"We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris took the VMA for Music Video of the Year. Rihanna won the same award five years ago for "Umbrella," her megahit featuring Jay-Z. Rihanna is only the second artist (and the first woman) to win the top VMA prize twice in the show's 29-year history. Eminem was the first, with 2000's "The Real Slim Shady" and 2002's "Without Me."
"We Found Love," which blends elements of pop, dance and electronica, was a surprise winner over "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye featuring Kimbra. This was Rihanna's only victory of the night, despite five nominations. The exotic singer opened the show with a medley of "We Found Love" and "Cockiness (Love It)."
One Direction, the hottest boy band since *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys a decade ago, won three awards, including Best New Artist. The quintet's breakthrough hit, "What Makes You Beautiful," is a fizzy blend of bubblegum, power-pop and adult contemporary. It's the musical equivalent of one of those five-hour energy boosts they sell at 7-Eleven.
"What Makes You Beautiful" beat Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" in two head-to-head contests: for Best Pop Video and in a new, trendy category, Most Share-Worthy Video. That outcome was predictable: Bieber is in the process of transitioning from teen-idol fluff to more mainstream, R&B-accented pop fare. One Direction is only too happy to fill the void. One Direction is the first boy band to win for Best Pop Video since *NSYNC won back-to-back awards in the category in 2000 and 2001 (with "Bye Bye Bye" and "Pop").
"Thank you so much," exulted the group's Niall Horan. "We have grown up watching this show and to collect one of these straight away is incredible."
Chris Brown won Best Male Video for "Turn Up The Music." This was Brown's second award in this category. He won in 2008 for "With You." (That was about five months before a violent incident with Rihanna tarnished his nice-guy image.)
Nicki Minaj took Best Female Video for "Starships." The pop-minded smash recently became the first single in the history of Billboard's Hot 100 to spend its first 21 weeks in the top 10.
"HYFR" by Drake featuring Lil Wayne won as Best Hip-Hop Video. Lil Wayne won in the same category in 2008 for "Lollipop" (featuring Static Major). This award was one of the night's biggest surprises. I expected the frisky "N**gas In Paris" by Jay-Z and Kanye West to win. (MTV renders the title as "Paris" by Watch The Throne.)
Calvin Harris, who served as the house DJ during the awards, took a second award for Best Electronic Dance Music Video for his 2-million-selling hit "Feel So Close."
Coldplay took Best Rock Video for "Paradise."
Demi Lovato took Best Video With A Message for her top 10 hit "Skyscraper." The song was inspired by an artist's depiction of the apocalypse in which the world was in ruins. Among the collapsed buildings, one skyscraper was still standing. The song echoed Lovato's personal travails in 2010. The award was won last year by Lady Gaga's gay-friendly "Born This Way."
Comedian and actor Kevin Hart hosted the show. His opening monologue focused on such buzzy topics as Chris Brown's feud with Drake, Kristen Stewart's cheating on boyfriend Robert Pattinson and Frank Ocean's "coming out" lyrics.
The show included an "In Memoriam" remembrance of Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys, who died on May 4. Beastie Boys won a Video Vanguard in 1998, the year of their smash album, Hello Nasty.
Other performers on the show included One Direction, P!nk, Frank Ocean, Alicia Keys and Green Day.
Though "Somebody That I Used To Know" came up short at the VMAs, it remains a strong bet to win the Grammy for Record of the Year on Feb. 10.
One Direction is also likely to be in the running for Best New Artist at the Grammys, though the critically-lauded Frank Ocean is expected to win in that competition. This would mark only the third time that two acts competed head-to-head in this category at the two award shows, with different winners crowned in each. In 2000, Macy Gray won the VMA, while Christina Aguilera won the Grammy. In 2003, 50 Cent won the VMA, while Evanescence won the Grammy.