celebration of pop culture. She was soon joined by Lana Del Rey-pal Aesop Rocky, and a bunch of bleeps followed, so the viewing audience was able to enjoy some moments of silence.

And thus, the MTV VMAs were off to a stunningly dreary and stuttering start. Thankfully, Rihanna went into a bit of her “We Found Love,” which seemed to awaken the crowd. The balloons helped. That also helped segue the show into some slight political undertones, as host-comedian Kevin Hart was escorted onstage with a group of little people masquerading as Secret Service members (the show runs concurrently with the Democratic National Convention).

A comment, perhaps, on how politicians trample the little folks? Or just MTV trying to make a joke out of little people, or "little security," as Hart said. 

More upbeat -- and the first chance at genuine fun nonsense -- came from Pink, who started her performance by showing that she lacks the confidence in her new material by opening with a few bars of “Get the Party Started.” She did a little acrobatic flip onto the stage and launched into her "Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” a song that doesn’t sound all that different from “Get the Party Started” or Katy Perry’s “Part of Me.” But this may be one of the rare times when a kiss-off song was delivered with confetti and giant dollar store lip costumes.

PHOTOS: 2012 MTV Video Music Awards | Arrivals

Of course, when the actual VMAs began is a matter of debate. The pre-show started at 7 p.m. Eastern time with Demi Lovato singing her "Give Your Heart a Break." The formula behind the track is rather simple: Hollering + Coldplay-like violins = the belief that somewhere in there is a catchy song.

Trophies were also handed out in the pre-show. Lovato won best video with a message for "Skyscraper" in case you thought her performance here was just a giant coinky-dink. The award for most share-worthy video went to One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful." The song also won for best pop video.

The MTV VMAs also provide an opportunity for singers show off their more candid side. Local club star Ke$ha, for instance, spoke of her "spiritual journey," referencing work she did with experimental bands and the ability to travel the world. The result of her inward quest? A single called "Die Young." It was unclear whether such an idea came to her while looking in the eyes of a turtle on a quest in some faraway land. 


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