Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards packed many upsets this year – most of them having nothing to do with the actual awards (though "Blurred Lines" was robbed of Song of the Summer). Music's biggest stars gathered in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn – a first for the New York City borough – in what has grown to be a mystifying combination of high school homecoming, senior superlatives and a talent show for attention-hungry teenagers who never had a childhood. Needless to say, things got weird. Here are the biggest surprises of the night:
Most Shocking Performance: Miley Cyrus, upsetting Lady Gaga
Even in a seashell bra, a thong bikini and mermaid hair, Lady Gaga's opening act could not even compare to the crudeness of Miley Cyrus's performance of "We Can't Stop" and "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke (who could use a new tailor, but that's beside the point). The teddy bears, the crotch grabbing, the foam finger, the twerking, the grinding – Robin Thicke is a father and a husband, may we remind you – there were so many disturbing things about her performance that it's hard to know where to begin.
Biggest Attitude: Taylor Swift, upsetting Rihanna
When it came to attitude, "Bad Girl RiRi" brought her A-game, throwing major shade on Miley's performance and looking bored for most of the show. But Taylor Swift played against her wholesome, good girl image. Cameras caught her muttering what looks like to be "Shut the f-ck up" to pal Selena Gomez while One Direction's Harry Styles, a former beau, was presenting. She doubled down on her Styles scorn, thanking "the person who inspired this song, who knows exactly who he is" (rumored to be Styles) for her Best Female Video award for "I Knew You Were Trouble." But proving her versatility, Taylor Swift also wins the award for dancey-est and best look of wonderment during the *NSYNC reunion.
Most Gratifying Pop Group Reunion: TLC, upsetting *NSYNC (and Danity Kane, technically, but come on)
When talks first bubbled that *NSYNC would be reuniting in honor of Justin Timberlake's Video Vanguard Award (a.k.a. the "You're Old" Award), their rumored performance became the most anticipated moment of the show. Their actual appearance – after Timberlake performed a medley of many of his solo hits – was decidedly underwhelming. They sang just two songs and were on screen for all of 110 seconds (a full minute less than Destiny Child's Super Bowl reunion, if anyone is counting) before sinking back into the stage so Timberlake could continue on his vocal victory lap. However, when Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chili" Thomas (Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes sadly died in 2002) came out to introduce Drake's performance, it took everyone by surprise, as did the promo for the upcoming VH1 TLC biopic that played during the subsequent commercial break.
Justin Bieber Award: Austin Mahone, upsetting Justin Bieber
Little Biebz was nowhere to be found in the Barclays Center. Luckily, 17-year-old Austin Mahone was there to fill adorable teeny-bopper vacuum, performing his hit "What About Love" at the pre-show. What Mahone lacks in Bieber's vocal abilities and crisp choreography, he made up in red and black leather. He even won the "Artist to Watch" award to boot.
Most Elegantly Understated Performance: Kanye, upsetting the rest of the universe
In a world come undone by twerking, laser shows and wimples, Kanye's performance of "Blood on the Leaves" was refreshingly understated. The rapper sang his latest single silhouetted against a backdrop of a tree allegedly used to lynch people. Who would have thought that the guy who likes to compares himself a god would have gone the simple route this year?