By CHRIS TALBOTT and MESFIN FEKADU
NEW YORK - Mile Cyrus made Lady Gaga look surprisingly tame as the pop stars opened the MTV Video Music Awards.
Gaga changed costumes four times Sunday night during her first return to the stage since hip surgery as she performed her new single "Applause." It was a predictably unpredictable appearance for Gaga, who seemed to pump in boos over the over the sound system as she opened the song in a white nun's habit and square headdress. By the time she finished the song, she was surrounded by unitard-clad male dancers and wearing a thong bikini decorated in shells and a long blonde wig.
Cyrus immediately kicked things up well beyond provocative, however, as she appeared on stage with a multitude of dancing teddy bears in a bodysuit adorned with a cartoon character. She twerked, changed into a nude bikini, ran a fan's foam finger along her privates as Robin Thicke appeared on stage to perform "Blurred Lines," then gave the singer a lap dance.
"Miley better go get a pregnancy test after all that grinding," Kevin Hart joked afterward.
Gaga and Cyrus were just the first of a cavalcade of music's top stars performing Sunday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the awards were held for the first time. They managed to drown out rumors about the `N Sync reunion temporarily and left Katy Perry, Drake, Kanye West and several others quite the spectacle to top.
Timberlake - the top nominee with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - will be honored with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and the anticipation over whether Timberlake and his old boy-band cronies will appear together dominated the pre-show conversation.
MTV was officially mum, neither confirming nor denying the rumor, and Joey Fatone has even denied it officially. But `N Sync conveniently debuted a Twitter account Saturday and the hubbub had overshadowed what will be an all-star lineup at the Barclays Center.
Timberlake - who's won seven moonman trophies - has the year's best-selling album, "The 20/20 Experience," and his follow-up "The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2," is due out in September. His "Mirrors" is up for video of the year. Thicke's "Blurred Lines" featuring T.I. and Pharrell, Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" and Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" round out the category.
Swift had Twitter afire early in the evening when she appeared to utter an expletive toward One Direction when the British boy band made an appearance after Gaga's performance.
Early winners included Macklemore and Lewis for best rap video, Thirty Seconds to Mars for best rock video and Selena Gomez for best pop video.
Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: http://twitter.com/Chris-Talbott.
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