Rob Sheffield on Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV VMAs: The Tongue That Licked the World - Rolling Stone
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It’s Miley, Bitch: The Tongue That Licked the World

Rihanna’s side-eye, Gaga’s clam shells and more from MTV’s 2013 VMAs

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus performs at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for MTV

Oh, Miley. That was priceless. Miley was the one star in the room who truly understood what the MTV Video Music Awards are all about — waggling your tongue, grabbing your crotch, rocking a foam finger, going to third with the Care Bears, twerking and shrieking and acting out America’s goriest pop-psycho nightmares. She showed up Robin Thicke as one uptight douche, though he helped by dressing as the world’s edgiest Foot Locker manager. Miley stole the night, which is why the nation is still in recovery today. Thanks, Miley — as Justin used to sing, back in the ‘NSync days, God must have spent a little more time on you.

Watch Miley Cyrus’ Controversial and Twerk-tastic VMAs Performance

After last year’s disastrously sluggish fiasco, hosted by the even-less-funny-this-year Kevin Hart, it was obvious MTV was trying hard with the 2013 Video Music Awards: They got big stars to show up and wear silly threads and act a fool, they got some live performances, they got Miley. It was the kickiest VMA bash in years, even if my girl Britney didn’t get mentioned once. (When Britney won the Video Vanguard award in 2011, she got to appear onstage for about 30 seconds, then had to introduce Beyoncé throwing herself a baby shower — but Justin got a solo performance slot that lasted almost exactly as long as Britney’s first marriage did. Life is unfair.)

As for the eagerly awaited ‘NSync reunion, Justin hit the eject-chute button on those poor boys as fast as Beyoncé did with Destiny’s Child at the Super Bowl, bringing new meaning to “Bye Bye Bye.” Which wasn’t even one of their better hits, right? Justin allowed JC, Lance, Joey and the other dude onstage for barely a minute, or about as long as JC’s solo career, though that was enough time to recall why the Backstreet Boys were always kinda better. But you can’t deny Chris Kirkpatrick was killing it.

‘NSync had plenty of old-school company, since some of the coolest guests came from the Nineties. Lil Kim was the only Brooklyn hip-hop O.G. who could be lured onto the premises, but the Queen Bee’s shout-out in “my Biggie Brooklyn voice” was touching. (It also evoked Kim getting her rack groped by Diana Ross at the 1999 VMAs.) So were Chilli and T-Boz from TLC, who define crazy sexy cool. Somewhere, Biggie and Left Eye were smiling down and asking each other who the hell Miley is.

Rihanna provided some of the night’s funniest TV moments from the front row, where she sat showing off her virtuoso side-eye. Maybe she was reliving fond memories of last year, when she nuzzled with Katy Perry all night. Rihanna only dropped the poker face for Miley, when she, like everybody else in the audience, looked terrified.

Lady Gaga rocked “Applause” in a clam-shell bra, while Katy Perry did “Roar” with Rocky-quality tube-sock jump roping. Louis from One Direction wore his Joy Division “Love Will Tear Us Apart” T-shirt, which has replaced the Zeppelin tee as the rock emblem of choice for beleaguered boy-banders in rebellion. Macklemore brought some sweetly gawky sensitivity (“Gay rights are human rights!”) and did “Same Love,” boosted high by Mary Lambert and Jennifer Hudson.

Kanye West did “Blood on the Leaves” in the dark, projecting all his seriousness and sincerity, which is why he came off so un-Kanye-like. You don’t go to Yeezus for sincerity, do you? Uh uh, honey. But he held down this year’s Foo Fighters slot of manly earnestness. Jared Leto introduced Kanye, for some reason, and he looked baffled at the strange sensation of not being the biggest douche in the room, possibly because he’d never been in the same room as Robin Thicke. Who got shut out in all award categories, proving two things: (1) There’s only one Robyn, bitch, and (2) Nobody tries to shineblock Marvin Gaye and gets away with it.

When it came to reaction shots from the crowd, Rihanna’s only rivals were Will Smith’s kids, who looked miserable (parents just don’t understand!) and Taylor Swift, who snuggled Selena Gomez within an inch of the poor girl’s life, then jumped up to rock her body while Justin sang. Taylor also got an award from Daft Punk, Pharrell and Nile Rodgers, who reveled in his role as the wise elder of the evening. (Not to mention one of the only guitarists in the house.)

Also, Selena won an actual award, you guys! Taylor was so proud! Remember the VMAs a couple of years ago when Selena showed up on the red carpet as Justin Bieber’s date, but he just talked to the cameras about bringing his pet snake, Johnson, and Selena was all, “This is what dates are like? Why is he fondling a snake and wearing glasses and talking about Jesus? Can I go home now?” Vindication, young lady! You are now winning awards and getting nuzzled by Tay-Tay in the front row, just like Rihanna and Katy last year, except with less tongue! Come and get it, girl!

MTV was so excited about the VMA show, they promoted it all weekend with music programming. Psych! Nah, of course not — MTV devoted the weekend to Catfish and Girl Code, along with reruns of The House Bunny and Happy Gilmore. And the MTV version of Happy Gilmore censors “the price is wrong, bitch,” to “the price is wrong, Bobby,” rendering the whole movie meaningless. That’s MTV for you — they’ll shove Teen Mom down your throat, then they worry about you learning bad words from Happy Gilmore. But at least MTV made sure this year’s VMA party was a real show. With a little help from Miley.

In This Article: MTV Video Music Awards


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