We all know the VMAs took place yesterday the 30th of August. There’s a lot that happened at the event.
On Sunday night, the MTV Video Music Awards aired the first major attempt at a socially distant awards show, complete with masked backup dancers, socially distant presenters and a whole lot of green screen.
The show was often charming but frequently surreal and unhinged, as host Keke palmer attempted to emcee the proceedings atop vague New York City “skyscrapers” (i.e. an animated backdrop with hordes of fake, faceless audience members).
Pop superstars Lady Gaga and The Weekend took home the biggest awards of the night, with their respective videos for “Rain on Me” and “Blinding Lights.” Here are the other high and low points from the show.
HIGH: The Weeknd’s performance
The R&B crooner performed his hit “Blinding Lights” from more than 1,000 feet in the air on the sky deck of the Edge at New York’s (much-maligned) Hudson Yards.
During a night that was filled with green screen-heavy performances, it was cool to see an artist take advantage of the city: Singing against a sweeping backdrop of the skyline at night, complete with a dazzling fireworks finale.
MTV dedicates 2020 VMAs to ‘devastating loss’ of Chadwick Boseman: his impact lives forever.
HIGH: The Weeknd’s speeches
The tone of this year’s show was never going to feel right, with MTV trying to shoehorn tributes to frontline workers and quarantine-made music videos into the event.
Although most artists acknowledged the unusual circumstances in their acceptance speeches, the only one who truly used his platform to speak out was The Weekend (whose battered appearance was part of his “After Hours” aesthetic).
“It’s really hard for me to celebrate at this moment, so I’m just going to say justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said after winning best R&B, repeating the same sentiment as he won video of the year for “Blinding Lights.”
BTS was more than an afterthought. For the past few years, the VMAs have made more of a place for BTS than, say, the Grammys. But this was still the K-pop juggernaut’s first time actually performing on the VMAs — and the group picked up well-earned trophies for Best Pop, Best Group, Best K-Pop and Best Choreography.
HIGH: Lady Gaga’s outfits
The show appeared to be almost entirely pre-taped. At the very beginning of the show, host Keke Palmer appeared in a lo-res video — it looked as if it was shot on a webcam or cell phone — in which she dedicated the night to the memory of actor Chadwick Boseman, who died Friday.
Everything else with Palmer looked a lot slicker, which suggests that the intro was tacked on after the rest of her work was completed. Given the green-screen effects in so many of the performances, there wasn’t much here that could really be considered “live.”
We know that we can’t expect every artist to sing live, when they’re also expected to pull off complex choreography on massive sound-stages. But the sheer amount of lip-syncing during the VMAs felt like overkill, with Twitter users calling it “atrocious” and “cringe-worthy,” especially given how many performances appeared to be pre-recorded.
HIGH: Miley Cyrus
The pop star has given us some of the most memorable VMAs moments of the past decade, from her feather-ruffling performance with Robin Thicke to her on-stage face-off with Nicki Minaj.
Cyrus didn’t disappoint this year with her straightforward but nostalgic TV debut of ’80s Stevie Nicks-channeling new single “Midnight Sky,” writhing across a red and blue-lit sound-stage before riding a giant disco ball, a la her iconic 2013 “Wrecking Ball” video.
Black Eyed Peas? Black Eyed Peas were inescapable a few years back, performing at a Super Bowl halftime show and frequently turning up in brightly lit showcases at the Grammys.
But somehow, the group had never performed at the VMAs… until the closing set of this year’s telecast. Why? Who knows? But those weird glowing crotches will linger as the VMAs’ deeply unnerving final image. Thanks, 2020.
Give Keke Palmer credit. The actress, singer and newly minted VMAs host had a basically impossible job: She had to maintain energy, perform skits, tell jokes and otherwise keep an awards show moving, and she had to do it in empty rooms.
Sure, the production simulated crowd noise, in a bit of fakery that distracted as much as it helped. But Palmer held her own — and, seriously, that was a feat.