2013 was a pretty eventful VMA’s, thanks in large part to Miley Cyus taking enormous liberties to leave her former Disney persona dead and buried once and for all, as well as a showstopping 15-minute performance from the living Prince of Pop and his former boy band pals. But now comes the hard part: following it up. And as this series has proven, it’s incredibly difficult to follow up a good or even above average VMA’s up with anything in even remotely the same ballpark of quality or entertainment value. And it’s not like they didn’t try in 2013, as they would have an ace in the hole for the end of the show. Was that ace necessary? Let’s see as we look back on the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards.
Once again, they decided not to have a host. And unlike the past three years, Kevin Hart was completely M.I.A. for this show. The closest thing we got to a host was SNL’s Jay Pharoah, but he was more our reminder to vote for Artist to Watch/Best New Artist than he was actually hosting. He did a number of those uncanny celebrity impressions that has earned him praise on Saturday Night Live, which I was admittedly very entertained by. But again, I kind of prefer these shows to actually have hosts, so I feel justified in deducting some points from this show.
Aside from Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani, who filled the veteran and nostalgia quota nine years after winning co-Best Dressed at the 2005 VMA’s, I have nothing to say about the presenters list this year. Even after looking it up to see who appeared on the show, I still don’t remember what most of them did on the show. I remember the Orange in the New Black cast was there, but don’t remember what they said. I remember Lorde was there because she’d recently gotten her Taylor Swift squad card and was called on to present her. I remember Common spread light on social issues before presenting an award, which I appreciated. But everything else is either a blur or just not rising above the surface and into my brain space. It’s really a bad sign when I can’t even remember what Demi Lovato did on an award show.
The’s show’s opening and closing performance were the best of the night. This was basically like eating a hot pocket with delicious, flaky crust and finding out the filling is made of lint and acrylic paint. I liked the pre-show performances; Charli XCX did OK and Fifth Harmony, led by Normani Kordei in this particular performance, knocked it out the park in their VMA debut. In fact, I’d probably name it my third favorite performance of the night. But is it really a good sign when I would rather watch a pre-show performance over most of the main show ones? My guess is no. The show started with Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, and Jessie J absolute crushing it with “Break Free”, “Anaconda”, “Bang Bang” and ended with Beyoncé taking the show into overtime with her Video Vanguard concert. You thought Justin Timberlake the previous year was long and spectacular? Beyoncé’s performance is basically similar, but instead of doing her greatest hits, she pretty much just did an album sampler for her self-titled record. And it was glorious. Simply glorious, like Bobby Roode‘s entrance music. By the way, Nicki supposedly suffered a wardrobe malfunction during her performance; she explains the situation on Ellen, but I should known something was awry when she had her chest clutched throughout the “Bang Bang” portion of the performance. Anyway, I doubt old-heads and people who love lecturing the masses about “real music” would agree with me on any of the above performances, but they did the job for me.
Taylor Swift performed “Shake It Off”, and as much as I hate to admit it, the VMA’s might not be her show when it comes to performances. Why? It all comes down to her vocals; it’s like they decide not to co-operate during the VMA’s for some reason, and it’s true of her in this performance. And Taylor can give good vocal performances; she’s done it on the Grammys, Grammy-related events, her concerts, and many other appearances that aren’t for MTV. So anytime she’s equipped with a piano or string instrument basically. But I’d probably consider this my favorite VMA performance of hers due to the theatricality of it and the subversion of expectation near the end when she doesn’t dive off the 1989 logo onto her her dancers below. It was kind of funny to see her mock the usual VMA debauchery ON the VMAs themselves. I also recently came across Usher and Nicki Minaj‘s performance again; it wasn’t memorable, but the song they performed was at least funky and enjoyable. But every other performance on this show? Modern Maroon 5? No, thank you. Iggy Azalea? She and Rita Ora looked good and I liked how she played to the camera in verse 2, but it could’ve been better. 5 Seconds of Summer? Really? That’s the rock performance for the night? You gotta do better next time. Sam Smith? He sang good, but his performance was more fit for the Grammys. Overall, I wish I enjoyed all of these performances more than I actually did from this show.
