MTV 2011 VMAs: Beyonce's baby bump, the moving Amy Winehouse tribute, and other memorable moments

Beyonce-pregnant-VMA

Image Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com

The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards were an undeniably strange production. Lady Gaga performed an entire song as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone…and then stayed in character for the entire show. (One EW commenter on our live-blog noted that this was probably the longest time Gaga has ever spent in one outfit.) Comedian Kevin Hart opened with a curiously extended monologue expressing his disappointment that he wasn’t hosting the show, but his frequent appearances thereafter made it seem like he actually was the host. Also, Cloris Leachman was onstage with the Jersey Shore girls, thus opening up a rift in the space/time continuum.

But even without an instantly buzzworthy Kanye-Taylor event, the 28th-annual VMAs had a few high points, too. If you had to pick one defining moment, it would have to be Beyoncé’s baby bump. The diva’s rendition of “Love on Top” might not have been her best VMA performance ever, but there’s no denying the sheer electricity in the room when she ended her set by proudly revealing her pregnant tummy. The cherry on top: Expectant daddy Jay-Z freaking out in the audience, while Uncle Kanye gave him some proud backslaps.

Jay-Z and Kanye were coming off a pleasantly unadorned surprise performance of “Otis,” so it was a good night to be Jay-Z, Jay-Z’s wife, or Jay-Z’s protégé. If you were anyone else, the 2011 VMAs were a beautiful festival of awkwardness. Jessie J spent most of the show on the tiny stage reserved for the VMA “house band,” a concept that once again stranded a dynamite up-and-comer in the curious role of only playing music for ten seconds before every commercial break. But Jessie J managed to have one awesome, perhaps-inadvertently hilarious moment: Immediately following Chris Brown’s medley performance of “Yeah 3x” and “Beautiful People,” Jessie J started singing TLC’s “No Scrubs.” Zing!

In the always enjoyable category of “Things MTV Does to Stay Relevant,” the show paid a fascinating amount of attention to Tyler, The Creator, the leader of hip hop collective Odd Future. A weird throwdown between Odd Future and “The Beastie Boys” (Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, and Jack Black) fell flat, but T,TC stole the show with an excitable acceptance speech for Best New Artist for that was basically bleeped in its entirety, but was nevertheless far more energetic than many of the night’s performances.

The single most awkward interaction of the night — which is saying something, since this is the same night that saw Jonah Hill go off on a very, very long almost-rant about people who are angry that he lost weight — undoubtedly came during the presentation of the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award to Britney Spears. On paper, it probably looked great: Lady Gaga, the pop diva du jour, presenting an achievement award to Britney Spears, the pop diva du decade. But Gaga was still in drag, and Spears seemed a bit flustered by the whole event. (Intriguingly, this was the first time Spears attended the VMAs since 2008.) For a second, it seemed like Britney and Gaga were going to kiss, thus continuing the cycle begun when Madonna smooched Britney in 2003. Britney didn’t want to; Gaga kept on pushing; and the whole thing weirdly devolved into an introduction to Beyoncé’s performance.

But the night wasn’t all awkwardness. Russell Brand’s tribute to Amy Winhouse struck just the right mix of humor, heart, sadness, and pop grandiosity, and Bruno Mars’ performance also did the late singer justice. The sight of Winehouse recording “Body and Soul” with Tony Bennett, from a session in March of this year, was a moving reminder of the troubled star’s incredible talent.

All in all, MTV”s decision to go hostless doesn’t seem to have affected the proceedings very much. Which isn’t a good thing: This year’s show felt just as scattershot and rushed as last year’s. Readers, what did you think of the show? Were you disappointed that Gaga and Britney didn’t kiss? Do you feel confident that you now know who Tyler, The Creator is? And is there anybody you think should host next year? My vote is for Rick Ross. But only if he finds time for a painting lesson.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

Read more:
MTV’s 2011 VMAs: Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Adele big winners
MTV 2011 VMAs: Lady Gaga explains alter ego Jo Calderone as a New Jersey Italian who’s ‘not a f–ing guido!’
Justin Bieber to Selena Gomez: ‘My snake’s name is Johnson.’
MTV’s 2011 Video Music Awards live blog

Comments (124 total) Add your comment
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  • Regina

    might not have been her best VMA performance ever. WHAT?!? That performance was incredible, one of the few true stars of the night.

