Gaga makes splash at MuchMusic Video Awards, but all eyes on Gomez and Bieber

TORONTO – Lady Gaga won two awards and provided a double shot of her trademark edgy, eccentric stage theatrics at Sunday’s MuchMusic Video Awards – but it was a surprise appearance from beloved teen-pop star Justin Bieber that really sent fans into a frenzy.

Bieber wasn’t promoted as one of the evening’s celebrity guests, but the 17-year-old teen-pop titan from Stratford, Ont., seemingly couldn’t resist coming out to support his girlfriend Selena Gomez, the Disney-reared star who hosted the outdoor bash.

The couple may have shared a kiss at the Billboard Music Awards a few weeks ago, but on Sunday they shared the spotlight, inspiring a screaming throng of teens that clogged downtown Toronto streets all day to elevate their shrieking to a deafening crescendo.

“I want to say thank you so much to all my fans, you guys are amazing,” Bieber said as he accepted his first award of the evening, international video by a Canadian, which he shared with Toronto rapper Drake.

“I love you Toronto.”

And Toronto loved him right back – but it was his relationship with Gomez that dominated this night.

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The teens’ budding partnership has been the subject of much tabloid fascination, and the couple didn’t mind encouraging the chatter with a series of coy on-camera appearances.

It began during Bieber’s red-carpet entrance, when he was asked which performers he was excited to see.

“I am most excited to see Selena perform tonight – I like her song, it’s a great song,” said Bieber, clad in a pink blazer, white graphic T-shirt and jeans, with a pink scarf hanging from his back pocket.

Gomez, too, made some not-so-subtle references to her relationship to the teen titan.

“You guys may not know this, but I love everything about Canada,” she winked in her opening monologue, looking grown up in a white top, abbreviated black shorts and red high heels.

“Hockey, I play. Back bacon? I just ate some backstage. And it’s just fun to say ‘Saskatchewan.’

“Basically, I love Canada.”

Moments later, she presented Bieber with his first award.

“Selena? Nice to meet you, I’m Justin,” he said with a grinning Drake standing next to him.

“You’re very beautiful. Maybe we could go out sometime?”

All that PG-rated sweetness stood in stark contrast to the boundaries-testing raunch conjured by Gaga, the always-outlandish pop provocateur who tried to top her buzzed-about MMVAs performance from two years ago.

Back then, Gaga took the stage for a medley of her hits with a gaggle of barely dressed dancers and a large model of a New York subway car. After much carefully choreographed weirdness, she closed that evening by posing with a metal bustier shooting sparks into the night air.

The five-time Grammy winner began this year’s show with a relatively tame take on her new single “The Edge of Glory,” during which she scaled a three-storey fire escape clad in a studded leather jumpsuit, her hair coloured bright turquoise.

But her closing performance is where things got, well, hairy. Singing “Born This Way,” Gaga emerged from a plastic cocoon clad in an elaborate outfit of black feathers. She soon shed that, and strutted around the stage with tufts of fake bright blue hair positioned under her arms and over the crotch of her black pants.

She finished the performance cavorting with her dancers under a shower of purple goo.

Still, the singer struck a different tone as she accepted her second award, the “UR Fave” international artist trophy. Her voice hushed, she remembered the date – Father’s Day – and paid tribute to E Street Band stalwart Clarence Clemons, who died Saturday night.

“Oh my gosh, thank you so much,” she said, clad in a revealing black dress. “I love you so much, little monsters in Canada. This award was the most important one to me because it’s from you. You are so beautiful.

“I’d like to wish my dad a happy Father’s Day, and I’d like to dedicate this award to my grandfather, who’s in heaven now with Clarence. So I’m on the edge of both of you and I love you.”

The three presumed front-runners heading into the show – pop R&B singer Shawn Desman, local pop-punk howler Fefe Dobson and youthful rap-rock outfit Down With Webster – each claimed one award out of four nominations apiece, with Desman winning video of the year for his slinky come-on “Electric/Night Like This.”

Other winners included Vancouver dance-punk outfit You Say Party, former “So You Think You Can Dance” contestant Blake McGrath, Toronto rapper JDiggz and hard-edged Toronto rockers Abandon All Ships.

Meanwhile, Gaga wasn’t the only artist to employ some flashy stagecraft.

A leather-clad Dobson manoeuvred around a red convertible while she belted out “Stuttering,” a barefoot Gomez began her performance of “Who Says” clad in a nightgown and seated at a plush pink throne before transitioning to a rooftop set while Far East Movement performed a medley of their club hits that ended with Snoop Dogg emerging from a coffin surrounded by – what else? – a haze of smoke.

Avril Lavigne, who authored one of the award show’s signature moments when she mooned the camera with “MMVAs” scrawled along her backside years ago, this time settled for writing those four letters along her left arm as she nonchalantly strummed a guitar through “What the Hell.”

A suit-clad Bruno Mars aimed for retro glamour with a lounge-appropriate reimagining of his No. 1 hit “Just the Way You Are.”

And amid a series of splashy red-carpet entrances, Vancouver’s Marianas Trench still managed to stand – or, um, roll – out. The pop-punk quartet came barrelling in encased in clear plastic hamster balls, two members confined to each sphere.

Yet Bieber managed to steal the red-carpet thunder simply by showing up.

As he claimed his second award of the evening – the “UR Fave” trophy for best artist – he slapped hands with the fans lining the stage’s catwalk before once again thanking his followers.

“I want to say that the first time I ever got an award was here at the MuchMusic awards, so I want to say thank you to all my fans. You guys are amazing. I couldn’t do this without you. I love you so much.”

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