NEW YORK – YouTube’s first music awards thrilled and spilled Sunday, with Eminem named artist of the year, though most awards went to lesser-known acts during a show filled with eclectic stunts.
The webcast was kicked off by indie rockers Arcade Fire performing their new song “Afterlife” in a “live video” performance featuring a chorus of girl singers in Pier 36, a sprawling indoor events space in New York.
Up next was a crying Lady Gaga, minus her trademark peroxide blonde hair and makeup, dressed in a tomboyish baseball cap marked “Dope,” for a first performance of the song “Dope,” which she delivered in a haunting, melancholic tone while playing the piano.
Pictures later showed the enigmatic artist, well known for unpredictable behavior, scantily clad and in an apparently distressed state on stage, with fans reaching up to touch her.
The 90-minute affair may have split the Internet audience down the middle, judging by comments posted on Twitter, in which some people complained that the show was censored at several points when the live stream stopped.
The breakthrough act award was taken home by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, whose featured video was shot for $5,000.
The inaugural YouTube Music Awards joins a variety of industry awards, such as the Grammys, MTV Video Music Awards and American Music Awards, and enters the fray at a time when people increasingly turn to the Internet for streaming and on-demand programming.
Unlike the established awards ceremonies, YouTube’s event organizers said the nominees and winners were tallied in a distinctly Internet-age manner, based on “viewership, subscriber, and/or engagement metrics.”
While big names Miley Cyrus, Psy, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber were nominated for the coveted best video award, it was K-Pop phenoms Girls’ Generation who took home the prize for their song “I Got a Boy.”
The clips nominated for video of the year pulled in more than 1.9 billion views ahead of Sunday’s show.
The YouTube event also honored the violinist Lindsey Stirling, whose career was drastically boosted or even enabled by the video-sharing platform, with the best response award for videos that were remixed or parodied.
The phenomenon award went to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” video, and the innovation of the year award went to Destorm Power, the 160th-most-subscribed YouTube user.
In August last year, the Nielsen rating agency published a survey in which 64 percent of American adolescents said they listened to music on YouTube, compared with no more than 56 percent who said they listened to radio.