    • Sina

      I also loved that performance. But I think Tyler the Creator’s mama going crazy that he won was the best moment of the show. That was a real moment with real emotion. It was nice to see someone really happy to win.

      • RBlues

        LOVED that!

      • ah no

        Ah…. ya, except thinking of his momma while he was swearing so much during his acceptance speach they bleeped every word! ya, his momma’s realy proud!!

      • lily

        . Another nice moment came when Russell Brand started to tear up when Katy thanked him as she won Video of the Year.
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      • kalo

        Blaming him for what’s wrong with the youth today IS over the line BUT Tyler is all about shock value. No better than the attention starved pop artist people like to complain about.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
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    • kd

      yeah lipsyncing is an amazing thing.

      • Adwina Lambert

        Beyonsh*t is sooo over-rated and over-exposed!!! tee-hee!

      • Tarra b

        Stop hating!! beyonce is on top and she only came out with two videos that were number 1 in the world two weeks straight. and plus shes pregnant she is the re-incarnation of m.j the number 1 female music mogul no one has ever touched beyonce ever!

    • AK

      But does it top her 2006 performance of “Ring the Alarm”?

      • Adwina Lambert

        Beyonsh*t is sooo over-rated and over-exposed!!! tee-hee!!

    • steph

      Anyone else think she looks more like Kylie Minogue than Beyonce in that pic?

      • m

        She does! Weird…..

      • Adwina Lambert

        Beyonsh*t is sooo over-rated and over-exposed!!! tee-hee!!! Boo!

      • truly09

        OMG!
        She DOES look like Kylie Minogue there!
        Weird…

    • tom

      TOTALLY lyp-synched. Wasn’t even close with her lips to the tracks being played…was disappointed as I didn’t think she’d ever do that…but great song.

      • Tarra b

        good god hop off!! and stop hating. when you get up on the stage and do all of that let me know lol

  • Phil

    It doesnt take much to confuse Britney these days but her accepotance speech seemed more of an introduction for Beyonce. That moment was where a host was definitely needed, without question. And that tribute to Britney was not only super short (not talkin bout the kiddies doing the dancing) but even worse speeding her already processed music up to speeds like it had just been introduced to crystal meth. I mean I guess know artists wanted to get up there and lip sync her tuens like she normally does (but not really sure why since both Chris Brown (seriosuly phenominal performance) & Beyonce lip synced so badly that its hard to think of them as stellar performances when you had kick ass live performances from Adele, Young The Giant and Bruno Mars. Overall as a 33 yr old, the VMAs were pretty much what I expected at this point, except I have to say as a fan of music in general, Tyler The Creator is a piece of garbage, and he doesn’t deserve The Best New Artist Moonman. He is whats wrong with the youth of America and why you see the national news talking about flash mobs. He is not a positive influence, and his win is a true loss for the younger generation.

    • Phil

      * I mean I guess no artists, not know artists, sorry for the typos

      • the VMAs

        Tyler’s success so far is a victory for grassroots, organic music.

        You can call it shock value if you want to be THAT GUY aka the guy your dad was talking about Alice in Chains or Megadeth or the other top-quality musical acts of the 80′s and 90′s, but that’s just because it’s not your scene. How is a 33 year old supposed to understand how offensive young people find Tyler Perry, Bruno Mars, and Steve Harvey? WTF man.

