I’ll give MTV this when it comes to the 2015 VMA’s: they must’ve been really dedicated to returning the VMA’s to the wild, unmissable spectacle that it was many years prior. Why? Because with just a few wild and crazy promos, we knew what to expect. They were unleashing Miley Cyrus onto the audience of the Microsoft Theater as their host. Given Miley’s unpredictability lately, there was a chance that we could see VMA moments crazy enough to rank up there with Krist Noveselic knocking himself out, “the kiss”, Kanye vs. Taylor: Chapter One, and Tim Commerford raging against Limp Bizkit. And technically, we did get a couple of those moments. Let’s see if they elevate the show or not.
I’ve said in the past that I believe Miley Cyrus‘ comedy timing is a little underrated. I assume people just underestimate her because she came from the Disney Channel; as much as I defend Disney Channel, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to convince people that it’s programming possesses the holy grail of acting. That, plus her dramatic acting skills are very below average. But like current Disney stars such as Dove Cameron and Sabrina Carpenter, I’ve always thought Miley Cyrus was better than she’s given credit for as a comedic actress. Barely any of that wit, however, was on display when she hosted this show. I love seeing over-the-top and weird moments on the VMA’s, but this just seemed like another stop on Miley’s “Trying Too Hard to Show Everyone I’ve Moved on From Disney” Tour. Pretty much all her sketches can be summed up in the following words: “Miley Cyrus has black friends, smokes weed now, and loves cursing a lot”. And she took things even further by wearing outfits that even 2010 Lady GaGa would avoid. She even took the stage later in the show looking like the cover of the book A Bad Case of Stripes.
The whole thing was kind of obnoxious and likely exactly what most adults imagine when they claim entertainment the younger generation enjoys is soulless and stupid. Chances are this is the reaction Miley wanted from the people on the first place, but if so, I have no idea why.
The presenters here were kind of a step up from the previous year thankfully. Britney Spears presented the first award of the night, which I think was only seen as a big deal because it was Britney Spears. But it’s always nice to see Brit-Brit on the show. Rebel Wilson topped her 2012 bikini shirt by wearing a controversial shirt reading “F*** Tha Stripper Police”; MTV had to switch to a wide shot just to avoid the profanity being in plain site of the camera, which was the funniest part of the whole situation because they failed so badly at it. Serayah and Jussie Smollett from Empire shined a light on social issues, which I always appreciate as long as they avoid being totally overbearing. And Ice Cube and O’Shea Jackson Jr., riding high off the success of Straight Outta Compton, were selected to present Video of the Year. It’s not much, but compared to the previous year, it’ll do.
Miley Cyrus closed out the show with a surreal performance of an atrocity of a song from her free album that she released as soon as the show ended. It was my least favorite performance of the night, but including RuPaul’s Drag Race cast members certainly wasn’t a bad idea on paper. But to me, every performance before that was better in some way, shape, or form. Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift officially confirmed that they squashed their very brief Twitter beef by performing together at the start of the show. That moment got Twitter buzzing, but Justin Bieber‘s performance had potential to break the entire service. How were we to respond to the fact that Justin Bieber not only put out a couple of decent songs, but that his performance of those songs on the VMA stage actually turned out to be not so bad too? It may have been Bieber breaking out in tears at the end that sealed the deal, but it was the performance itself and the responses to it that let the world know Bieber is here to stay. Whether we like it or not.
Tori Kelly‘s astounding musicianship and vocals were on full display in her performance; those who never heard of her before found out just what they were missing. A$AP Rocky performed with twenty one pilots in the closest we got to a rock spot on the show and it was OK. And The Weeknd‘s performance was so fiery that the meme and Vine potential practically wrote itself. Then there was the performances from outside the Orpheum Theater, and while I usually still hate when the VMA’s go outside the auditorium for performances, I am willing to make exceptions sometimes. Macklemore‘s performance wasn’t too bad, though Macklemore was definitely outshined by every supporting artist in the performance, especially Eric Nally of Foxy Shazam. Pharrell‘s was alright, but not particularly memorable. Demi Lovato was my personal favorite from that lineup though; she steamed up the stage in an outfit that kind of made her look like a modern day women’s wrestler. Like if it was green instead of purple, she and Taeler Hendrix could totally be matching tag team partners. And though people did give her a hard time for including Iggy Azalea in the performance, Demi sounded amazing and was one of the better parts of the show for me.
