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Insider Guide: How to Survive the VMAs

Cyrus shocks, Timberlake rocks, and not a single drink was drank

The best way to describe the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards is by comparing the whole confab to a sandwich: Justin Timberlake is the high quality, freshly sliced deli meat that finds itself trapped between weird, confusing pieces of bread, wilted lettuce and a lot of social media mustard (#mustard).

The best way to describe my experience at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards is “Wait, what?” paired with chuckles over the two men behind me in the audience, each of whom continually proclaimed throughout the Brooklyn-set event, “I’m just going to get drunk.”

(Everyone in our section had drink bracelets. Drink bracelets are great if you have a +1. Drink bracelets are depressing if you don’t have a +1. I did not have a +1, but I did have an iPad and book, and so I read instead of pre-gaming during the preshow, which may actually be more depressing than +0 drinking, but I don’t know, the math is fuzzy and I haven’t slept much.)

Anyways. The key to surviving the VMAs is to enjoy the sandwich for what it is, and if you want to wash it down with a vodka tonic, more power to you. But this is the sober edition of “How to Survive the VMAs.” After all, I had a flight in the morning.

The VMAs are the perfect example of “Things That Look Better On TV But That I Will Attend Each Year Anyway.” Never underestimate the power of compelling camera angles and sound editing to make everything look way shinier and cohesive than it is in person. And, for any of you following my Twitter feed (and by “any of you” I mean “none of you”), you saw that I had many thoughts last night during the ceremony. Here are some of them:


And during Miley Cyrus’s performance that included a very loose interpretation of twerking:


My night began with a troubling Uber ride to the Barclays Center, since the L train doesn’t go to Atlantic Avenue. (This would end up being a point of stress around 11 p.m. as the event let out and it was sort of like that clip from “World War Z” where the zombies are all scrambling over each other except instead of zombies it’s women in bandage-style dresses and instead of brains they’re looking for cabs and the entrance to the subway.)

PRO TIP: UberX is inferior to normal Uber, and no one knows where they’re going in Brooklyn, especially a guy picking you up in a Toyota Camry who isn’t sure how to spell “Barclays.” Choose the upgraded version of Uber, give your driver the actual event address, and meditate the entire way to the VMAs. You are about to see Miley Cyrus in nude latex hot pants grind on Robin Thicke. You need to clear your mind.

In spite of the heavy police presence, no one seemed to truly know what was going on outside of the Barclays Center, save the chicks whipping off their flip flops and stepping into 6-inch heels before entering the event — they knew exactly what was going on, if you ask me. I completed a dead sprint past a massive crowd, flailed around a silver drink bracelet and sat down in my seat 50 minutes before the live broadcast began, and remember, no +1, so just me and my +0.

Drained about half of my cell phone battery trying to Instagram a picture of the set, accidentally appeared in the background of approximately 6,000 Instagram pics of set. (Tag me!)

PRO TIP: Be smart. 70% battery is not an acceptable amount to leave the apartment with. Also, send all tweets, Instagram pics and texts out during the show, not the commercial breaks when essentially the AT&T and Verizon satellites struggle to not crash down to Earth as everyone at the Barclays Center texts at once “R u going to the bathroom” and “Will u get me a beer?” and “Text me that pic of us we just took.”

I would later see hoards of 12-year-old girls in the lobby of the VMAs hunched over iPhone chargers, an image that was disturbingly similar to those photos taken in disaster zones crippled without electricity.

The show: Lady Gaga opened with lots of bright, flashing lights and I suddenly wondered if there was a sign warning of seizure triggers outside the venue. I also wondered if I brought Aleve. At this point, I’m still trying to Instagram the damn set pic, and everyone around me — both physically in the stadium and metaphysically on Twitter — is wondering, “WHEN IS THIS NSYNC REUNION?!”

PRO TIP: Proper spelling is *NSYNC, according to the boy band’s newly-established Twitter. Wiki is confusing.

Spoiler alert: *NSYNC reunites for a whopping 110 seconds during Justin Timberlake’s glorious performance halfway through the event, but not before Miley Cyrus takes the stage, bringing to mind the phrase “the darkest hour is just before dawn.”

While many are shocked by Cyrus’ strip down, dance moves, and relentless Gene Simmons impression, I was left unfazed, probably due to the fact that this starlet wasn’t a part of my childhood. In fact, when she was rising to fame on the Disney Channel six years ago, I genuinely believed Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana were two different people touring together. Perhaps her stylistic and emotional severance from “Hannah Montana” was finalized last night as Cyrus rubbed a foam finger over her bare body, and now she and Montana really are two separate entities, one left in the depths of a dusty childhood, and the other fully embracing an edgy sense of sexuality on a very public platform.

Or maybe she’s “just being Miley,” I dunno.

Before heading to the 2013 VMAs, my mother texted me, “Don’t lie, you know you’re excited about the *NSYNC reunion,” reminding me of the glitter glue signs I once made for Lance Bass. I confessed I wasn’t. Yet, when Joey, Chris, JC and Lance rose up on platforms to join Justin on stage, a wave of positive energy washed over the entire stadium and for a moment we understood what a great performance felt like.

Justin Timberlake may have a denim line, a tequila company, a restaurant, an acting career and a famous, very attractive wife, but his performance at the VMAs proved that Timberlake’s greatest asset is still his musical talent. And whether *NSYNC and JT’s subsequent solo career was part of your poster-laden childhood or not, everyone — young and old — at the Barclays Center appreciated good music and dancing for what it was, sans gimmicks. The crowd was on its feet.

PRO TIP: Everyone is going to use the restroom after the most anticipated performance of the night. Everyone. Plan accordingly.

Meanwhile, One Direction paid tepid attention to the boy band vets on stage, and were later booed as they accepted their Moon Man for “Song of the Summer.” Sympathy level: low.

INDUSTRY PRO TIP: Pay your dues, boy bands. JC Chasez is 37 and can still crush choreography and vocals while drawing a broader demographic than you all.

The ceremony continued and the guys behind me got drunker and, for as much folks whine about MTV (Miley) being too provocative, the net offered a beautiful promotional platform for gay rights. Jason Collins took the stage to speak encouraging words about his own journey as a gay man, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis gave a spirited performance of “Same Love.”

While we once all gawked at Britney Spears and Madonna locking lips on screen at the VMAs, we now can admire MTV using the ceremony not as an opportunity to shock with same sex activity, but rather uplift with same sex messaging.

There were other things: Kanye West performing in the dark, Daft Punk wearing glitter sports jackets, me spilling water everywhere. As opposed to last year’s snoozey-boozey VMAs, the 2013 confab had its share of shocking moments, great performances, and GIF-worthy shade thrown by celebs at one another. Essentially: MTV accomplished its goal of stimulating conversation and broadcasting an awards show that was relevant. With that, the night was a success.

But one final PRO TIP: Don’t book the early flight back to Los Angeles after the VMAs. Like an iPhone quickly running out of battery, you’ll feel like you’re about to die and no amount of in-flight snacks — or even a sandwich with great deli meat and wilted lettuce — will recharge you during your trip.

See you next year, VMAs! From Gogo Inflight WiFi somewhere above Kansas, over and out.

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