Timberlake earned three awards, including video of the year and best male video for "Mirrors." Days ahead of the VMAs, his rumored reunion with 'N Sync dominated headlines, and he and his former bandmates delivered at the awards show.
As Timberlake performed a medley of his solo hits, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick emerged from the bottom of the stage in suits to sing some lines from their hits "Girlfriend" and "Bye, Bye, Bye." Gomez, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and possibly the entire venue were giddy as the boy band danced like they did a decade ago. Even rappers Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J admitted on the red carpet they were excited to see 'N Sync hit the stage.
"Half of the moonmen I've ever won, I won with those four guys right there," Timberlake said of his bandmates when he accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award. "So above all else, I'm going to share this - we can keep it my house - but I'm going to share this award with them."
Cyrus wasn't the only pop singer with edge at the VMAs: Swift also turned heads. The 23-year-old, who won best female video, appeared to utter an expletive to Gomez when Swift's rumored ex, One Direction member Harry Styles, was onstage. The boy band also earned boos when it won best song of the summer for "Best Song Ever," beating out Gomez, Thicke, Cyrus, Daft Punk and Calvin Harris.
Rapper A$AP Rocky also provided an awkward moment Sunday when standing next to NBA player Jason Collins as both announced Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' performance. Collins, who is the first active player in the NBA to say he is gay, spoke about coming out as A$AP Rocky looked uncomfortable.
"The next artist is a good friend of mine and he stands up for everything he believes in as far as everybody being equal, color, homosexuality," the rapper said as he pointed to Collins in another awkward moment.
But that was followed with a touching performance of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' same-sex anthem "Same Love." It featured the song's original vocalist, Mary Lambert, as well as Jennifer Hudson. The video won best video with a social message while their hit "Can't Hold Us" won best hip-hop video and best cinematography.
"I never dreamt I would be on a stage accepting an award, any of the awards, in particular for that song," Macklemore said of "Same Love" backstage. "It's much bigger than the music. It's equality, so that was the most special for me tonight, but all of them were incredible."
Bruno Mars, who won best male video and choreography for "Treasure," twirled with his two moonmen backstage while Gomez admitted she thought Thicke's "Blurred Lines" should have won best pop video instead of her seductive "Come & Get It."
Lady Gaga kicked off the awards show in a less dramatic fashion compared with her past performances. She did change her clothes - and hair - various times onstage while dancing and singing her new hit, "Applause." She finished in a thong, revealing her toned body.
Katy Perry closed the VMAs under the Brooklyn bridge in a boxing ring, singing her smash hit "Roar."