The singer, whose performance showed no signs of receiving help from illusionist Criss Angel, lip-synched the song as women cavorted on stripper poles amid a flashy red background. (Click here to see the performance.) The song comes in advance of Spears's as-yet-untitled record due in stores Nov. 13.
The pop star has a history of dramatic performances at the VMAs – including kissing Madonna and dancing with a live snake – but this year's performance, after a weekend of partying, seemed off if not less entertaining.
And at least one review was in almost immediately. Following Spears's performance, comedian Sarah Silverman offered her sarcastic take. "Was that incredible? Britney Spears, everyone," Silverman said. "Wow. She is amazing. She is 25 years old and she's already accomplished everything she's going to accomplish in her life. It's mind blowing."
Silverman even went after the pop star's personal life, calling Spears's sons Sean Preston and Jayden James "the most adorable mistakes you will ever see."
Later backstage, hip-hop star Akon offered his reaction to Spears's performance, telling PEOPLE: "That could have been better. She needed to focus more. She looked nervous and I think the pressure got to her."
Similarly, Common told PEOPLE about Spears: "I think it didn't seem like she wanted to be there. There wasn't any spark, it didn't feel like life was there."
Before the show, many artists weighed in on her comeback. During MTV's official pre-show, Mary J. Blige wished the beleaguered pop star all the best. "I absolutely think Britney could make the comeback," Blige said on the telecast. "Someone who's been through as much as she's been through – you just want her to win. I know I want her to win."
Reporting by JENNIFER GARCIA