Timberlake rocks VMA awards

The Video Music Awards were held at Barclays Centre in Brooklyn on Sunday.

Musician Justin Timberlake. Picture: AFP

NEW YORK - The MTV video music awards have honoured the year's top music videos - including one that has helped spark a public dialogue about gay rights.

Justin Timberlake won big, taking home the top prize for video of the year for Mirrors and a special achievement honour, and also led a much-anticipated onstage reunion of the boy band 'N Sync.

"I don't deserve this award," Timberlake, 32, said after TV talk show host Jimmy Fallon presented it to him. "But I'm not going to give it back."

He noted that half of the many VMAs he had won were "with these four guys right here," referring to 'N Sync singers JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick.

"I'm going to share this award with them," Timberlake said.

The awards - which took place for the first time in Brooklyn, New York, will air in South Africa tonight at 8:30pm on DSTV channel 130.

The VMA's featured a number of moments to talk about, including the awards won by independent rap duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

The two picked up best Hip Hop video for song, Can't hold us and their song Same Love won best video with a social message.

Later he injected a rare political note while accepting the prize for best video with a social message, for Same Love.

"I really wanted to win the best rap video, but this ... stands for a lot more," Macklemore said, calling the pro-gay song "the most important record" he had ever written.

"Gay rights are human rights, there is no separation," he added as the crowd cheered its approval.

Taylor Swift picked up Best Female Video with I Knew You Were Trouble, while Bruno Mars received two awards, for Best Male Video Locked Out of Heaven and Best Choreography Treasure.

Lady Gaga opened the live broadcast 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 seashell-and-string bikini.

Gaga marked her comeback after hip surgery earlier this year, but the act lacked the shock value of past VMA shows when she was drenched in blood or sported a dress made of raw meat.

Other performance highlights of the evening broadcast included Miley Cyrus backed by a line-up of dancers outfitted as giant teddy bears as she sang We Can't Stop. Robin Thicke then joined her as the pair led into a duet of Good Girl.

Kanye West, who at the 2009 VMAs notoriously 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.

British sensation group One Direction, who won three VMAs last year, presented the night's first award - for best pop video, to Selena Gomez for Come & Get It. Bruno Mars won best male video for Locked Out of Heaven.

One Direction won another award this year, the fan-voted song of the summer, for Best Song Ever.