The 10 Best Moments From The 2013 YouTube Music Awards

By Chris DeVille / November 3, 2013

After an ambitious and awkward 90-minute production, the inaugural YouTube Music Awards have disappeared into a cloud of blue chalk dust. The ceremony, streamed live from a warehouse in New York, attempted to capture the madcap spirit of early MTV and only occasionally succeeded — and if success means a lot of eyeballs on the broadcast, this was a total faceplant; the live stream never went past about 215,000 people at a time, according to Variety. But this is YouTube, the format that has done more than maybe even DVR to normalize the highlights-only, morning-after viewing experience. Those who did tune in witnessed many forehead-slap-inducing moments — anybody up for a surprise Michael Cera appearance? No? — but there was also magic in the air when they turned incredibly talented, creative people loose.

About that magic: Here’s a list of the 10 best moments from this “festival of excitement.”

10. “An Abridged History Of Music On YouTube”

This was some corny awards show shit, so it feels odd recognizing it as one of the show’s best moments, but I’m a sucker for medleys when they’re done right. I’m definitely a sucker for live mashups and multiple people playing one guitar at the same time, both of which Walk Off The Earth delivered during this number’s midsection when they mixed Gotye, Carly Rae Jepsen and Rebecca Black together. Also a sucker for T-Pain, and there he was, belting out the big finish of “I’m On A Boat” amidst the chaos.

09. Host Jam Sessions

Intermittently, hosts Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts would grab some musical equipment and indulge in a jam session. Although none of these interludes yielded exceptional music, it was one of the format twists that could actually work really well going forward, especially when violinist Lindsey Stirling — perhaps even more of a theater kid than Lady Gaga — inevitably hosts this thing next year. (Her bubbly personality, though sometimes cloying, was a lot more enjoyable than watching her traipse around with a jetpack.)

08. Girls’ Generation Wins Video Of The Year

Apparently Stereogum’s Tom Breihan isn’t the only one out there riding for K-pop because Korean lady squad Girls’ Generation took home the Video Of The Year award over stiff competition including Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Justin Bieber featuring Nicki Minaj, and, um, Epic Rap Battles Of History. Gotta love an upset, especially when you don’t have a horse in the race.

07. Macklemore Thanks His Mushroom Dealer

After Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (rightfully) won the YouTube Breakthrough award, Schwartzman and Watts shuffled over to the rapper and producer carrying some babies Rashida Jones had handed them for some reason. What followed was some strange hybrid between an interview and an acceptance speech. Macklemore’s repeated jokes about the babies fell flat, but his list of thank-yous was appealingly odd: “I just want to thank my elementary school Tops in Seattle, my parents, my fiancee, and the person that used to sell me shrooms when I was a teenager. I love you all.”

06. Golfwang Wilds Out In Hot Pink

In his Wolf Haley guise, Tyler, The Creator directed himself and Earl Sweatshirt performing Doris track “Sasquatch” for a room full of raging fans inside a hot pink box. It recaptured the energy of those early Odd Future shows and had Earl a lot more jacked up than he was at SXSW. Tyler has always been at his best when he’s keeping things minimal (see: the “Yonkers” video), and this was no exception.

05. Win Butler Crashes Taylor Swift’s Acceptance Speech

Taylor Swift wasn’t around to accept her YouTube Phenomenon award, so some all-girl group that covered “I Knew You Were Trouble” on YouTube accepted on her behalf. Everything was going smoothly until Win Butler busted in wearing a Ramones T-shirt to parody Kanye’s infamous stage-crashing from the ’09 VMAs. “Not Taylor Swift, I’m a let you finish,” Butler began. “Not Taylor Swift, the YouTube Phenomenon Of The Year was definitely the ‘Harlem Shake,’ I don’t know. No disrespect, but everyone knows that if you’ve ever even been on YouTube, so whatever.”

04. M.I.A.’s Psychedelic Dance Party

For her Fafi-directed “Come Walk With Me” Video, M.I.A. performed underneath a series of neon arcs creative director Spike Jonze described as “a psychedelic mirror box” during the preshow. It was definitely a trip, and it added a needed dash of weirdness to a broadcast that often served up that counterfeit weirdness known as “awkwardness.”

03. The Introductory Segment With The Artists All Standing Together

There was something really exciting about seeing Tyler, The Creator, M.I.A., Avicii, and others all huddled together in the same place. We all know these people run into each other backstage at these events, but it was fun to see that happening out in front of us.

02. Greta Gerwig Dances It Out To “Afterlife”/”We Love You, Lou.”

As if “Afterlife” wasn’t already a pure tingles moment, how about Greta Gerwig ecstatically flailing through an apartment building, then an enchanted forest, then with a group of young girls, all while Arcade Fire rocked it out? This was the first performance of the night, and it was all downhill from there, except

1. Lena Dunham’s Choose Your Own Adventure Avicii Video

An Avicii video might not sound like much fun, but what about an Avicii video written by Lena Dunham, directed by Spike Jonze and Chris Milk, starring Michael Shannon (as an especially douchey Avicii), Dree Hemingway, Nick Lashaway, and Vanessa Hudgens, that climaxed in a choose-your-own-adventure scenario in which the audience gets to decide if the budding romance leads to a lifetime of happiness or suicide? There weren’t that many moments when the YouTube Music Awards seemed innovative or thrilling, but this thing, which played like an especially batshit episode of Girls, was hilarious and touching and all-around wonderful. Kudos to all involved — especially Avicii, who allowed himself to be called “a huge douche” in his own music video.

//

WINNERS:

Video Of The Year:
Epic Rap Battles Of History – “Barack Obama Vs Mitt Romney”
Demi Lovato – “Heart Attack”
Girls’ Generation ­- “I Got A Boy” (winner)
Justin Bieber (Feat. Nicki Minaj) – “Beauty And A Beat”
Lady Gaga ­- “Applause”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Feat. Mary Lambert) – “Same Love”
Miley Cyrus ­ – “We Can’t Stop”
One Direction ­- “Best Song Ever”
PSY ­- “Gentleman”
Selena Gomez ­- “Come & Get It”

Artist Of The Year:
Eminem (winner)
Epic Rap Battles
Justin Bieber
Katy Perry
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Nicki Minaj
One Direction
PSY
Rihanna
Taylor Swift

Response Of The Year:
Boyce Avenue (Feat. Fifth Harmony) ­- “Mirrors
Jayesslee ­- “Gangnam Style”
Lindsey Stirling And Pentatonix ­- “Radioactive” (winner)
ThePianoGuys ­- “Titanium / Pavane”
Walk Off The Earth (Feat. KRNFX) – “I Knew You Were Trouble”

YouTube Phenomenon:
“Diamonds”
“Gangnam Style”
“Harlem Shake”
“I Knew You Were Trouble” (winner)
“Thrift Shop”

YouTube Breakthrough:
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (winner)
Naughty Boy
Passenger
Rudimental

Innovation Of The Year:
Anamanaguchi ­- “ENDLESS FANTASY”
Atoms For Peace ­- “Ingenue”
Bat For Lashes ­- “Lilies”
DeStorm ­- “See Me Standing” (winner)
Toro Y Moi – “Say That”