        To me, it’s not all golden, but at least it’s honest. You see how proud his mom was? You see how amped his best friends were? The same friends he brought up on stage with him? There’s your positive influence…

      • Phil

        Katie Holmes said it perfectly ‘If I saw Tyler The Creator I’d be going in the other direction’. The same friends that if they were rolling down the main street in any city would look like a bunch of hoodlums out to do some mischief.
        I’m not THAT GUY. Ive been a fan of hip-hop for since I was 12 yrs old and have liked everyone from the Beastie Boys to Wu-Tang, Dre, the entire G-Funk 90′s sound, loved 1994 when So So Def & Bad Boy debuted. Sure the last few years of Soulja Boy and ringtone artists have really ruined hip-hop but I dont see Tyler The Creator as being a positive influence for kids. Yay for his mother’s moment, i’m sure they’re replay that ad nauseum when Tyler is arrested for something.

    • Sakuon

      Saying tyler the creator is ‘a peice of garbage’ is a bit extreme, and blaming him for ‘whats wrong with the youth of america’ is way over the line. You think he just woke up one day and way suddenly famous, he worked hard to get where he is, yea I would of liked to see foster the people win the award, and I wasn’t a fan of his comment about bruno mars either, I know better then to judge at first glance, you can’t hate him for being himself, and its inconcederate and ignorant people like you that make this world a living hell for everyone in it.

      • yess

        Blaming him for what’s wrong with the youth today IS over the line BUT Tyler is all about shock value. No better than the attention starved pop artist people like to complain about.

      • Phil

        Its people like you that mistake ignorance for informed. Tyler The Creator uses the word ‘fa—t’ alot in his muisc, and yes, alot of hip-hop artists have used the term, but many havent been nearly as excessive as he has lately. Then to get onstage and address hopeful kids as ‘being able to do this s#it” further pushes his ignroance onto a younger generation. The same generation that has been causing flash mobs lately and not feeling they should care or be held accountable for their actions. I’m not closed minded. I happen to like Frank Ocean from Odd Future alot, but I don’t think Tyler The Creator is a good look for hip-hop or music, sorry.

      • Phil

        Oh and if I didnt make my point clear, haha as a gay man I can’t support someone who so callously holds no regard for my community. Would love to have had Gaga’s Jo Calderone on stage with him and see how that went!

      • Mocha

        @Phil: Uh…flash mobs? Since when have members of my generation needed to be held accountable for singing and dancing as a crowd? Although now that you mention it, I do wish I could say my friends and I have been causing flash mobs lately; my life would be a lot more exciting.

    • Andy

      So how much A.V. Club do you read? You’re basically writing what they say verbatim. Maybe if you had thoughts of your own I’d listen to what you’re saying. You’re the same person who said Public Enemy was the death of the youth culture, which mean your generation was the first to die, 33 year old. Get over yourself.

      • Phil

        I am being completely honest I say I dont even know what A.V. Club is. My thoughts are always my won, so you should listen. And I hope and pray you dont live in a city where flash mobs have been expereinced constantly since the Spring like I have in Philadelphia. Tyler the Creator even said during the pre Show if Bruno mars wins Video of The Year he’ll kill himself…yeah thats a GREAT guy to promote youth culture. Would my comment have sounded any less informed if I didnt include my age? its so sad people like you only take part of a statement and ignore the bigger message, but then thats my entire point. And I would bet most of Tyler The Creator’s fans dont even know who Chuck D is.

      • Phil

        my own

      • Andy

        You’re boring. You negatively judge new popular culture just like the older generations of the past have. You have nothing new to say, you’re boring. You sound like my dad did when he heard me singing “Loser” by Beck. “What are you saying? I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me? Sounds like a real good role model Andy.” 5 bucks says his dad said something to him about AC/DC and Black Sabbath, and his dad’s parents probably said something to him about the evils of Elvis. Once again, get over yourself.

      • nich

        Tyler seems to be more pro-gay than any other major rapper out there outside of Nicki Minaj. I’ve seen Tyler kiss men, I can’t say the same for other rappers.

