Everything Important That Happened At The MTV VMAs, Ranked

CREDIT: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

We are nothing if not comprehensive. Or at least as comprehensive as you need us to be. Ranked from best to worst, or, in VMA-speak, from Beyoncé’s performance to Ariana Grande’s ponytail.

1. Beyoncé makes the first two hours of the VMAs look like a warm-up act with her show-closing performance. She won the “Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.”MTV gives this one out sporadically (there was no winner in 2012, for instance, or any winners between 2006 and 2011). You could either interpret this as “the award is so pointless even MTV regularly forgets that it exists” or “the award is so prestigious, it can only be presented in years when a performer is worthy of the MJVVA crown.” Probably some combination of the two. This being the year that Yoncé graced us all with the Christmas miracle that was her surprise video album, thus providing the arguably-about-to-die-of-irrelevance format of the music video with a renewed sense of purpose and value, there is really no substantial argument against setting aside a huge chunk of time at the Video Music Awards to bow down. Beyoncé’s performance lasted 16 minutes. Just imagine running, full-speed, on a treadmill, for 16 minutes, while talking—just normal talking in your everyday speaking voice—without passing out and/or dying. Beyoncé is the consummate professional. She is so good at this, it’s honestly kind of embarrassing for almost everyone else in attendance. The VMAs are totally beneath her. She delivers like it’s the Olympics. The image from the night that is still giving me all the goosebumps is Mrs. Carter standing in front of the word FEMINIST, hands clenched in fists at her side.

Watch the performance again and again and again!

And then look at this photo. Who knows what is real, what is pretend, and what went down on the elevator. It is not for us mere mortals, we who will never be Knowles-Carters, to fathom. We can know nothing, except this:


CREDIT: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

2. Common lead the room in a moment of silence for Ferguson:

“For the past two weeks, the eyes of the nation have been on Ferguson, Mo. The people in Ferguson, in St. Louis and in communities across the country have used their voice for justice and change, to let everyone know that each and every one of our lives matters. Hip-hop has always been about truth and it’s been a powerful instrument of social change from Melle Mel to Public Enemy to Kendrick Lamar, hip-hop has always presented a voice for the revolution. I want us all to take a moment of silence for Mike Brown and for peace in this country and the world.”

Awards shows are always ridiculous and arguably pointless — make your case for the relevance of the mani-cam in the comments, if you must — and at times when Rome is burning, so to speak, it is all the more apparent when the rich do little but fiddle. (This is not an optics problem unique to the VMAs; Nicole Kidman at the 2003 Oscars, making the case for the party to go on even though our war in Iraq had just begun: “Why do you come to the Academy Awards when the world is in such turmoil? Because art is important.”) This Ferguson moment was elegantly handled and respectfully done. Nice work, Common.

3. In related news, MTV ran a fifteen second spot for their “Look Different” campaign as a quiet, restrained tribute to Ferguson:

4. Blue Ivy did the ***Flawless dance:

5. Lorde wore a sparkly, black suit-style get-up, resisting what I have to assume is the unofficial VMAs mandate for women to arrive on the red carpet as close to naked as humanly possible. Lorde is the millennial’s answer to David Bowie. She is strange and all her own and fantastic.

6. Miley sent up a homeless youth to accept her Moon Man for “Wrecking Ball.” Jesse, who was also Miley’s date/plus-one/who knows with that girl accepted the award on behalf of “the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in the United States who are starving, lost and scared for their lives right now.” So, where did she meet him?

Some conflicting feelings here: obviously this is a kind thing to do, and a better use of the platform that is the VMA mic than a never-ending list of the middle-aged folks who are actually responsible for the production of Miley’s video. I’d much, much rather hear from this youth than from video director and professional scumbag Terry Richardson. Then again, this is sort of the awards show equivalent of being the person who wishes her best friend a happy birthday on Facebook by posting all these photos of the two of you, together. Here is a nice thing for you, birthday-having friend, that is also at least 50% about me and how nice I am! Still, if only on the basis of improvement since last year, this gesture ends up in the pro column.

