A sentiment so well-known still bears repeating: MTV isn’t really the home for music and music videos anymore. But MTV’s Music Video Awards remains the most accurate and exciting reflection of contemporary pop music that exists. The drama, the rivalries, and the performances. All of it distills into the VMAs, even though the awards themselves don’t really means anything (do any awards nowadays?)
With that in mind, it’s worth recapping the winners and losers of the night. If you’re a Drake stan, you’re not going to like this.
Can we say it now? That Beyonce is the greatest living performer? She is—at the absolute minimum—in these award show settings. Within the controlled stage, she meticulously packages her songs with a level of theatricality and show(wo)manship that elevates her art beyond mere music. Put simply: She puts on a damn show.
Kanye—a winner below—probably said it best when he admitted his “Famous” video would probably lose to Beyonce then adding, “but I can’t be mad—I’m always wishing for Beyoncé to win.”
Chance the Rapper
So I guess Chance is a superstar now? This remains strange and invigorating since he eschews (almost) every path taken to stardom. He makes mixtapes, not albums. He doesn’t really get radio play. He infused his third mixalbum with gospel and religion, and everyone embraced it.
Again, referring back to Kanye: “I’m standing in front of the future, Chance the Rapper.”
— Vulture (@vulture) August 29, 2016
His reaction captures why fans love to love Chance. Egoless, he giggles. He’s…happy. Seriously: dude exudes joy. Watching Chance watch Future was more enjoyable than just watching Future perform. If that weren’t enough, when Auntie Yonce pranked Chance during a backstage interview, he became starstruck, jumping around, delighted. Who doesn’t want to root for a guy like this?
— MTV (@MTV) August 29, 2016
What more is there left to say about Kanye that Kanye hasn’t already said himself? That isn’t a sly rhetorical question; I’m honestly asking. Much content ink was spilled about MTV giving Kanye four minutes to do whatever he wanted and it must be said: Ye didn’t disappoint. Even though he went for more than four minutes, Kanye’s speech was his usual stream-of-consciousness, mislabeled-as-rambling, kind-of-sometimes-hard-to-follow variation. If you’re a Kanye fan, none of this came as surprise.
But he delivered moments of lucidity. He solidified hip hop and black culture’s place as just modern popular culture, a sentiment so often felt but rarely expressed in the mainstream (“We are undeniably the influence, the thought leaders”) and addressed the continued violence in Chicago, touching on the long-term effect that has on a citizenry (“Life could start to feel worthless, in a way”). He also had fun: He simultaneously sidestepped and won the neverending Taylor Swift beef (“That’s why I called her”) and shouted out his old muse/boo Amber Rose (“I see you, Amber”).
So in other words, it was a very Kanye moment. It was beautiful.
I feel bad for Britney because this wasn’t her fault. Her part of the performance was basically all right. G-Eazy, who raps on her single “Make Me…” was much worse: He forgot the words to the biggest hit of his career, looking nowhere near sober. But Britney comes out the loser.
Spears remains in an old-school, single-focused radio world. Though she tried to update her formula to fit the patterns and soundscapes of music in 2016, she couldn’t escape the main issue: She followed Beyonce. After Bey’s performance, anything would probably sound trite. Sorry, Britney. My 11-year-old self who totally never had a crush on you remains on your side. But your performance was relatively boring.
Ariana Grande is a child of what Britney created. Also important: She has a diva voice and persona. She performed “Side to Side” with Nicki Minaj, another good-enough song, but the real object on trial were those cycles. Obviously referencing the continued SoulCycle fad, it was supposed to seem kitschy and fun.
But it wasn’t. No part of me wanted to participate. It also distracted from the rest of performance. My position on SoulCycle remains the same: I can’t wait for it to fade away.
Oh, Aubrey. You sweet little Graham cracker. Why must you do this to yourself? You almost get the impression he wants to turn himself into a meme. Regardless, it hasn’t been a good past week for Drake.
It started with this excoriating concert review in the Washington Post with a headline that says it all: “Started from the bottom, now he’s insufferable”. Then even in his VMA victory, Puff Daddy clowned him, revealing Drake was “stuck in traffic,” and he would keep the award at his house. This re-ignited an old-ish beef when Drake allegedly stole “0-100/The Catch Up” from Puff. In other words, the internet had some fun.
Then there was the AubRih moment. The sentiment started sweet. Admitting “She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old” is a pretty ballsy move. But then he tried to score, going for a kiss, and got denied. She also called him short.
The memes were, predictably, unforgiving.
Drake: "I love you."
Rihanna: "Drake is short."
— Caity Weaver (@caityweaver) August 29, 2016
I got that big ass billboard, stole Party's best song for her, learned patois and for what? All for no ting. pic.twitter.com/LlIbPdnHHD
— FREEBANDZ KG (@HDKG) August 29, 2016
love that we as a society have a photo of the exact moment rih understood drake will never be able to chill pic.twitter.com/DpHS18PdNH
— xtine friar (@christinefriar) August 29, 2016
Drake: "Still think I'm extra"
Rih: "yeah 🙃" pic.twitter.com/mclBByrvKH
— ROYALE WITH CHEESE (@solehimself) August 29, 2016
Poor Aubrey, he just wants to be loved.