Pop Culture

Taylor Swift absolves Kanye West at VMAs

Taylor Swift absolved Kanye West of last year's onstage sin with one somber song, and West, also in song, beat himself up once again over his misbehavior.

The Swift-West drama took center stage at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, with both superstars either addressing or dancing around the incident that won't die.

Both dramatic performances delivered on pre-show hype of a Kanye-Taylor sequel and overshadowed the evening's other moments, including Lady Gaga's eight-win sweep. Among her awards was video of the year for "Bad Romance."

The stage for both songs was set last year, when West interrupted Swift's acceptance speech, saying her trophy should have gone to Beyonce. The incident left Swift with hurt feelings, but West was the one who was seriously damaged, as intense backlash made him Mr. Unpopularity.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Mike Blake / X00030

    Image: Lady Gaga holds her video of year award with presenter Cher at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    Lady Gaga 'meats' Cher; Taylor Swift sings absolution; Justin Bieber letters in music.

  • Image: Lady Gaga holds her video of year award with presenter Cher at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Lady Gaga 'meats' Cher

    Lady Gaga picked up the biggest award of the night, video of the year, from another flamboyant dresser -- Cher. Gaga picked up her moonman trophy while clad in a dress, hat and shoes that appeared to be made of meat. Gaga won eight awards, close to a VMA record -- although Peter Gabriel won 10 for "Sledgehammer" in 1987.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Lady Gaga

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Lady Gaga

    Naturally, Lady Gaga lit up the white carpet in a Victorian-style gown and Mohawk feather headdress atop a white wig.

    AP / AP
  • Image: 2010 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Selena Gomez

    Actress Selena Gomez blows the crowd a kiss. She said before the awards that she hopes Justin Bieber won the moonman trophy for best new artist, and Bieber indeed did.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: 2010 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Usher and Justin Bieber

    Usher and Justin Bieber arrive at the VMAs. Like Bieber, Usher began his career as a teenager and quickly rose to fame.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: 2010 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Ashley Greene

    Ashley Greene, who stars as vampire Alice Cullen in the "Twilight" movies, vamped on the white carpet.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Trey songz and Ne-Yo (R) pose at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Trey Songz and Ne-Yo

    Trey Songz and Ne-Yo pose for photographers on the white carpet.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Ke$ha

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Ke$ha

    Ke$ha was nominated for best female video, best new artist and best pop video, but went home empty-handed.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Katy Perry dances with MTV icon "Moon Man" as she arrives at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Moonman and Katy Perry

    Katy Perry dances with MTV's iconic Moonman, whose image is depicted on the VMA trophies.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Katy Perry

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Nailed it

    Perry wore images of fiance Russell Brand painted on her fingernails.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Justin Timberlake, Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    'Social Network' stars

    Justin Timberlake, Jesse Eisenberg, and Andrew Garfield star in "The Social Network," the fictionalized movie about the founding of Facebook. Timberlake plays Sean Parker of Napster, Eisenberg plays Facebook founder (and Eisenberg lookalike) Mark Zuckerberg, and Garfield plays Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Justin Bieber

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Justin Bieber

    Wearing a "B" letterman's jacket, Justin Bieber slaps the hands of fans outside the awards.

    AP / AP
  • Image: Chelsea Handler spoofs Lady Gaga during 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Chelsea Handler kicks off the show

    Host Chelsea Handler spoofs always-elaborately costumed Lady Gaga during the opening number of the awards.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: 2010 MTV Video Music Awards - Show

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Eminem and Rihanna

    Rapper Eminem and singer Rihanna offered the night's first surprise as she joined him to perform their song, "Love the Way you Lie." Eminem earlier said that he felt only Rihanna could perform that part on the hit song, which focuses on a love-hate relationship.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: The cast of Jackass 3D put on 3D glasses as they introduce an act at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    'Jackass 3D' cast

    The cast of "Jackass 3D" put on 3-D glasses as they introduce an exclusive clip from the pain-filled flick.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: Lady Gaga accepts the award for best pop video at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Gaga meets 'Glee'

    Lady Gaga accepts the award for best pop video for 'Bad Romance' from 'Glee' cast members Cory Monteith and Jane Lynch.

