Crying babies, Win Butler’s Kanye moment, face-painting, a make-up-free Lady Gaga in plaid and a trucker’s cap – these were some of the unexpected moments at the first YouTube Music Awards, as imagined by Spike Jonze and carried off by the odd-couple hosts Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts.
Eminem, Taylor Swift and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were among the winners during Sunday night’s live webcast from New York. But the awards were a bit beside the point as Jonze and others directed live videos with Eminem, Gaga, M.I.A. and the rapper Earl Sweatshirt. Schwartzman and Watts careened about the sound stage armed only with notecards.
Eminem was named Artist of the Year before performing a word- perfect version of his new lung-busting tour de force Rap God, filmed in black and white. Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble won YouTube Phenomenon and Macklemore and Lewis won YouTube Breakthrough.
The actress Gina Gerwig kicked the awards off as the protagonist of a live video of Arcade Fire’s Afterlife, directed by Jonze.
A little later, Schwartzman and Watts admitted they would be working the 90-minute show without a script. “This is all about anything happening,” Schwartzman said, and it sort of did.
The Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler took photos with his iPhone, the show’s hosts ran through the crowd a few times, climbed a ladder, participated in face-painting, performed two improvised songs and in the show’s most awkward moment carried babies through the crowd and tried to interview Macklemore and Lewis as they cried.
Schwartzman said the night was about creativity – and it certainly was creative.
Earl Sweatshirt and the fellow rapper Tyler, the Creator, performed their song Sasquatch in the midst of a mosh pit, using hand-held cameras to relay the frenetic experience.
Butler made a return to the stage when he jokingly interrupted a group of Swift fans accepting her award, recreating the infamous moment when Kanye West rushed the stage during Swift’s win at the MTV Video Music Awards.
“Not Taylor Swift,” Butler said. “I’m gonna let you finish. Not Taylor Swift. The YouTube phenomenon of the year was definitely the Harlem Shake. I don’t know. No disrespect, but everybody knows that if you’ve ever been on YouTube, so whatever.” He then dropped the mic and walked off the stage.
Other winners included Girls’ Generation, DeStorm and Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix.