Just when I was willing to bet my December paychecks that nothing could top this year's MTV Video Music Awards -- from the performances (Gaga bleeding to death on live TV) to the meltdowns and slop-tastic messes (Kanye bullying Taylor Swift; a cracked out Lil Mama jumping on stage with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys), the American Music Awards came along and proved me wrong. Really, really, really wrong.
Here are a few of the highlights and low lights of the evening:
Janet Jackson: Clinical tests have proven that it's nearly impossible to object to sitting through a medley of Janet's greatest hits (I already know that when I'm on my deathbed one of my biggest regrets will be never having learned the choreography to the breakdown in the "If" video). But whoever dressed her in that dookie brown Robin Hood costume needs to be fired. And then re-hired and then fired again.
Kelly Clarkson: Who needs pyrotechnics or marching bands or an army of rabid hot pink poodles driving Zambonis over a heart-shaped ice rink made out of human flesh when you can sing like that? Sure, she can be a little snoozy, but Kelly is dependable and amidst all the flashy crashing and burning on that stage, she stood out as one of the best performances of the night.
Keith Urban: Out's photo department is wondering if there's some kind of equation for the inverse relationship between how badly Keith Urban wants to kiss a girl and how many girls he's kissed before? Because that song certainly made it sound like he's only been kissing boys up until now. Or maybe it's just his relentlessly flat-ironed hair?
Lady Gaga: Strobing skeleton costume with a peach strap strategically placed to resemble a phallus? Check. Breaking a glass box with a mic stand to gain access to a piano? Check. Piano bursting into flames while being played? Check. Bottles of Jameson broken over aforementioned flaming piano? Check. Best performance of the night? Check check check.
Jennifer Lopez: Where do we even begin? The tired boxing motif? The wretched new single, "Louboutins" (what's next? "Toyota Prius"? "Cheez-its"?)? The granny panties worn as outerwear? The falling on her ass? The "I cannot believe I just fell on my ass" hissy fit she threw as she stomped off stage surrounded by her pack of cowering back up dancers (and presumably without knowing she was still being filmed)? Definitely not the knock out that J. Lo had hoped for -- but in some strange way this disaster might have done her some favors. I know I'll be YouTubing her performance at least 43 times today.
Adam Lambert: Mere moments after his decidedly raunchy performance -- from miming getting head from a male dancer to making out with his (reportedly straight) male bass/keyboard player (above) -- the Internet was already ablaze with detractors hating on him, fans coming to his defense, and everything in between. One thing is clear, even after Janet's "Nipplegate," even after Madonna sticking her tongue in Britney Spears's mouth, even in 2009, America still has a lot of hang ups about sex, sexuality, and queerness. It's anyone's guess as to how this will play out for Adam in the coming days -- his album, For Your Entertainment, drops today -- but he's already said he doesn't regret the routine, nor do I think he should. Making risky, difficult choices about representation isn't easy and it's when people are suddenly put in the position of actually having to stand behind an artist who is truly and unapologetically gay that you learn who your real fans are and which fans are only willing to celebrate you as long as you stay a safe, fun, flambo, -- but ultimately nonthreatening -- entertainer.
-- NOAH MICHELSON
Previously > Adam Lambert Responds