Kanye West’s 2020 campaign announcement aside, it wasn’t an awful MTV Video Music Awards show last night, nor was it a great one.
Taylor Swift emerged a bigger star than ever, Kanye West tried to crawl out of a hole but dug himself in deeper, and Miley Cyrus almost got into a fight with Nicki Minaj after the latter buried the hatchet with Swift in what became a three-way tiff.
Minaj’s strong twerk-filled show opening at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles was heightened when Swift emerged, joining in on “The Night is Still Young,” then leading Minaj in her own “Bad Blood”—showing that this was no longer the case between the two following a contentious Twitter exchange sparked by Minaj’s complaint that her “Anaconda” video wasn’t nominated for Video of the Year—which was won by Swift for “Bad Blood.”
But Cyrus, in an interview with The New York Times, suggested that Minaj had overreacted to a wrongly perceived slight, wording it in a way not appreciated by Minaj—who aggressively called her out after accepting the Best Hip-Hop Video award for “Anaconda.” Whether or not Cyrus was able to achieve a lasting peace, she congratulated Minaj and noted how she herself had “persevered” following her “7 Things” Best New Artist video loss in 2008.
“It’s just an award,” concluded Cyrus, even if the Video Music Awards show is hardly just a show. In last night’s case, it ran along well—until West stopped it dead toward the end when he accepted his Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award from Swift with a meandering and pointless 10-minute speech.
“I’m not no politician, Bro!” he understated prior to ending his rant by declaring his candidacy for president, 2020, but by then the only ones applauding his filibuster-like exercise in self-pity, self-centeredness and self-indulgence were the mindless arms-upraised shills surrounding him upfront. He struggled to justify his infamously obnoxious interruption of Swift’s 2009 acceptance of the Best Female Video award, much to the chagrin of the forgiving Swift, who buried her face in her hands next to an also embarrassed Kim Kardashian.
The music performances were mostly good except for the much hyped return of Justin Bieber to the VMA stage after a five-year hiatus. While he broke down in tears after singing “Where Are U Now” and lackluster new song “What Do You Mean,” it was unclear as to why.
Things were actually much more rocking at the outdoor satellite stage in downtown L.A., where Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed a lively “Downtown” with an assist from the video’s Eric Nally (kind of a cross between Freddie Mercury and Dave Grohl), and Demi Lovato trotted out Iggy Azalea to help on “Cool for the Summer”—though this only underscored how fleeting VMA fame can be: After all, Azalea has virtually disappeared since her big splash at last year’s VMAs. Come to think of it, whatever happened to Tokio Hotel, whose “Ready, Set, Go!” was the video that beat out Cyrus, Swift, Jordin Sparks and Katy Perry for that 2008 Best New Artist” award?
But viewers of a certain age could well have thought that the night’s musical high point came with the Taco Bell commercial featuring The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” For sure, they would be the only ones to have appreciated John Legend’s well-intentioned references to Paul Robeson, Nina Simone an Bob Dylan during his intro to Pharrell’s downtown performance of “Freedom.”
And as for Cyrus, despite a bit of nip that may not have been a slip but was anything but shocking, she played her hosting role pretty straight and very well, even if her Instagram- and pot-heavy interstitial skits mostly fell flat. Really, the poorest taste came from Rebel Wilson, whose “F**k the Police Strippers” t-shirt and accompanying shtick was unfunny, and in light of current events, uncalled for.
But the show ended well, juxtaposing Swift’s predictable “Bad Blood” Video of the Year win—for which she brought up a bevy of her fellow video beauties–with Cyrus’s performance of new song “Dooo It!” with the Flaming Lips band and transgender dancers—after plugging her ambitious Happy Hippie Foundation for fighting injustices facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations. She capped it with her only real shocker: her announcement of the release of a new album, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, available immediately for free online.
It was a refreshingly selfless and uncommercial MTV VMA moment.
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