Justin Timberlake won big on Sunday at MTV’s annual Video Music Awards, taking home the top prize for video of the year for Mirrors and a special achievement honour, and also led a much-anticipated onstage reunion of the boy band ‘N Sync.
Hip-hop artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars were among other top winners, with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis taking home three awards, including best hip-hop video.
But even top VMA nominees had been overshadowed in recent days by the rumored ‘N Sync reunion, their first performance since 2002, which took place in the midst of Timberlake’s lengthy medley of hits ahead of his accepting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
As the star wound down his solo performance, the band’s other members rose up through the stage and slowly turned to face the audience, spotlights shining from above. The ‘N Sync members then performed another extended medley of hits.
“I don’t deserve this award,” Timberlake, 32, said after TV talk show host Jimmy Fallon presented it to him. “But I’m not going to give it back.”
He noted that half of the many VMAs he had won were “with these four guys right here,” referring to ‘N Sync singers JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick.
“I’m going to share this award with them,” Timberlake said.
Lady Gaga opened the live program with a splashy rendition of her new single Applause, appearing in a series of outfits ranging from a riff on a nun’s habit, with pearls, to a sparkly ensemble of jacket and pants more typical of cabaret chanteuses.
Gaga’s appearance marked her comeback after hip surgery earlier this year, although the act lacked the shock value of earlier VMA shows when she was drenched in blood or sported a dress made of raw meat.
Other performance highlights included Miley Cyrus backed by a lineup of dancers outfitted as giant teddy bears as she sang We Can’t Stop, before being joined by Robin Thicke as the pair led into a duet of Good Girl.
Kanye West, who in the 2009 VMAs snatched the microphone from Swift as she accepted her award, sang Blood on the Leaves in theatrical fashion as he was lit in dramatic silhouette.
This year, when Swift won best female video for I Knew You Were Trouble, West left her alone.
“I want to thank the fans,” Swift said, adding “I tweeted about this a lot, I really really wanted this and thank you so much for doing this for me.”
And she cheekily thanked the inspiration for the song, about a love gone wrong, saying: “He knows who he is.”
Macklemore, who he won for best hip-hop video along with partner Ryan Lewis, said: “They let some independent hip-hop artists up here at the VMAs.”
The video won over top hip-hop performers such as Drake and Kendrick Lamar.
One Direction, who won big last year with three VMAs, presented the night’s first award – for best pop video – to Selena Gomez for Come & Get It.
“This is my first actual moonman,” she said, referring to the silver prize modeled on the MTV character logo. “I couldn’t have done it without you guys,” she told her fans.
Other early winners, some of whom were announced before the evening broadcast from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, included Thirty Second to Mars’s Up In the Air, which won best rock video, and Pink featuring Nate Ruess’s Just Give Me a Reason, which was named best collaboration.
Professional, or technical, category winners included best choreography to Bruno Mars for Treasure and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis whose Can’t Hold Us took the prize for best cinematography.