The only thing you absolutely need to know about the 2014 MTV VMAs is Beyoncé. No one does it like Beyoncé. 100 years from now when historians look back at the most influential artists it will be Beyoncé. Don’t believe me? Beyoncé was receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. The Beatles, David Bowie, Madonna, Janet Jackson, the Rolling Stones, Beastie Boys, U2, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, now Beyoncé. Last year JT won and did a mind blowing set in which every song I said, “Oh yeah, I remember this one!”. Beyoncé has had #1 hits since 1997 (she was 16). There are any number of songs to draw from. Instead her performance was only from the album she surprise released in December. And you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen.
Bow down, Bitches indeed.
You really don’t need to know anything else but I took two pages of notes before she obliterated my television so I’ll give you a run down. There are two main takeaways from the show. The first is it was a night of feminism.
Performance after performance of strong, beautiful, women who were not looking for your approval. Except maybe the very first person on stage, Ariana Grande (Frankie from Big Brother’s little sister). I don’t know her work but I think she was singing about a boy. A fun game to play as pointed out by Ben & Lainey from eTalk is try to spot Ariana’s right side. You can’t. But just when my eye roll was about to get stuck like that Nicki Minaj takes the stage. If you think Nicki’s Anaconda isn’t feminist than I would suggest you read this article and watch it again. She’s followed by Jessie J who is such a bad ass singer that no one commented on her lack of pants.
In fact in an age where we’re still bleeping out MTV (seriously? seriously.) there were no slut shaming comments that I saw at all. Mostly everyone just wanted to know how JLo could possibly be 45. And the strong women just kept coming. Gwen Stefani, Lorde, Chelsea Handler, Iggy Azalea, the cast of Orange is the New Black.
And the celebratory “We Are Women, Hear Us Roar!” night almost came away without a hitch. Then a man spoke. A man I had to google because I had no idea why he was getting all up on Nina Dobrev. Trey Songz. They were out to present a rock award. Nina’s line was something like “It’s been a great year for rock blah blah blah intro”. And then Trey Songz said “There’s even a lady in the mix.”
THERE’S EVEN A LADY IN THE MIX.
I’m so glad that technology has come far enough so that women can handle electric guitars without it being a risk to our lady parts. Or that we can now stand to be around fast drumming and not be whipped into some sort of unseemly frenzy. Please tell me more about this lady who has managed to defy the odds and risk her delicate sensibilities in the name of rock.
You may be thinking, “well it’s not like he wrote the line… blame the writer!”. For the record I do. But the writer cannot be blamed for when he then moved behind Nina and motioned grabbing her hips and said “And I can always get behind a lady.”
Yeah. That happened.
Nina looked shocked and stepped away before saying “Oh, I don’t think he meant it like that!” ever the polite host. But don’t worry, he clarified that’s exactly how he meant it.
Then I hit pause, had some angry tweets and went to get a drink. Because my delicate constitution was at risk of getting the vapours what with all my years of unladylike rock music listening. Don’t tell anyone but I have been in many a mosh pit. If word were to get out it would bring shame upon my family.
WHAT. AN. ASSHOLE.
But back to the show.
Fun fact: it’s actually an award show. I mean, Katy Perry (who was cosplaying as Britney Spears & Justin Timberlake’s matching denim at the AMAs in 2001 with Riff Raff) won an award over Beyoncé’s Partition. And there was no Kanye to stop that from happening. And somehow Sam Smith lost one to watch over Fifth Harmony (who?). But still, awards were given out.
I’m proud to announce there was a Commonwealth Hat Trick, Drake (Canada), Ed Sheeran (England) & Lorde (New Zealand) all won awards. The Brits at the party were fantastic to watch, and I’m choosing to block out the part where Kim Kardashian held her heart and called Sam Smith “my friend”. Mostly because I’m dying DYING for Adele & Sam to do a duet. Ed Sheeran seemed to be the most authentic person in the room. And this would be a good chance to remind you to watch the Brit Awards in February. They always have the music you’ll be listening to on repeat a year early.
Common came out and did a moment of silence for Michael Brown. It was a perfect choice as he said “hip hop has always been a voice for the revolution”. Common himself has always rapped about activism and social justice. In 2011 when he was invited to the White House for a poetry reading he was also the victim of bigotry when Fox News and other outlets criticized President Obama for inviting “a thug” to the White House. Common spoke eloquently about the incident on the Daily Show with John Stewart. If you can find a video of it that works in your region it’s worth a watch.
If you remember back to the early days of MTV you might also remember it was once a real place for activism and cutting edge thinking. The Real World, the original Real World, was nothing like it was today. It wasn’t a drunken vacation of sexcapades. There were actual issues that kids got a window into. Plus there were shows like Daria! Beavis & Butthead! People made bold statements. Political statements. And in that vein the VMAs had Miley Cyrus. Miley had her award accepted by a homeless youth named Jesse. He made a statement about how ignored the large homeless population is in Los Angeles. She was trying to make a point. Some people will be jaded and say her intentions were self-serving, what with the camera catching it all. I choose to remember myself at her age and think it’s something I might have done in a fit of wanting to make a difference.
Usher was there. For some reason I don’t go crazy for him. He’s gorgeous, talented, is the best male dancer/singer since Michael Jackson, and he puts in WORK. But I don’t get pent up for him. I think it might be the actual music. Someone book him studio time with Pharrell or Rick Rubin. Maroon 5 was doing a show outside that I wished I’d seen more of, they are fantastic performers live and if you ever get the chance to see them don’t pass it up. Iggy Azalea performed Black Widow, the song I’ve been pushing on people for months. Taylor Swift has gone full pop now, and she’s making her debut with what seems to be a very expensive shampoo commercial inspired by Material Girl.
Which brings us to the “Wow, I am so old” second portion of the evening. At one point Chloe Grace Moretz came on stage with some dude and her line was “The old old days. That’s right the 1990s.” Not even the 90s, but the nineteen-nineties. They laughed. I’m assuming at us ancient people. Then they talked about a band influenced by such greats as Green Day and Blink 182. 5 Seconds of Summer. They took the stage. They with their perfectly coiffed bleached hair and artfully tied flannel shirts at the waist. And man did they look like they were screaming into the mics and furiously strumming guitars. But the song was soft and gentle. I felt a piece of my soul die.
In 1997 I saw Green Day live. Billy Joe Armstrong stripped down to a leopard print thong and played the whole set that way. After, Foo Fighters took the stage. When they were finished the drummer lit his drum kit on fire. I remember the smell of the mosh pit. I assure you it did not smell like glitter and fruit scented body products, which is how I assume a 5 Seconds of Summer show does.
The 90s were great, and I kept being reminded of that all night. Gwen Stefani & Snoop presented something rather. She still has that OC ska vibe to her voice and I remembered having her poster on my wall as a teenager. Jim Carrey & Jeff Daniels were there being Dumb and Dumber-ish. JLo looked like she could have gone right back to her fly girl days. And each time a new person I’d never heard of was announced I’d think… “You kids don’t even know how good it was. You have no idea.”
Luckily Beyoncé showed up to let them know. “MTV, Welcome to my world!” she yelled out.
Bow down, Bitches.