    Reuters / Reuters
  • Image: 2010 MTV Video Music Awards - Show

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift performed a song about last year's incident in which Kanye West grabbed her trophy away. The tune included the lyric "32 and still growing up now ...you're still an innocent."

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: 2010 MTV Video Music Awards - Show

    2010 MTV Video Music Awards

    of

    Usher

    Usher performed his nominated hit, "OMG," which was said to be inspired by sci-fi icon Max Headroom.

    Getty Images / Getty Images

While West didn't address the trophy-gate incident directly onstage, he rapped and sang a song that mocked the boorish behavior that has upstaged his music: "I always find something wrong; you've been putting up with my (expletive) for too long," he said, before launching into the an unprintable chorus, which included the line: "Let's have a toast to scumbags."

While Swift is known for skewering those who have done her wrong in song, for West, she offered an olive branch with her song "Innocent," written earlier this year: "Everyone of us has messed up, too ... I hope you remember today is never too late to be brand new."

Scoop vote: Kanye vs. Taylor: Is anyone a winner?

The 20-year-old's poignant and powerful ode didn't criticize West. Instead she sympathized with his difficult time in the spotlight and West's own admissions that his ego has often gotten in his own way.

"Thirty-two and still growing up now; who you are is not what you did," she sang softly, adding: "You're still an innocent."

Gaga accepted her video of the year award with an outfit sure to anger PETA: a dress and chapeau made of what seemed to be cuts of raw beef, including a meat purse. It was one of her three typically outrageous outfits of the evening.

Cher — an over-the-top diva from a different era — gave Gaga her award and noted she had been raising eyebrows while Lady Gaga "was still Baby Gaga."

Gaga was teary-eyed when accepting her trophies, and sang the title of her new album as she accepted the last award: "Born This Way."

Compared to the pathos of Swift and West, there were few other highlights, despite performances from Usher, Eminem and Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Linkin Park, and appearances by Nicki Minaj and the cast of MTV's own "Jersey Shore."

Host Chelsea Handler gave the show its traditional bawdiness, though her jokes often fell flat. A pre-taped portion of her opening featured the host getting spanked multiple times by show participants in a backstage hallway before running into the recently freed Lindsay Lohan, who also gave her a swat.

"Have you been drinking?" Lohan demanded from Handler. "Do you think anyone wants to work with a drunk? Take it from me! They don't!"

Later, on stage, Handler implored the all-star audience to get wild.

VMAs most tweeted: Rihanna and Kanye West

"I want to encourage everybody to be on their worst behavior," she said. "I want to turn this mother out. ... Get your tongues ready because I want those tongues shoved in places they're not supposed to be."

But it was a relatively tame night; perhaps, given West's antics last year, the stars had learned a lesson.

Full list of winnersVIDEO OF THE YEAR Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance" BEST FEMALE VIDEO Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance" BEST MALE VIDEO Eminem - "Not Afraid" BEST NEW ARTIST Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris - "Baby" BEST COLLABORATION Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce - "Telephone" BEST HIP HOP VIDEO Eminem - "Not Afraid" BEST POP VIDEO Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance" BEST ROCK VIDEO 30 Seconds to Mars - "Kings and Queens" BEST DANCE MUSIC VIDEO Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance" BEST ART DIRECTION Florence + the Machine - "Dog Days Are Over" BEST CHOREOGRAPHY Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance" BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Jay Z and Alicia Keys - "Empire State of Mind" BEST DIRECTION Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance" BEST EDITING Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance" BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS Muse - "Uprising" BREAKTHROUGH VIDEO The Black Keys - "Tighten Up"

TOP