The memory of Michael Jackson dominated MTV's Video Music Awards Sunday night, but in keeping with the ceremony's reputation for being the music industry's most raucous party, the show was anything but somber.
Madonna opened the two-and-a-half hour long extravaganza at NYC's Radio City Music Hall, calling the late King of Pop a hero and sharing an anecdote about the man she got to know over dinner and a movie in 1991. She signed off with the simple declaration, "He was the king. Long live the king," vacating the stage as Jackson's "Thriller" video took over the big screen and performers broke into his iconic graveyard dance.
"Thriller" merged into a medley of Jackson's greatest hits that led up to the night's marquee act: Janet Jackson, clad in black patent leather, dancing in sync with Michael against the backdrop of their 1995 duet, "Scream." She nailed it, paying tribute to her late brother like only his sister could.
The VMAs closed with a preview of "This Is It," the documentary of rehearsal footage for what would have been Jackson's long-awaited and final series of concerts, which hits theaters for two weeks beginning Oct. 28. Though brief, the trailer alone depicts Jackson's dedication to his fans in vivid detail.
"This is an adventure, a great adventure," Jackson says about his show in the two-in-a-half-minute clip. "We want to take them places that they've never been before. We want to show them a time that they've never seen before." (Go to ThisIsIt-Movie.com for the full trailer and more info.)
But Kanye West stole the spotlight from Jackson, and fittingly, did so by stealing the microphone from someone else: Taylor Swift, during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video, the first award of the night.
As the 19-year-old embraced her first Moon Man statue and started speaking, West made his way onto the stage, grabbed the mic and interrupted, "Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'm gonna let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time."
While some of the audience clapped for West's endorsement of Beyonce Knowles, whose "Single Ladies" was nominated for Video of the Year but not Best Female Video, many started booing when producers ushered both West and Swift off the stage, cutting off her chance to finish her speech. (It should be noted that West, who infamously threw a tantrum backstage at the 2007 VMAs when he failed to bag any trophies, would probably have been quick to bang out a caps-locked rant like "WTF MAKES TAYLOR SWIFT THINK SHE CAN STEAL STAGE TIME FROM ME?????????" on his blog had their roles been reversed. )