Hard as it was for most people to tear away their eyes from Beyonce's belly, those that did probably noticed a few other highlights of the night. It all started with Lady Gaga's opening performance of "You and I" in her most outlandish costume yet — a whiskey swilling, chain-smoking dude called Jo Calderone.
Gaga stayed in character the whole night, including when she went up to collect her award for Best Female Artist and — most awkwardly — when she presented the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award to Britney Spears. "I used to hang posters of her on my wall and touch myself when I was laying in bed," Jo said, before motioning to re-enact Britney's infamous on-stage kiss with Madonna at the 2003 VMAs.
In the worst-kept secret of the night, dad-to-be Jay-Z and Kanye West took the stage for a "surprise" performance of their first single, "Otis," from their collabo album Watch the Throne. The duo kept it simple in t-shirts and denim, true to the aesthetic of their buzzworthy video.
Later, Chris Brown delivered a far less restrained performance of "Beautiful People," complete with mini-tributes to Wu-Tang Clan (with faux martial-arts dancing) and Nirvana (flannel-shirted dancers jumped on trampolines in the background). He capped off his performance by flying into the air, arms outstretched, on invisible wires.
Tyler, the Creator got emotional during his acceptance speech for the Best New Artist award. "Yo, I'm excited as f--- right now. I wanted this sh-- since I was 9," he said, with his entire crew behind him on stage. "I'm about to cry."
Russell Brand kicked off a touching tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, and was joined on stage by Tony Bennett, who shared a video from a recording session he did with Winehouse just a couple of months before she died. The two compared her to jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and then handed over the stage to Bruno Mars, who performed in her honor.
Lil Wayne closed the show in a white T-shirt and jeans that were barely hanging on. He began with his ballad "How to Love" but quickly switched gears to hard rock, doing knife kicks and thrashing his braids around to a riff from Black Sabbath's "Iron Man." Wayne seemed to temporarily forget he was on primetime and didn't censor any of his lyrics, resulting in a lot of dead air.
Oh, and a bunch of people won awards.