Meat dress seasons banal VMA ceremony

On Sunday night, the world heaved a collective sigh of disappointment when the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards took to the airwaves and failed to deliver the levels of celebrity controversy, Kanye speech-crashing and fake blood seen in 2009.

Despite the relative tameness of this year's show, the cracked-out little sister of the Grammys still managed to break some records and a few rules of decency, providing eager audiences with memorable music moments, captivating live performances and enough surprises to keep things interesting.

For once, though, these surprises didn't require a public apology afterward; they were actually rather nice. Lady Gaga earned the most VMA nominations ever in a single year. That's a good day for anyone, but Gaga beat it all when she proceeded to win 8 of the 13 nominations including Video of the Year for "Bad Romance." To celebrate her victory, Gaga made all her little monsters proud when, wearing a dress made of meat, she revealed the title of her next album, Born this Way, and belted out two lines from what is probably the new record's title song.

Gaga was not the only one with an attention-grabbing night. Justin Bieber became the youngest Best New Artist ever at age 16 and got adorably lost finding the stage. Meanwhile, in a bizarre pseudo-battle, Taylor Swift and Kanye West individually performed new songs whose connections to the infamous 2009 interruption were not lost on anyone. Whether Swift's "Innocent," a mature-sounding but melodramatic piece, or West's "Runaway," the show-closing "toast to scumbags," won the fight is debatable.

There were half-dozen performers including Usher and Paramore that, sadly, weren't nearly so noteworthy, but luckily that wasn't the case all night. Though Florence + the Machine stood out with her first VMA routine, she didn't win any big awards for her "Dog Days are Over" video; it only won Best Art Direction. The fiery-haired Londoner did, however, win admiration for what was one of the most visually and vocally strong presentations that night.

Of course, there were more surprises at the VMAs: Rihanna's unexpected appearance to sing "Love the Way You Lie" during Eminem's solid show-opener, Cher holding Lady Gaga's meat purse and the questionable quality of Chelsea Handler, the first female host of the program in 16 years. In between all that, some awards were won and someone sung in front of a video backdrop of a giant cat. What can I say? It's the VMAs.