One Direction quickly changed the focus of the MTV Video Music Awards, winning two early awards and stealing the attention from Rihanna and her stunning show opener.
Rihanna started the party Thursday night sitting regally upon a throne as she performed her new song “Cockiness (I Love It)” with A$AP Rocky and two groups of dancers. She then made her way into the pit at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and launched into her hit “We Found Love” as she weaved through the crowd, touching hands with dozens of fans.
“Doesn’t my girl Rihanna look sexy tonight?” Katy Perry asked the crowd after the performance.
But One Direction, the heartthrob British boy band, quickly took over, bringing thunderous cheers from the crowd upon winning best pop video. It was the night’s first televised award and one of five top-nominee Rihanna was up for. They also won the most share-worthy moonman during the pre-awards show.
The quintet, put together by Simon Cowell after “The X Factor” auditions and the first British act to debut atop the Billboard 200 album chart, seemed stunned as fans screamed upon announcement of their win.
“We’ve grown up watching this show and to even be here is an honor,” Niall Horan said before the band made its way through the crowd.
The group performed later, rising to a stairwell surrounded by screaming, reaching female fans on an elevated platform and bringing most attendees at the Staples Center to their feet. Members of the U.S. gymnastics team sang along to their song “One Thing” and cameras caught Perry and Rihanna whispering to each other.
While there was no easily identifiable signature moment early on, there were a few interesting sights. Pink floated above the crowd on a pair of oversized lips as she performed her new song “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” before Frank Ocean wowed with a somber, moonlit version of his son “Thinking About You.”
Chris Brown pulled off something of an upset in the best male video category. Rihanna’s former boyfriend won for his self-directed video “Turn Up The Music,” beating out several top stars, including Drake, who tied Rihanna for most nominations.
Drake, though, won best hip-hop video for “HYFR,” which featured Lil Wayne. He talked about his black and jewish roots growing up in Toronto and his sometimes outsider status.
“I want to dedicate this award to any kid that’s ever had a long walk home by yourself,” Drake said. “This is for you, man, for real. We made it.”
Host Kevin Hart, who promised no one would be spared his comedic barbs, opened up old wounds between Brown and Drake in his opening monologue, spoofing the two for the bar brawl that took place between their entourages in June.
Drake and friends Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne sat stone-faced as Hart joked: “Nip it in the bud, guys. I’m tired of it. Fix it tonight.”
Minaj, dressed in a skintight full-body outfit, won best female video for “Starships.”
MTV tried something new this year, unveiling a double-decker red carpet that featured two stories of stars and celebrities. Thousands of fans lined up outside the show’s new home, the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
One Direction drew the loudest cheers of the day — something even rivals The Wanted acknowledged — even though fans had to labor under a scorching sun with the temperature at 90 degrees.
The sun was especially hot for Amber Rose, who accentuated her pregnant belly with a black lace gown as she and fiance Wiz Khalifa showed off a baby bump.
“I’m hot, and my feet hurt, but I look gorgeous,” Rose said.
Taylor Swift, who leaned into the crowd to sign autographs, is set to play her infectious runaway hit “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” live for the first time, while Lil Wayne and Alicia Keys will debut new songs.
Keys caused something of a stir early. The singer and her producer husband Swizz Beatz were spotted with their almost 2-year-old son, Egypt, bobbing up and down on Beatz’ lap during Pink’s expletive-laden performance of “Blow Me (One Last Kiss).”
There was hubbub on Twitter where several of Keys’ fans noted that this is the bawdy, loud MTV VMAs, not the kid-friendly Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. Others just thought Egypt was cute.
The VMAs also acknowledged electronic dance music with a new category, which was won by Calvin Harris for his video of “Feels So Close.” He also served as house DJ.
“I’m like the bread in between the meat and the cheese,” Harris said on the red carpet.
There also will be a teaser of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2.” And for the first time MTV will announce an award via Facebook. Best rock video will be given out early in the show’s run via a “Thank You Cam” live stream that can only be accessed at MTV’s Facebook page.