Yes, the biggest jaw-dropper of the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday happened on the black carpet before the show even began: Beyoncé‘s baby bump reveal. But that was hardly the only surprise of the famously unpredictable show.
Among the night’s big winners: Katy Perry, who scored three Moon Men – her first-ever – including Video of the Year for “Firework;” British soul singer Adele, who won three trophies for her mega-hit “Rolling in the Deep” (and received a standing ovation for her stunning live performance of “Someone Like You”); and Justin Bieber for Best Male Video (“U Smile”).
A rundown of the night’s other buzz-worthy moments:
1. Lady Gaga Goes Drag
The pop chameleon left her over-the-top red-carpet looks – and her egg – at home, and instead showed up as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone. Dressed in a white t-shirt and dark pants, with a black pompadour and a hint of a 5 o’clock shadow, Gaga-as-Calderone opened the show with an extended monologue about his “girlfriend” Lady Gaga.
“She’s f–––ing crazy!” said Calderone. “She comes out of the shower still drippin’, still got the heels on! At first it was sexy, but now I’m just confused.” (As were several audience members.)
The singer stayed in character all night, later introducing [CELEBRITY_LINK” “” “” “0” ] (“We’re just a good old-fashioned American man and a good old-fashioned American girl,” said Gaga-as-Calderone) and accepting Best Female Video for “Born This Way.”
Gaga as a cigarette-smoking, f-bomb dropping drag king? Um, okay. Now can we please move onto the next look?
2. Justin Bieber’s Pet Snake
In a strange – and surprisingly dirty – moment on the black carpet, the teen idol seemed to indulge in some risqué double-talk while being interviewed by girlfriend Selena Gomez.
Holding a (tiny) snake, the 17-year-old star smirked when Gomez asked the snake’s name. “Johnson,” he winkingly replied, before planting a kiss on Gomez’s cheek. No comment.
3. Dad-to-Be Jay-Z
He was all swagger onstage performing “Otis” onstage with Kanye West, but a softer, downright sweeter side of the hip-hop king was on full display after his wife Beyoncé wrapped her performance of “Love On Top” by rubbing her bump.
Grinning from ear to ear, the proud papa even got a congratulatory back slap from West. Pass the cigars!
4. The Hunger Games Teaser
Yes, it was way too short – less than a minute – but the much-anticipated sneak peak at the first film based on Suzanne Collins’s best-selling Y.A. series, due in March, succeeded in whetting fans’ appetites for more.
Plus Jennifer Lawrence, as steely heroine Katniss, looked fierce with a bow and arrow.
5. Amy Winehouse Tribute
The night’s emotional highlight came when Russell Brand took the stage to kick off a moving tribute to the late British singer, who died in July. “She was a genius,” said Brand, a close friend. “The first time I heard her sing, I thought, ‘What is this incredible voice … from the guts of humanity?’ ”
Jazz legend Tony Bennett introduced footage he recorded with Winehouse – looking happy and sounding strong – last March for his Duets 2 album, saying, “Either you got it or you haven’t got it, and Amy had the gift. She sang beautiful.”
Finally, chart-topper Bruno Mars – flanked by a full band with horn and string sections – performed a rousing, hand-clapping rendition of the Winehouse hit “Valerie.” Full of life and joy, it seemed to uplift the entire auditorium. (Adele was one of many famous audience members singing along.) One of the best VMA performances ever.