Red alert! Rihanna rocked open the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards performing a mash-up of "Cockiness" (with A$ap Rocky) and her worldwide hit "We Found Love" while clad in a sheer crimson sheath over bra and leather pants. The performance may not have had the shock value of opening acts from years past, but Rihanna pushed the sexiness in a subtle way as descended from a gold throne to wade through the audience during the set.
"We Found Love" bookended the evening when it was awarded the night's biggest prize, Video of the Year. In accepting the award Rihanna, sporting a new cropped hair style, grinned, squealed and thanked her fans for voting for her.
Host Kevin Hart - who arrived onstage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles flanked by security in a nod to the current Presidential race - promised during the pre-show that "nobody's safe tonight." He kept that promise with an opening monologue that called out the Drake/Chris Brown feud, Frank Ocean's recent revelation about his sexuality, Snooki's new baby and Kristen Stewart's much publicized, alleged infidelity with her "Snow White and the Huntsman" director.
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"Nip it in the bud," Hart told a smirking Drake - seated front row next to Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne - and Chris Brown, who was placed a safe distance away. "You're arguing over a mistake," Hart continued, suggesting that Drake, being a Canadian, was only throwing his bottle at the recycling bin and never meant it to land anywhere near Brown.
When it came to Stewart, the comedian/actor implored that people should just get over it. "Everybody makes mistakes," Hart said, citing Kanye's 2009 VMA upstaging of Taylor Swift, Britney Spears and Madonna's 2007 opening act kiss, and the fact that Russell Brand has been allowed to host the event not once, but twice. The camera noticeably avoided Stewart's boyfriend Rob Pattinson's reaction to the joke. Pattinson was on hand to introduce an exclusive clip from the final installment of the "Twilight" movie franchise.
In an award upset - though often with the VMAs it's less about the statues handed out than the show itself - Brit boy band One Direction beat out Carly Rae Jepsen for Best New Artist. Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" was one of, if not the biggest song of the summer, but it wasn't enough to beat 'tween sensation One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful." That song also took the Moon Man for Best Pop Video.
Chris Brown won the award for Best Male Video for "Turn Up The Music" while Nicki Minaj grabbed the Best Female Video gong for "Starships." "HYFR" by Drake and featuring Lil Wayne won for Best hip Hop Video.
The VMAs are famous for eyebrow-raising, off-the-cuff moments. Those were few and far between this year in what felt like a truncated telecast. MTV announced earlier in the week that the VMAs would be over in time for President Obama's speech at the DNC.
"Bachelorette" actress Rebel Wilson provided one of the evening's rare fun spots when she took the stage with another Brit boy band, The Wanted, to present the award for Best Female Video. Dressed in an over-sized T-shirt emblazoned with the image of a skinny, bikini-clad girl, Wilson held a bag of potato chips as cover for the fake pubic hair stitched to her costume. Already looking uncomfortable, The Wanted visibly flinched when she asked them, "Who wants to be the chip in my dip tonight?"
Green Day amped up the crowd when they performed their new single "Let Yourself Go" surrounded by fans on the floor of the arena. It was all the more impressive considering the band's frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was hospitalized in Italy over the weekend due to vocal concerns. On the red carpet Armstrong cryptically discussed the incident by referring to it as having "a parasite in my body."
Other notable live performances included Pink, who debuted her song "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" by reenlisting the high-wire flying act she introduced at the 2009 VMAs. Nicki Minaj joined Alicia Keys onstage for Keys' new song "Girl On Fire." If that wasn't enough star power, the pair had Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Gabby Douglas execute floor moves during the song. The entire U.S. women's gymnastic team introduced the performance.
Taylor Swift - who was nominated but did not win on the night - closed out the proceedings with a "Glee"-like rendition of her anthem to breakups: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
Best moments from the VMAs' red carpet:
* MTV decided to preface this year's VMAs with a "Jersey Shore" marathon and naturally, the crew from Seaside Heights hit the red carpet to promote the sixth and final season of the show that gave us The Situation, G.T.L., Pauly D. and Snooki. The latter was not in attendance due to the recent birth of her son Lorenzo. Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi did send a video message in which she promised to be there next year, but said that this year "Lorenzo is too small to fist pump."
* It's all about the new cropped 'do: Pink (long a proponent of the chopped coif), Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys and a newly shorn Rihanna all rocked the red carpet sporting short hair.
* Taking a break from New York Fashion Week, international models Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls added some serious glamor when they hit the carpet to announce that they would be the new hosts of "House of Style," the MTV fashion show that was originally aired in 1989 and fronted by supermodel Cindy Crawford. "House of Style" returns October 9.
* White out: Rihanna, Karlie Kloss and Taylor Swift went for extreme shades of pale: Swift in a tailored three-piece suit and Rihanna and Kloss opting for slinky, draped and curve-hugging dresses. Chris Brown died his hair platinum blond for the evening.
* Wiz Khalifa and his girlfriend Amber Rose announced they are having a baby with Rose wearing a fitted lace column dress that highlighted her baby bump. Cute, but not a patch on Beyonce's 2011 pregnancy reveal.
* Katy Perry and the Fierce Five (the U.S. women's Olympic gold medal-winning gymnasts) had a love fest, with Perry even planting a kiss on Jordyn Weiber's flexed bicep.