First of all, I want to have a conversation with whoever made those nominee videos. They were awful and I want to scold an apology out of this person. What was the purpose behind pitching the songs to the point that they were hard to understand? Ugh, I hated it. Anyway, onto who took home moonmen, many of whom were first time winners. This includes the winner of the night’s biggest award, Video of the Year; Miley Cyrus beat Pharrell, Iggy Azalea, Sia, and Jeyoncé her first VMA for the controversial “Wrecking Ball” and does it in a selfless manner by sending someone (who was apparently a wanted man) on-stage to accept her award and speak about homelessness. It was strange, but I do appreciate Miley standing up for a cause and bringing it to the forefront in what should be a moment of glory for her. Other first-time winners included Ariana Grande’s Best Pop Video win for “Problem” and Ed Sheeran’s Best Male Video win for a video which included a horny Ed Sheeran puppet causing debauchery. Zedd and Hayley Williams were also first-time winners for “Stay The Night”. Glad Hayley Williams finally got her a moonman, despite the fact that MTV seems to be doing everything in their power to make sure her record-breaking group doesn’t. Meanwhile, veteran winners also nabbed trophies as Katy Perry won Best Female Video for “Dark Horse” and Beyoncé won Best Collaboration with Jay-Z for “Drunk in Love” and Best Video With A Social Message for “Pretty Hurts”.
But the two winners I most wanted to discuss were the ones for Best Rock Video and Artist to Watch. That year saw a number of fine rock videos released, including “Heaven Knows” from The Pretty Reckless, “Shepherd of Fire” from Avenged Sevenfold, “Whore” from In This Moment, “My Demons” by Starset, and even “Miss Jackson” from Panic! At The Disco. But for some reason, the video that won Best Rock Video was for a song that has little to no noticeable rock instrumentation on it whatsoever. And this isn’t a knock on Lorde or her song; I actually kind of dig Lorde, in fact. But “Royals”? Rock? Alternative I can see, but straight-up rock? Even rock band Adelita’s Way went to Twitter to declare shenanigans on this one. This was around the traditional hard rock music started disappearing from the mainstream and what we were left with rocked about as hard as Max & P.J. playing air guitar. Then, there’s the Artist to Watch award, or as I like to call it, the first shot in the Harmonizers/5SOSFam World War. Going in, I already knew the award was going to either Fifth Harmony or 5 Seconds of Summer. If there was anything I learned in my time watching season two of the X-Factor, it’s that Harmonizers LOVE Fifth Harmony like Penelope Taynt loved Amanda. So I knew they’d vote hard to get them a moonman. And 5 Seconds of Summer…..are a heartthrob act. They’re always a favorite to win fan-voted awards. In fact, they actually won that year’s hashtag category, Best Lyric Video for “Don’t Stop”. But apparently, they didn’t vote hard enough because the amusement-parked themed “Miss Movin’ On” earned the X-Factor five-some the Artist to Watch/Best New Artist award over 5SOS’s nude-friendly “She Looks So Perfect”. I didn’t mind because I always saw potential in Fifth Harmony, but this ignited a fan war that has had it’s share of ugly and brutal social media moments. But the 5SOSFam would have their shot at redemption the following year when 5SOS and 5H faced off again in another VMA category…..but I’ll get to that in tomorrow’s review.
This isn’t the worst VMA’s in this series (2007 and 2012 is still the king and queen there), but it is definitely closer to the bottom than the top. It was yet another mostly nothing show. Beyoncé may have closed the show on a grand note, which edged it ahead of 2012 and 2007, but 97% of what came before that closing was totally forgettable. When I could rank a pre-show performance from an act who hadn’t even had an album out at the time in the Top 5 of the best performances of the night, something has gone wrong. Luckily, this series doesn’t have to end on a bum note because we have one final VMA ceremony to get through. Hope you’re ready for more Miley Cyrus just being Miley.