The inaugural YouTube Music Awards took place at Pier 36 in New York City on Sunday night. It was directed by Spike Jonze, hosted by Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts, and featured performances by Arcade Fire, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, and M.I.A., among others. As these acts performed, a number of directors, including Jonze and Chris Milk, created live music videos. Not only that, but the entire show was unscripted; Schwartzman and Watts weren’t even allowed into writing sessions or rehearsals.
Arcade Fire kicked off the show with a performance of “Afterlife” from their new album Reflektor. Directed by Jonze, their video featured actress Greta Gerwig (No Strings Attached, Arthur) and a group of young girls dancing like there was no tomorrow.
Win Butler later returned to the stage to spoof Kanye, interrupting an award given to Taylor Swift (YouTube Phenomenon) by saying “Harlem Shake” was more deserving. He then threw the mic on the floor.
Lady Gaga performed her excellent new song “Dope” live for the first time ever. The video, directed by Jonze and Milk, simply saw Gaga on piano, dressed in plaid, wearing a “dope” baseball cap, and with no pants. She was noticeably emotional with tears streaming down her face as she sang about her bouts with addiction and other demons.
Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt teamed up to perform “Sasquatch” from Earl’s Doris. Directed by Wolf Haley (a.k.a Tyler), their video saw the two rappers, the rest of Odd Future, and a bunch of dedicated fans mosh around in a tiny pink cube.
M.I.A. performed “Come Walk With Me” from her forthcoming album Matangi. The video, directed by Fafi, featured M.I.A. and models strut down a runway showing off her new Versace clothing line, along with a seizure-inducing light show and hula hooping.
Last but certainly not least, Eminem performed “Rap God” from his forthcoming album The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Unlike his performance on Saturday Night Live, he appeared to rap live without a backing track, at times spitting bars in hyper-speed. Director Syndrome took a simplistic approach for the accompanying live video, placing Marshall in front of all-white and all-black backgrounds and giving total emphasis to the incredibly impressive performance at hand.