        They understand that their fanbase understands where they’re coming from. It might not fly as well on a mainstream level where nobody can see past the surface level of anything.

      • Phil

        @Andy …I’m far from old or boring and if you think hitting 30 makes you no longer culturally relevant, I’m sorry you’re so close minded to give yourself and others such a short a sell-by-date. Maybe I’d have judged Tyler The Creator and the rest of Odd Future if they had performed…OH WAIT…MTV didn’t ask them to. And As I slept soundly last night it occurred to me, what does it matter!? Its the last time they are gonna be on ANY awards show stage outside of the BET Awards. They don’t even have an actual album out to ‘save hip-hop’….yet you and all mindless drones here defending them are prolly the same idiots following them on YouTube and who voted Tyler Best New Artist. He is gonna get on tv and bash Bruno Mars, one of the few actual performers last night who SANG, DANCED and PLAYED an instrument live while paying tribute to a deceased Amy Winehouse!? Thats the face of ‘new pop culture’ AND CLASS. Just cause Tyler brought his mom, thats supposed to be inspiring?! TALK ABOUT BORING.

    • hip hop’s not dead

      Phil, I agree with the person who said you sound like your dad. And I’m 35 years old. Since we’re about the same age, pretty much everything you’re saying about Tyler The Creator is what our parents said about hip hop in the 90s. Listening to Tupac was going to make you shoot a cop, listening to Public Enemy meant you hated white people, etc. And yet somehow we turned into law-abiding adults, right? So I don’t see why you’re wringing your hands about Tyler The Creator not being a “positive” influence on “the youth”.

      And flash mobs? What the hell are you talking about?

      • Phil

        If you’re 35 yrs old and I have to explain to you my flash mob comment, I feel sorry for you. Hip hop may not be dead but perhaps your brain cells are. Tyler’s antics and speech shows he has zero respect for the viewing audience, or his elders. Much like the flash mobs with with mostly urban kids areound his age that have overwelmed many parts of the United States this summer, the kids think its OK, to damage stores, take what they want and cause havok for store owners and employees without thinking they’re wrong or having to pay the consequences. Thats why I said he should be the face of the pandemic. Any more stupid questions?

      • hip hop’s not dead

        Phil, let me rephrase my question:

        I know perfectly well what a flash mob is.

        I fail to see the link between Tyler the Creator and flash mobs. Especially because flash mobs existed well before he ever recorded a song.

        You’re so busy wringing your hands over “the kids today” that you’re failing to make any sort of sense. What these flash mobs do is nothing new. Or perhaps you lived in some utopia in the 90s where everyone held hands and were BFFs, and definitely didn’t go around beating up other kids or shoplifting.

        “The kids today” are smarter than you give them credit for. They don’t need your condescension.

  • Dave

    Beyonce’s performance was great. It was nice to see her do something that wasn’t so typical, unlike the rest of tonight’s performers (besides Adele).

  • Bug

    They should just let Adele host next year and by host I mean sing the whole show.

    • jen

      This.

    • jackie

      Haha, yes. Can’t get enough of Adele.

      • GG

        I have been listening to a lot of Adele. Unfortunately, the music wears thin rather quickly. Which is not to say her voice isn’t outstanding, it’s just that great music has greater staying power than a great voice. She has one heckuva voice though. She looked very unsure on stage, like ‘do i really belong here?’ Yes, you absolutely do, and then some. She has so much talent.

  • Ericka

    I was very disappointed in Lady Gaga. I really wanted to see a crazy outfit but all i saw was a very awkward and confusing person

  • Kirsten

    Gaga’s performance went from artistic to creepy. Adele was great. The Beyonce baby bump was a cool moment. WIZ over tyler the creator, though he’s not really new. So my vote would have gone to Foster the People.

