The VMAs, narrative-wise, have been very good to Taylor Swift. The subway ride, the Kanye incident, the "Innocent" performance: You could chart Taylor's career just by watching MTV for two hours every year. In hopes of getting another lightning-strike performance, the VMAs this year put Swift in the cleanup spot. Could she fulfill the promise of year's past?

Not quite. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is a monster pop single, and the video is goofy fun too, but Taylor's decision to lose the guitar for the VMAs backfired: Neither a tight routine dancer nor a great improviser, she fell back on aimless Old Navy commercial arm waves, for the first time seeming smaller than the stage. We dig the outfit, though, and the song is joyous enough that the night didn't end of a total down-note, but this one's not going to make the montage at Taylor Swift's Video Vanguard Award presentation.