Justin Timberlake 's comeback had already been a success before Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards, but it reached a new level at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. He received the coveted video of the year award and delivered the highlight of the night: an extended performance of his biggest hits.
First things first: yes, the much-rumored 'NSYNC reunion did happen, albeit it very briefly. During his musical medley, Justin welcomed Lance Bass , Joey Fatone , Chris Kirkpatrick and JC Chasez onto the stage for snippets of "Girlfriend" and "Bye Bye Bye" that lasted a total of 90 seconds.
The 'NSYNC appearance was hardly a surprise. Aside from the many reports of their reunion in the days leading up to the VMAs, an official 'NSYNC Twitter account was launched over the weekend. The first tweet read , "Mic check, mic check one.. two... is this thing on?!"
JT graciously saluted his pals after his performance, when he accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. He credited them for half of the 14 Moonmen trophies he's received during his career. He also joked that he will share the Vanguard Award with them but will keep it in his home.
Justin's set list also included "Take Back the Night," "SexyBack," "My Love," "Like I Love You," "Cry Me a River," "Señorita," "Rock Your Body," "Suit & Tie" and "Mirrors."
After JT exited the stage, comedian Kevin Hart cracked a few jokes at the expense of Justin's former band mates, saying they have gained a lot of weight and that he saw Joey fart. Hart didn't get many laughs from the crowd, which was absolutely nuts for Justin.
The lovefest for Justin continued when he won the night's top prize, video of the year, for "Mirrors," a clip that was inspired by the relationship between his grandmother and grandfather. Noting that he lost his grandfather last December, he dedicated the award to his grandmother.
Overall, Justin took home four awards, including the Vanguard Award and two honors in the technical categories. He and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis entered the VMAs with the most nominations, with six each. The rap duo won three awards.
As promised, Lady Gaga opened the show with a performance of her new single, "Applause." In fact, the first shot viewers saw when the broadcast began was a close-up of Gaga's face, which was placed through a white, rectangular cutout. She stared straight ahead with widened eyes while belting out lyrics that sounded straight out of a Broadway musical -- perhaps a nod to the VMAs' return to New York.
Gaga then transitioned to "Applause," as the cameras revealed her wearing an all-white nun outfit. She shed the costume for a sparkling black unitard, to which she eventually added a blue jacket and miniskirt. Her natural hair was covered with a black cap on which she interchanged blonde wigs.
The fast-paced spectacle ended with her in a bikini featuring a seashell top. All in all, there were at least four costume changes by Gaga, showcasing some of her earlier looks as well as her current ARTPOP style.
We've seen more outrageous performances from Gaga in the past, but it was still entertaining, and she moved very well for someone who just had hip surgery six months ago.
Actually, Miley Cyrus was way more over the top than Gaga. For her rendition of "We Can't Stop," she wore a skimpy outfit as she twerked and gyrated alongside dancers with giant teddy bears strapped to their backs, in a recreation of the song's music video. Miley ripped off her own skimpy bear-inspired outfit to reveal a flesh-colored bikini, as she joined Robin Thicke for his smash hit, "Blurred Lines." To say Miley's dancing was provocative would be a huge understatement.
Robin, dressed like a referee, also brought his football-themed video for "Give It 2 You" to life on the VMAs stage, with the help of 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar .
Katy Perry ended the proceedings with a live version of her hit "Roar," from a stage set up near the Brooklyn Bridge. The stage resembled a boxing ring, and she played the role of a boxer, climbing a turnbuckle, spitting into a bucket provided by her "trainer," and holding a fake championship belt. She wore her hair in ponytails, and donned a tiger print top as well as boxing shorts with flames displayed on them. Before her performance, MTV announced that a fan vote picked "Dark Horse" as Perry's next single to be released.
The night didn't lack drama, thanks to Taylor Swift , who appeared to take a verbal shot at her ex-boyfriend, One Direction 's Harry Styles , during the ceremony. Early on in the broadcast, Taylor was caught on camera dropping an F-bomb from her seat as Harry's group presented the award for best pop video, won by her pal Selena Gomez. Before the announcement, she turned to Selena, who was sitting next to her, and mouthed the words, "Shut the f*** up." The timing was odd, since 1D had just remarked that the "best fans are in New York."
Taylor kept the claws out when she collected her award for best female video, for "I Knew You Were Trouble." She closed her speech by saying, "I also want to thank the person who inspired this song, who knows exactly who he is, because now I got one of these," referring to her Moonman trophy. MTV immediately cut to a shot of the One Direction boys, though Taylor probably wasn't targeting Harry in this case, because the release of "I Knew You Were Trouble" predates their relationship, which ended in January.
Taylor managed to keep her opinion of Harry to herself while presenting the prize for best male video, which was given to Bruno Mars , for "Locked Out of Heaven" -- his first-ever VMAs win.
Harry didn't mention Taylor when 1D took the song of the summer award, for "Best Song Ever."
Other points of interest:
-- For those of you hoping to see a typical awards show outburst from Kanye West , it never came. He did rap "Blood on the Leaves" without much fanfare.
-- Bruno debuted the latest single from his hit album Unorthodox Jukebox : "Gorilla."
-- Jennifer Hudson teamed up with Mary Lambert and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for the duo's VMA-winning song "Same Love."
-- Drake performed "Hold On We're Going Home" and "Started From The Bottom."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio