Highs and lows of VMAs

Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke perform "Blurred Lines" during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards in New York August 25, 2013.

LADY GAGA 1

KATY PERRY 1

Lady Gaga's highly-anticipated return to the stage was tame by Gaga standards - no alien eggs, blood or cross-dressing.

On the red carpet, the 27-year-old revealed that "MTV always wants me to one-up myself", and she certainly did, leaving behind the gimmicks of yesteryear to give one of her best awards show performances for new single Applause.

She wore five different costumes on stage - including a big white robe with her face framed by a square canvas - and ended off with a clamshell bikini that she stayed in for the rest of the show.

Katy Perry, 28, whose comeback track Roar has already scored a win over Gaga on the charts - it has 557,000 downloads, compared to 218,000 for Gaga's Applause.

But live, Perry was more of a tame kitty than the lioness she labelled herself on her sports jacket.

Her hyped-up performance of inspirational anthem Roar under the Brooklyn Bridge, with its "fighter in a boxing ring" treatment was decent at best, unimaginative at worst.

Which brings us to a tie in the ongoing Gaga-Perry rivalry.

That's just a little too obvious and anti-climactic.

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THE SWIFT ZINGER

Ladylike and elegant in her navy Hervé Léger by Max Azria gown, Taylor Swift was anything but during the VMAs.

Twitter exploded when they thought they saw her mouth "Shut the **** up" to US singer-actress bestie Selena Gomez who was sitting next to her when UK boy band One Direction - including ex-boyfriend Harry Styles - walked on stage to present an award.

Then, this former VMAs victim - US rapper Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech in 2009 - doled out a major zinger mid-show when she accepted her Moon Man trophy for Best Female Video for I Knew You Were Trouble.

"I also want to thank the person who inspired this song, who knows exactly who he is, because I've got one of these. Thank you so much!" said the 23-year-old.

Cue camera cutting away to Styles, who looked blase.

The thought bubble over his head could have read: "Me? There are 37 other ex-boyfriends you should be looking at".

The cameras couldn't pull themselves away from Swift and Gomez, 21, who were whispering, giggling and dancing throughout the show.

This is what the pop world gets when there's no Chris Brown-Rihanna drama.

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WHEN BOY BANDS GET OLD

This is what they look like.

The much-anticipated reunion of US boy band 'NSync was great, and got everyone - from Lady Gaga to Ellie Goulding - on their feet.

But was anyone else just as bothered as we were that they didn't seem, how do you put it, as lightfooted as they used to be?

Chris Kirkpatrick, 41, and Joey Fatone, 36, in particular looked like they needed to be stuffed into their suits - no wonder there weren't any close-ups during their performance of Bye Bye Bye.

US singer and 'NSync frontman Justin Timberlake, 32, was the highlight of the evening, running - and towards the end, gasping a little - through a medley of his old and new hits, complete with original choreography.

With nary a bad song in the line-up, it highlighted why he deserved the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, along with the three other Moon Men he took home for Video of the Year (Mirrors), Best Editing (Mirrors) and Best Direction (Suit & Tie).

In his typically charming way, Timberlake accepted the honour saying: "I don't think I deserve this, but I'm not giving it back."

THE MILEY CYRUS TRAINWRECK

All anyone could talk about before the Video Music Awards (VMAs) was Round 2 of Lady Gaga vs Katy Perry, since the duelling US pop divas were opening and closing the show respectively with their latest comeback singles.

But it was sideshow act Miley Cyrus who became the main event, after she gave the most eye-bleeding VMA performance since Britney Spears performed Gimme More in flittery undies in 2007.

From the moment the 20-year-old posted a picture of herself licking a VMA Moon Man trophy last month, everyone should have been on high alert - Cyrus was eager to do something very, very bad on the show. We knew she was getting increasingly wild, but this was an all-time low of bad taste.

The shockingly vulgar performance started innocuously enough, with a stage full of human-sized teddy bears a la Cyrus' We Can't Stop music video.

But that very busy tongue of hers - which was photographed licking a phallic birthday cake for actor fiancee Liam Hemsworth last year - was out with a vengeance, and Cyrus would not be stopped.

Once new best friend and mash-up partner, US singer Robin Thicke, came on, Cyrus gave the words "hot mess" a new meaning.

She started twerking - look it up on the Internet if you're of legal age - and grinding the married father of a three-year-old boy, and playing very inappropriately with an oversized foam hand glove.

The former squeaky-clean Disney star-turned party animal was a skanky pop star possessed as she helped Thicke on his No. 1 hit Blurred Lines while wearing flesh-toned bra and panties, almost as if she was singularly trying to channel the hordes of half-naked girls in his infamous video.

Twitterland was not amused, with netizens throwing out the words "violated" and "victimised" in response to the performance.

Traumatised

Celebrities - both in the audience and on Twitter - were also traumatised.

"Remind me to never let my kids into showbiz... Thanks," tweeted Mariah Carey's husband Nick Cannon.

Throughout the performance, Niall Horan from UK boy band One Direction looked like he'd just eaten something rotten, while the Smiths - Will, Jada Pinkett, Jaden and Willow - were reportedly caught on camera looking either shocked or disgusted.

We've got news for you Cyrus: #epicfail.

Also, #whatwouldyourmother-whowassittingintheaudience-think?!?! (Yes, Tish Cyrus was there and she was smiling).

US comedian Kevin Hart even joked afterwards on stage that Cyrus should "go get a pregnancy test after all that grinding".

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