Hip-hop artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez were among early winners on Sunday at MTV's annual Video Music Awards telecast from Brooklyn.
Lady Gaga opened the live program shown on the MTV and VH1 cable networks with a splashy rendition of her new single, "Applause," appearing in a series of outfits ranging from a riff on a nun's habit, with pearls, to a sparkly ensemble of jacket and pants more typical of cabaret chanteuses.
Gaga's appearance marked her comeback after hip surgery earlier this year, although the act lacked the shock value of earlier VMA shows when she was drenched in blood or sported a dress made of raw meat.
Other performance highlights included Miley Cyrus backed by a lineup of dancers outfitted as giant teddy bears as she sang "We Can't Stop," before being joined by Robin Thicke as the pair led into a duet of "Good Girl."
Kanye West, who in the 2009 VMAs snatched the microphone from Swift as she accepted her award, sang "Blood On The Leaves" in theatrical fashion as he was lit in dramatic silhouette.
This year, when Swift won best female video for "I Knew You Were Trouble," West left her alone.
"I want to thank the fans," Swift said, adding "I tweeted about this a lot, I really really wanted this and thank you so much for doing this for me."
And she cheekily thanked the inspiration for the song, about a love gone wrong, saying: "He knows who he is."
Macklemore, who he won for best hip-hop video along with partner Ryan Lewis, said: "They let some independent hip-hop artists up here at the VMAs."
The video won over top hip-hop performers such as Drake and Kendrick Lamar.
GOMEZ WINS FOR BEST POP VIDEO
British sensation group One Direction, who won big last year with three VMAs, presented the night's first award - for best pop video, to Selena Gomez for "Come & Get It."
"This is my first actual moonman," she said, referring to the silver prize modeled on the MTV character logo.
"I couldn't have done it without you guys," she told her fans.
Other early winners, some of whom were announced during a pre-show ahead of the evening broadcast from Brooklyn's Barclays Center, included Thirty Second to Mars' "Up In the Air," which won best rock video, and Pink featuring Nate Ruess' "Just Give Me a Reason," which was named best collaboration.
Professional, or technical, category winners included best choreography to Bruno Mars for "Treasure" and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis whose "Can't Hold Us" took the prize for best cinematography.
Justin Timberlake, set to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award presented by TV talk show host Jimmy Fallon, picked up two honors with his "Suit & Tie" winning best direction, while "Mirrors" took the prize for editing.
Before the telecast, Timberlake said of the Vanguard award: "I don't feel like I'm worthy of it, but I'm not gonna' pass it up."
A widely rumored and all-but confirmed on-stage reunion of 1990s boy band 'N Sync including Timberlake has overshadowed even the top nominees in recent days as media outlets and social media platforms have bulged with talk of a reunion of 'N Sync, which has not performed since 2002.
The band fueled the fire by setting up its first official Twitter account over the weekend with the tweet "Mic check, mic check one.. two... is this thing on?!"
But individual band members Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick stayed quiet.
Timberlake and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis led the nominations with six each, while Mars, Thicke and Cyrus also received multiple nods.
Timberlake's "Mirrors," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop," Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven," Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" were all in the running for the top award, MTV's Video of the Year.
Two new categories were added this year, song of the summer and artist to watch, both to be chosen by fans voting during the telecast.