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VMAs: Taylor Swift upstages Miley Cyrus

A funny thing happened at the MTV VMAs: Classy Taylor Swift upstaged court jester Miley Cyrus.

Miley Cyrus says that MTV told her that this year's Video Music Awards would be her party.

But a funny thing happened Sunday night: Classy Taylor Swift upstaged court jester Cyrus.

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The night became Swift's coronation as pop queen. She dazzled in some memorable moments. Kanye West may have made news by announcing he was running for president at the end of a rambling, heartfelt speech. (He doesn't get awards shows, and he's not alone.)

Swift, in a gracious introduction, was a better representative for West than he was for himself as he talked for a self-indulgent 12 minutes. But he did apologize for interrupting Swift's MTV speech in 2009 -- a misstep that still haunts his career.

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Swift ended a perceived feud with Nicki Minaj by opening the show with Minaj in a good-natured show of sisterhood. Swift let "Blank Space" director Joseph Kahn give a speech when she won for best female video. "Taylor, it's a jaded world, but it's hard to believe there's someone as nice, as awesome as you that's as beautiful and as talented all in the same combination," he told her.

When Swift won for video of the year for "Bad Blood," she answered critics of that video by describing the joy of living "in a world where boys can play princesses and girls can play soldiers."

Cyrus had been one of those critics. As host, she had some funny moments, notably cutting up with Snoop Dogg about their shared fondness for marijuana. When Justin Bieber started sobbing after his performance, Cyrus told him to call her when he's legal.

The former Hannah Montana is a gifted comic actress, and just imagine what she might pull off if she applied herself. But as host, Cyrus seemed desperate to hold the attention, especially when a bit backstage showed her unclothed. She raced frantically through a series of costume changes, from gaudy to gorgeous. She ended the show with a big production number and some provocative moves. She was straining to be outrageous. There would be more career security in honing her talents.

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On the musical side, the standout was Tori Kelly on her soaring, soulful delivery of "Should've Been Us." Pharrell gets points for channeling Elvis Presley and "Jailhouse Rock" on the splashy production number for "Freedom." The Weeknd impressed the star-packed audience with "Can't Feel My Face."

But it was Swift's night because, with every move she made, she illustrated why she is such a big deal in the music industry.

Maybe there was a lesson at this year's VMAs: Class trumps crass.

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