  • zing

    Exactly!! This is what happens when the “critics” are out of touch or simply don’t understand the pure talent within our culture because all of their pop stars are gimmicks and could never do what Bey did on that stage tonight.

    • yeah, right

      You mean lip sync?

      • just saying…

        Uh, Beyonce doesn’t lip sync. She’s one of the strongest live performers, if not the strongest, of her generation. The woman dances, moves, grooves and entertains for over 2 hours in her live shows – all while singing LIVE in 3″-4″ heels and platforms. Not a Beyonce stan by any means, but let’s give credit where credit is due. If she lip synced last night, it may have had to do with the extra baby weight. Cut her some slack.

      • yeah, right

        And your point? There have been several other celebs pregnant and they haven’t lip synced like that. Plus she’s done it before. Remember that Oscar performance with Hugh Jackman? Yeah. Talk about giving credit where credit is due.

      • meme

        Beyonce didn’t lip sync, her vocals were live, the background vocals were prerecorded

      • PN

        Beyonce DID sing last night! She NEVER lip synched! You heard her voice more than the record that was playing. And she sounded powerful as the song built up in momentum and energy!

      • Meg

        As a singer myself (I sing in local jazz clubs and some gospel) it’s incredibly easy to discern when another singer is lip synching. And Beyonce did NOT lip sync last night. I believe the background may have been pre recorded, but it was definitely her singing live and in the flesh. She has such a strong, clear voice. Give her some credit!

  • Bob G

    I don’t even know why they have an award show. Only 7 awards were given out-video, male, female, pop, rap, rock, new artist. It was all about plugging the next movie, cd or what. Adele and Bruno were the stars tonight. Beyonce and J and Kanye were good. Young the Giant were the breakout factor this years show.

    • Andy

      7 awards is 4 more then the Grammys give out during their telecast, hahaha.

    • PN

      They put more focus on the performances than the awards. But I would have liked them to acknowledge the best directors and best cinematography people in their nominations. They had them for years and they took them out in recent shows. But maybe this is MTV’s response to the public that they don’t show videos a lot in their lineup in a wasteland of reality shows.

  • Ash

    Best New Artist nominees were a bust this year. Also, I’m surprised MTV didn’t jump on the Arcade Fire train.

  • ryan

    HUGE disappointment. There was so much hype surrounding the Britney tribute and it was incredibly sad. Plus. it was just embarassing when they made her introduce Beyonce. If she is an icon, then show it. And Gaga, that got old really REALLY fast. Lucky you can sing cause you certainly can’t act.
    Thank god for Adele.

    • supercilla87

      Why is it embarrassing? In 2002 when Michael Jackson got his birthday “artist of the millennium award” he presented the next award to No Doubt.

  • jessie j

    Beyonce and Adele were definitely the best performances of the night.

    • Ash

      Yes! The Amy Winehouse tribute as well!

  • Well

    I have no idea who Tyler from Yonkers is

  • Delvin C,

    i WAS SOO HOPING CHRISTINA AGUILERA WOULD HAVE SUNG BACK TO BLACK DURING THE AMY WINEHOUSE TRIBUTE.

    NO XTINA= WACK SHOW

    • retrieve

      That would have been awesome! I liked the tribute, but felt it was too light-hearted and cheery for some reason. The needed a diva with great vocal power to sing one of Amy’s darker songs

    • Dave

      I’m not a huge Christina fan, but that actually would have been great.

    • tom

      for real Delvin? Xtina….while I love her music…..is certainly not A-List at the moment!

    • rae

      Yeah, now that would have been worth watching.

  • Michael

    I think Brit and Gaga had a surprisingly good chemistry (it was obviously planned that Gaga would wanna kiss Brit, and Britney saying “I’ve done that before!” was really funny). Overall though the VMAs were just eh. Another nice moment came when Russell Brand started to tear up when Katy thanked him as she won Video of the Year

  • No More, No More

    Self indulgent, narcissistic bulls*h*i*t.

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