Rihanna and pals A$AP Rocky and Calvin Harris had the crowd on its feet at Thursday night's opening of the party known as the MTV Video Music Awards inside Staples Center in Los Angeles.
But by the time the show ended, One Direction, the British boy band created by Simon Cowell, found itself with the most Moonman trophies: best pop video, best new artist and most share-worthy.
The prize-giving started early as a few awards were handed out during the preshow. Among the early winners: X-Factor judge Demi Lovato, who won best video with a message for Skyscraper, and Calvin Harris, who took home a trophy for best electronic dance video.
Comedian Kevin Hart played host of the extravaganza. The roster of celebrities at the VMAs represented music, film, television and sports.
Team USA's gold-medal-winning women's gymnastics teammates were together on the red carpet and met Katy Perry on her way in to the show. Later, the Olympians would introduce Alicia Keys' rousing performance of Girl on Fire.
During Hart's opening, he talked about Jersey Shore's new mama, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, who gave birth Aug. 26 to baby boy Lorenzo Dominic. Dad is Polizzi's fiance, Jionni LaValle. "I don't want you to do anything crazy with that baby, like spray-paint it orange," Hart said.
Polizzi's Jersey Shore castmates hit the red carpet without her, and they unanimously agreed that the end of their show was bittersweet. "We really went hard. We're glad to go out on top," said Vinny Guadagnino. Meanwhile, Sammie Giancola and Ronnie Ortiz-Magro walked the carpet with news of their own. "We've actually just moved in (together)," said Ortiz-Magro. So the famously quarrelsome couple are getting along? "For today. You know," said Giancola with a grin. But she confirmed there's no baby on the way. "Not anytime soon," she told reporters.
There was other baby talk, though. The cast had only seen pictures of Snooki's little boy in People, but Pauly DelVecchio called him "adorable. He has hair and everything. I can give him a blowout already."
Moms were well-represented during the night. Alicia Keys and husband Swizz Beatz brought along son Egypt. New mom Pink carried out a very acrobatic performance during the show. And, during the pre-show, Wiz Khalifa and fiancée Amber Rose confirmed that they are expecting a baby.
Actress Zoe Saldana enthusiastically introduced a performance by VMA nominee Frank Ocean, who drew media attention in early July when he revealed his first love was a man. He sang Thinking About Forever.
At arrivals, summer superstar Gotye had kind words for Ocean and "the clever way he approaches sampling." Gotye, aka Wally De Backer, seemed a bit overwhelmed on the red carpet of the over-the-top soiree. "It's kind of overwhelming to be here," he said. "The VMAs are far larger in scale than any awards show I've been to before."
Brown won best male video for Turn Up the Music, which he directed. "I want to thank Team Breezy," said a white-haired Brown, keeping his comments short. He continued to "thank all my management team. I love you all, my fans," and made no mention of anything else.
Not long after Brown, Drake took to the stage to accept the Moonman for best hip-hop video for HYFR featuring Lil Wayne. Drake also kept his remarks focused on the song, referencing a difficult childhood growing up black and Jewish. He then dedicated the award to every kid "who's ever had a long walk home by yourself."
Drake has collaborated with several other artists, but backstage, he did mention one he'd like to add to the roster: "Justin Timberlake. I would love to do something with him."
Screams filled the Staples Center when One Direction took to the stage to perform One Thing. Backstage, members said performing at the VMAs was the highlight of their breakout year. "It was our favorite performance we've ever given," said Harry Styles.
Rihanna found herself back on stage to collect the final trophy for video of the year. Her song, We Found Love featuring Calvin Harris, took the honor.
Despite the playful tone of the larger-than-life awards show, politics was on many of the artist's minds. Saldana said she set her DVR to record President Obama's address at the Democratic National Convention. "My TV's already set. I'm not going to miss a thing, she said on the red carpet. Ne-Yo agreed: "I"m definitely going to get somewhere where I can watch it," he said. "I'm a 100% Obama supporter." MTV even planned for the occasion, moving up the show's start time so it would not compete with Obama's speech.