7. Charli XCX’s tiger print jumpsuit. Sure! Why not?

8. Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” performance. I am wondering how Taylor Swift plans to reconcile her “I’m just a gawky tall girl who can’t dance, either!” modus operandi with the reality of her performance which, while not up to par with any of the other dancing on stage last night, is certainly not as spastic as “cheerleader who can’t hold on to her pom-poms.” That said:

9. If you want to keep liking “Shake It Off” (I do!), don’t listen to the isolated vocal track.

10. Not that she did anything especially memorable, but I still like Iggy Azaela. Hope that’s okay.

11. Lorde won “Best Rock Video,” which is interesting because I was unaware that “Royals” was a “rock” song (but what is rock, truly, and what is pop, and who are we, and why are we here, etc.). None of that matters; “Royals” is so good. Lorde swore during her acceptance speech because she was so nervous and excited. She apologized on Twitter, adorably, and MTV absolved her of her profanity sins.

12. I was not the only one happy to see Lorde emerge victorious:

13. Katy Perry and Riff Raff paid homage to the Justin and Britney all-denim look. Everyone has made jokes about this already re: Katy, Justin, Brit, but I must report the truth, and that it is the truest thing I can say about these outfits.

14. The way people are covering Nicki Minaj’s “wardrobe malfunction” with a creepy, salivating tone that suggests everyone is disappointed her dress didn’t split all the way open and result in a pixelated peep show. People, she already performed “Anaconda” in a sparkly green bra top and skimpy bottom, twerking and popping her booty into all our faces over and over and over again.

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? Part of what made that performance so sexy and badass was the element of control: we were basically Drake, sitting on a chair, able only to watch in awe, or longing, or what have you. Wanting a woman to have a wardrobe malfunction is wanting her to be exposed against her will. Skeevy, terrible, ugh.

15. Taylor Swift dressed like she was swinging by the red carpet on her way to gymnastics practice. This is the closest thing to athletic wear she’s ever been seeing wearing, and of course I am including everything we’ve seen her wear when she’s entering and exiting the gym.

16. Is anyone else bothered by the totally illogical lyrics to every song Ariana Grande touches?Bang Bang” is catchy and fun. It’s great! But is the point here that this guy has a bad girl but needs a good girl, or the other way around? Why must we continue to put women into these virgin/whore boxes? Anyway. Don’t even get me started on the crime against grammar that is “Break Free.” Even Ariana has admitted the song makes no sense.

17. The Kardashians were allegedly playing with their phones during the moment of silence for Ferguson.

18. The awkward, brief and borderline-insulting-on-account-of-how-awkward-and-brief-it-was tribute to Robin Williams, which was not a tribute so much as a screensaver of five photos of him.

19. For every youngin even your intrepid Culture Editor needed to Google (nice to meet you, Fifth Harmony), there were at least a half-dozen people with kids old enough to be in the MTV target demographic who, based on age alone, had no business partaking in these teen-centric festivities. What was Jim Carrey even doing there? Why was Jeff Daniels invited? Do these youths even know or care Gwen Stefani was in a band called No Doubt? Why, why, why did Jay Pharaoh make so many uncomfortable jokes about needing to check Ariana Grande’s Wikipedia page to make sure she was old enough for him to be attracted to her? Those jokes are creepy and unnecessary; the MTV audience is, if anything, too young to date Ariana Grande, not too old.


CREDIT: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

20. Speaking of Grande, I will never stop hating her perma-high-ponytail. Her over-the-knee boots are also not great, and I wish she would make words instead of just song-sounds when she sings. But mostly, the issue is really the ponytail.

Just realized I forgot to include Maroon 5, but this is fitting, because so did MTV. They are on this list, just outside, at some other location, doing whatever it is they do.