South Korean rapper Psy hosted in style, Drake dropped by for an unannounced visit and soon-to-be-wed Canadian music power couple Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger took a bow at the Much Music Video Awards on Sunday.
Flanked by eight white-clad dancers, Psy – who was also acting as the show's co-host – opened the festivities with his galloping viral smash Gangnam Style wearing a white sequined tuxedo vest and round-rimmed sunglasses as he went through the familiar paces of the international hit.
"Let me see you bounce, Canada!" he implored, later scolding the crowd for staring into their smartphones: "Stop taking pictures and bounce!"
Psy then won the viral video of the year award for Gangnam Style – surely one of the evening's least-contested categories, given that the video racked up more than 1.65 billion YouTube views.
Meanwhile, Lavigne sent a buzz through the crowd when she walked the red carpet with Nickelback's Kroeger. The soon-to-be-wed punk princess wore a black-leather crown covered in metal spikes atop her head, and the couple was mutually clad head-to-toe in black.
It wasn't long before she'd claimed her first award, for international video of the year by a Canadian.
"Hi everybody. Happy Father's Day," said Lavigne, who later performed her aptly titled pop hit Here's to Never Growing Up while dancers waved smoking flares.
"My dad's here today. So of course, I want to say thank you to my dad for supporting me throughout the years. And of course, all the fans."
Grammy-winning Toronto rapper Drake was the evening's big surprise guest, strolling onstage unannounced to give a brief speech after winning hip hop video of the year for his origin-story boast Started From the Bottom, which also brought home the award for director of the year.
"Obviously I want to thank the city of Toronto first and foremost," he said. "It's great to be home."
And former Disney star Demi Lovato was among the non-homegrown winners in claiming international video of the year, which the X-Factor judge grabbed after navigating the stage's steps gingerly in her skyscraper heels.
"It's so heavy – it's SO heavy," said Lovato, who later performed a high-energy medley of Heart Attack and Give Your Heart a Break, indeed displaying reality show-worthy vocal acrobatics. "This is amazing!"
Although the show lacked a headline-hoarding signature surprise moment – such as when Lady Gaga set her bustier ablaze or when Lavigne herself decided to scrawl "MMVA" across her backside a full decade ago – Psy was, if nothing else, a game host.
The 35-year-old worried beforehand about his still-developing English but ably delivered some physical humour. After shouting "DJ, hit me, anything you want!" he launched into a furious dance routine set to Beyonce's Single Ladies, unsmiling and un-self-conscious.
"If you liked that, you better put a ring on it," he cracked afterward, finally relaxing into a broad grin.
He closed the show with a gyrating, pyro-packed performance of his new single Gentleman, while a gigantic inflatable Psy hovered in the background – stuck in a contemplative position, hand on chin, before eventually dancing as streamers rained down.
In other performances, husky-voiced howler Serena Ryder performed a medley of her primal hit Stompa and What I Wouldn't Do, Classified rapped Inner Ninja with two risers full of swaying children joining him and Ed Sheeran brought a touch of elegance, strumming his gentle Lego House on an acoustic guitar while clad in a Toronto Blue Jays T-shirt and suit jacket.
At the other end of the elegance spectrum, pop video of the year winners Marianas Trench performed Desperate Measures pantless, with "MMVA" scrawled across the backs of their tight white undies. They went on to win a second trophy, the fan-voted Your Fave video for Stutter.
Along with that Vancouver band, Classified was a rare double winner on the evening – including video of the year for his uplifting David Myles collaboration Inner Ninja – while Deadmau5 and conspicuously absent teen heart-throb Justin Bieber also nabbed awards.
The MMVAs are famous for inventive red-carpet arrivals, and while this year's show was slightly more muted in that respect, there were still splashy entrances. YouTube comedy group Janoskians arrived in a school bus painted black with fangs scribbled on the fender, American Idol champ Phillip Phillips showed up in a vintage forest-green pickup truck (later delivering a slightly out-of-key take on his Home) and – again, not to be outdone – Marianas Trench cruised down the carpet in a trunk containing two dunk tanks, with each of the quartet's members wearing leg-binding mermaid costumes (frontman Josh Ramsay and drummer Ian Casselman did indeed get sent under).
Fans camped out by Much's downtown Toronto headquarters for days leading up to the show, and they were ready when it was here – wearing headbands proclaiming their love for such in-attendance heart-throbs as Austin Mahone and Brit crooner Sheeran.
"So passionate," marvelled Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale at the fans shouting her name behind her.
Presenter Taylor Swift was similarly impressed, though she'd been in the city all weekend with two stadium show's at the cavernous Rogers Centre – shows that were so well-attended they inspired a bit of gridlock.
"I know, I'm sorry about the traffic – I was caught in the same traffic," said Swift, clad in a white-and-black minidress from Canadian designer Vawk, while interviewed on the red carpet.
Later, she won the fans' choice Your Fave trophy for international artist. Swift, whose gobsmacked responses to winning awards have become Internet meme material, was thus in character as she lifted what she said was her first MMVA.
"This is amazing. Thank you so much," she said. "I just want to thank MuchMusic for playing music videos, and for giving us a reason to put a visual element to the music. To the fans, I've had an amazing weekend with you – two sold-out shows. You're the reason we keep coming back to Canada. So thank you so much for everything."