What the Critics Said: V.M.A.s Disappointed With Poor Audiovisual Production, No Defining Moment

Despite controversial performances, the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards failed to impress critics.

By Beth Kormanik August 26, 2013, 1:53 PM EDT

In an uneven night, many critics praised Bruno Mars and his performance of "Gorilla." The New York Times called it "purposely unflashy, much like the man himself."

Photo: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for MTV

Every year MTV's Video Music Awards reliably create entertainment news, from Lady Gaga's meat dress in 2010 to Kanye West's infamous interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech in 2009. No such iconic moment happened Sunday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The artist most identified with the arena—Jay Z, who christened the venue in 2012 with eight shows—didn't even attend, and neither did his wife, Beyoncé, who recently had her own run of shows there. Still, the major music event dominated headlines today. Here's a sampling of what the critics had to say.

The New York Times found the show lackluster and noted the audiovisual problems that plagued the show: “To be fair to the celebrities trapped inside the Barclays Center, though, there wasn’t much to look at during the V.M.A.s this year, and even less reason to look at it. … At various points, the show was bedeviled by slipshod editing, selective bleeping of offensive language, and intermittent problems with lighting and, especially during Mr. [Justin] Timberlake’s career-spanning medley, sound.”

Most reviewers did not care for the antics of Miley Cyrus. Disney's former Hannah Montana delivered a raunchy dance routine during a duet with Robin Thicke.

The Hollywood Reporter saw the performance as MTV's bid for giving the 30-year-old show an identity: “So is it a sign of the times or of desperation when one such act completely takes over the conversation? So much so that you almost forget who else was on the star-heavy V.M.A.s bill? Or was that the plan all along? To shock the masses and stir a social media frenzy while corporate sponsors clapped along, gleefully counting impressions?”

Billboard wondered why the show's Brooklyn home did not play a greater role in the production: “The 'feel' of Brooklyn that was promised was never delivered. Not as bad as the bizarre show from Las Vegas, but as the pre-show site-specific hype made it sound, one would have thought America was going to go to bed saying 'youse' and humming the Beastie Boys. The big 'Brooklyn' moment was Katy Perry's closer at the Brooklyn Bridge, and her rendition of 'Roar' in a boxing motif delivered the attributes of a well-crafted, safe music video.”

A performance that a few years ago might have drawn controversy—“Same Love,” a song supporting marriage equality from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis—instead barely merited mention in most reviews, and only then to mention the guest vocals from Jennifer Hudson. Entertainment Weekly declared her: “First bona fide guest-star surprise of the night.”

Vanity Fair wondered why Justin Timberlake's performance was so long, when the much-hyped reunion with 'N Sync was so short: “It should be noted that Timberlake’s former ‘N Sync bandmates were allowed on stage for about a minute before being shunted off, no doubt en route to the dimly lit basement where Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams dwell.”

Gaga didn't totally disappoint in her wardrobe changes, at various points donning a nun's habit and a seashell-and-thong bikini. Chicago Tribune raved of the costumes: “It’s not every day that you get a reference to an Ingmar Bergman movie and avant-pop iconoclast Klaus Nomi in a pop performance, but that’s what Lady Gaga gave viewers. … Intentional or not, these images took the eye candy of most pop videos a couple clicks deeper than the usual pole-dance clichés.”

Finally, for fun, New York magazine's Vulture blog summed up the V.M.A.s in several GIFs.

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