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How Absentee Taylor Swift and Kanye West Were Spoofed at YouTube Music Awards

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photo: YouTube

Spoofs of Kanye West bumrushing Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs never get old. Just ask Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler, who pulled off the joke Sunday during the first YouTube Music Awards, streamed live on the video site from New York's Pier 36.

Taylor wasn't there to accept her red video-play button-shaped trophy for the YouTube Phenomenon win, a category based on songs that inspired the most fan covers.

Apparently, Win didn't agree that Taylor's "I Knew You Were Trouble" inspired more covers than the other nominees, PSY's "Gangnam Style," Baauer's "Harlem Shake," Rihanna's "Diamonds," or Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop." As a group of Taylor fans accepted the honor on her behalf, Butler broke out his best impression of Kanye West's famous rant from the VMAs.

"Not Taylor Swift, I'mma let you finish," Win said to the young women. "The year was definitely the 'Harlem Shake.' No disrespect, but everyone knows that, if you've ever been on YouTube. So whatever." After he finished his impromptu speech, he dropped the microphone onto the ground and made his exit as the fans and hosts laughed in shock.

The incident, possibly a stunt, drew some reaction via Twitter:

The 90-minute show was full of other surprises. Feeling like a hybrid of the VMAs, the Kids' Choice Awards, and a long "Saturday Night Live" skit, nearly every aspect of the show directed by Spike Jonze was full of unorthodox moments.

Each award was announced in a different way. For the Video Phenomenon category, for instance, a girl covered in fake blood emerged from a laundry cart to reveal the winner. Actress Rashida Jones handed hosts Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts two infants and an envelope with the winners of the YouTube Breakthrough field. The members of OK Go painted Schwartzman's face to blend with a portrait before sharing the Innovation of the Year honor.

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Lady Gaga sinks her teeth into the YouTube Music Awards [photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]

The performances were all shown like live music videos. Unfortunately, however, Eminem and Lady Gaga's numbers didn't exhibit too much creativity. Gaga, despite being pantless and showing up on the red carpet rocking some very freaky false teeth, was uncharacteristically sedate, covered from the waist up in a flannel shirt and cap, offering a stripped-down piano version of her new song "Dope."

Eminem's "Rap God" rendition looked very similar to the BET Hip Hop Awards' cypher sessions, shot in a plain room that altered between black-and-white backdrops before he took centerstage.

The artists that best fulfilled the live video concept were show openers Arcade Fire and Lindsey Stirling. Arcade Fire's "Afterlife" performance featured a set designed like an apartment. For the dramatic storyline, actress Greta Gerwig and Butler had a conversational exchange that began in the apartment, before Gerwig fled the residence to find solitude in some visually compelling outdoor settings.

Stirling, who also won the Response of the Year award for her cover of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" with Pentatonix, delivered a spectacular show. While playing violin, singing, and wearing a jetpack, she appeared to fly around a city, created by backdrop of illuminated skyscrapers.

Other performers of the night included M.I.A., Avicii, Earl Sweatshirt, and Tyler, The Creator.

Some of the live videos, technical difficulties and overall format sparked some criticisms via Twitter:

YouTube Award Winners:

Video of the Year: Girls' Generation, "I Got a Boy"
Artist of the Year: Eminem
Response of the Year: Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix, "Radioactive"
YouTube Phenomenon: Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"
YouTube Breakthrough: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Innovation of the Year: DeStorm, "See Me Standing"

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