The three biggest winners of the night were as follows: Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and Nicki Minaj. I’ll get to Kanye and his Video Vanguard speech later, but fellow rapper Nicki Minaj came out on top in Best Hip-Hop Video for “Anaconda” and had some choice words for the host when she got to the mic stand. When it’s all said and done, Nicki Minaj will be an acceptance speech legend; her BET Award shade is impeccable, but when she called out Miley Cyrus to her face about some trash Miley was talking in the media and created the VMA soundbite to end all VMA soundbites, she immediately printed her name onto the award show Hall of Fame ballot. “Miley, What’s Good” became an inescapable quote, despite the fact that we never got an answer from the former Hannah Montana herself. Come on, Miley! What’s good? Nicki and the general public wanna know!
But the person who walked out with the most astronauts was Taylor Swift, which is saying something considering she started out in a genre that MTV doesn’t traditionally play. (Never, ever forget Country Taylor was a beautiful, beautiful thing.) She Best Pop Video and Best Female Video for “Blank Space” while the widely-debated and star-studded “Bad Blood” won Best Collaboration and the coveted Video of the Year. As you can expect, not everyone was thrilled, either because 1) seeing Taylor Swift happy makes some people break out in rashes for some reason, 2) the video has been considered mean-spirited and anti-feminist to some, or 3) they felt the other nominated video with Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”, was more deserving. Even I can admit, to the final argument’s credit, that “Alright” probably would’ve been a better choice, and not just for political correctness points. But regardless, it was a pretty epic-looking video, though I would advise Taylor to stick to her day job of music and not try to become an action movie star for real. Unless it’s a movie where she co-stars alongside Eve Torres in which case I’ll volunteer to write, direct, produce, and be the first person invited to the premiere of the whole damn thing. Other winners included Big Sean for Best Video With A Social Message, Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars for Best Male Video, Fall Out Boy for Best Rock Video, and Fetty Wap for Best New Artist. Oh, and about Round Two of the Harmonizers/5SOSFam VMA War: they’re tied now. One apiece. Fifth Harmony has the 2014 Best New Artist Award while 5 Seconds Of Summer’s “She’s Kinda Hot” beat out 5H’s “Worth It” for the 2015 Song of the Summer award, despite “She’s Kinda Hot” being the lowest charting song in the entire category. And it looks like the rubber match will be put on hold because while Fifth Harmony is nominated for one award this year, 5 Seconds of Summer are up for zilch. Maybe next time?
Then, there was Kanye West. The famed MC took to the VMA stage to become the latest recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. With a videography as epic as his, it’s no surprise he was chosen to receive an honor previously bestowed upon Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Hype Williams, The Beastie Boys, Britney Spears, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, LL Cool J, R.E.M., Guns N Roses, George Michael, and both superstars of the Jackson family. And of course, Rihanna joins this illustrious club this year. But I don’t think any winner, past or present, will give a speech as unforgettable an headline-making as Kanye West. After accepting the award from enemy-turned-friend-turned-enemy-again Taylor Swift, he took so long getting to his point that even Triple H could call him out on it. After a long speech, he ends it by stating that he plans to run for president in 2020. I don’t completely support this decision because having Kim Kardashian as a First Lady is a thought that I refuse to ever accept; but at the same time, it sure beats Donald Trump and whoever his wife is this week in the White House.
This look back on the last 12 years of the MTV Video Music Awards comes to an end with a ceremony I’m glad to say wasn’t the worst of the bunch. 2007, 2012, and 2014 were probably the hands down worst of all. While 2015 was dragged down majorly by Miley Cyrus’ ridiculous and cringeworthy attempts to be funny and outlandish, it’s still better than all three of the aforementioned shows by a long shot. By modern VMA standards, this tows the line at average. Now it’s up to this year’s VMA’s to try to outdo that. With a bill that includes Britney Spears performing, Beyoncé also likely performing, Rihanna joining the Video Vanguard, and Kanye West apparently being given free reign by the network to say or do whatever he wants while Taylor Swift isn’t around, this year’s VMA’s has the potential to be the best of the decade. We’ll have to see if “on-paper” and “in-practice” match up this time around.