How do you sum up a MTV Video Music Awards evening that begins with Madonna serving leather-based dominatrix vibes, then ends with Lil Nas X yelling “Let’s go, homosexual agenda”? An evening the place one of many highlights is Billie Eilish refusing to clap for Jennifer Lopez? An evening the place Justin Bieber is the one one to say “the Covid factor”? An evening the place Normani climbs up on an precise cross to hump a crucified Teyana Taylor into the center of subsequent Holy Week? An evening with old-school MTV legends like Cyndi Lauper, Busta Rhymes, and David Lee Roth? An evening the place the cameras catch Olivia Rodrigo screaming alongside because the Foo Fighters play “Everlong?” An evening the place Ozuna takes a psychedelic journey into the land of magic dancing teddy bears?
You may say it’s a win for the MTV agenda. Let’s face it — the dumbest transfer they might have tried this yr was to get critical, which is at all times a catastrophe on this present. The VMAs are all about flash, intercourse, scandal, egomania, pop stars making absurd style selections. And that’s what we obtained. MTV determined to flip the 2021 VMAs right into a fortieth celebration for itself, and that was a rattling shrewd transfer. It was one of the best VMA bash since 2015, the yr Taylor Swift gave a lifetime achievement award to “my pal, Kanye West.” (Sure, that basically occurred. Life is bizarre.)
MTV kicked off the birthday celebration with a shock visitor of honor: Madonna Herself. It was the queen’s most stunning VMAs jumpstart because the yr she started the present by making out with Britney Spears. She rocked her “Justify My Love” leather-based lewk, turning on the finish to brandish her again catalog for the cameras. She spoke about how she and MTV made an iconic couple, with the quip: “And so they mentioned we wouldn’t final.”
However this was an in-joke for hardcore followers — it’s the road that capped her iconic tenth-birthday tribute to MTV in 1991, in a clip the place she shaded Cher, Axl Rose, and principally everyone not cool sufficient to be her. Solely Madonna would attempt giving MTV the identical birthday toast — 30 years aside. And solely Madonna has the star energy to get away with it. She by no means fails us. She by no means will.
Madonna set the tone for this yr’s VMAs. We didn’t even get off the purple carpet earlier than the phrases “icon” and “legend” obtained overwhelmed to a pulp, and so they stored taking punches all evening. Charli XCX referred to as Camila Cabello an “icon legend.” Tinashe informed Alicia Keys, “You’re my icon.” Ciara referred to as Normani “a legend within the making.” It peaked when Billie Eilish launched the Foo Fighters: “They’re heroes, they’re legends, and now they’re formally international icons!” At first, I made a decision to make use of the phrase “iconic” in each sentence of this evaluate. Sadly, I spotted there was no potential approach to make use of it in any sentence about 21 Pilots.
Jennifer Lopez was one of many present’s first icons, with out Ben in tow. (The cameras caught a defiantly non-clapping Billie.) La Lopez is at a profession/life/all the pieces peak proper now, so it was touching to listen to her say, “MTV has at all times been the place to ship the music and movies that outline our technology.” A splendidly inclusive sentiment — when J. Lo says “our technology,” she means everybody from David Lee Roth to Lil Nas X.
MTV lived as much as that spirit all evening, with faces from all around the community’s historical past. Cyndi Lauper talked about that she gained on the first VMAs — 1984 — and made a fiercely political pro-choice speech. Ashanti and Ja Rule nonetheless have chemistry, Wyclef yelled, “Brooklyn! Biggie Smalls!”, then gave a touching shout-out to the lately deceased Charlie Watts, Dusty Hill, Biz Markie, Shock G, and DMX.
Alas, regardless of all of the MTV legends, one was lacking: Billy Joel. A few of us actually obtained our hopes up that tonight can be the Billy/Olivia “Deja Vu”/“Uptown Woman” duet the world has been ready for. Possibly subsequent yr?
Olivia nailed “Good 4 U” in full-blast rock mode. (Her drummer with the inexperienced hair gave critical punk-goddess vibes.) She ended by cracking a digicam lens — a lot more energizing than smashing a guitar. She additionally gained Tune of the 12 months for “Driver’s License.” If I’m not mistaken, the primary to make this name was my colleague Brittany Spanos in the pages of Rolling Stone, 11 days into 2021, asking, “Is it too early to name tune of the yr?”
Has there ever been a yr when the definitive tune was so apparent so quickly? On her solution to the rostrum, Olivia made a touching bow to Billie and Finneas. She additionally gave the evening’s finest speech: “I wanna dedicate this award to all the opposite ladies who write songs on their toilet ground.”
The speeches had been refreshingly transient, at the least till Justin Bieber obtained up there and went off about “this Covid factor,” whereas sporting a hoodie, as a result of he’s Shy and an Artist. “I do know you guys have in all probability heard it so much,” he mentioned, “however we’re in unprecedented instances proper now, with this Covid factor that’s occurring. It’s not the Covid factor, nevertheless it’s a giant deal.” This was among the deepest pondering on MTV because the glory days of Justin Bobby on The Hills.
Normani stole the present in “Wild Facet,” with the evening’s official instant-classic VMAs second. You already know, when she enacted all of the Stations of the Cross by bowing earlier than her lord and savior Teyana, who was writhing (and chewing gum) in Crucified Bikini Jesus mode. Then Normani mounted the cross to carry out some sexual therapeutic on her all of the sudden resurrected messiah. Amen. How intense was this second? MTV minimize proper to an advert for being pregnant checks.
Avril Lavinge and Billie made a candy couple, gushing with mutual fandom. (“Avril, I like you a lot!”) Billie stood regal in her black cape, making a tricky speech after successful for “Your Energy.” She mentioned that penning this tune was “so satisfying and liberating, and likewise actually fucking unhappy. I need to say we have to defend our younger ladies in any respect prices. For actual.”
As for Avril, she had an awesomely petty second when Bieber gained Artist of the 12 months, along with her grudging semi-claps. Might she make it any extra apparent?
Tommy Lee was available — though for a few of us, it doesn’t depend as an actual Tommy Lee VMAs look till he beats the shit out of Child Rock. However Tommy gave the Finest Various award to a child who’s already performed him in a Hollywood film, “My bro Machine Gun Kelly!” (Tommy placed on his studying glasses, which is so steel.) MGK started his speech with the phrases, “Shout out to the emo youngsters for bringing all of it again!”
MGK obtained attacked on the purple carpet by Conor McGregor, however on a extra optimistic notice, canoodled all evening with Megan Fox, whose diaphanous outfit evoked Rose McGowan’s VMAs star flip in 1999. MGK did an endearingly klutzy assault on “Rock Star” with Travis Barker, turning it right into a Nirvana tribute, ending with 2021’s most comical try and smash a guitar. Hey, if it made Megan comfortable, that’s all that issues.
The Foo Fighters did a ripping medley of classics — with a shot of Olivia singing “Everlong” within the viewers. So many issues to cherish about this second, other than the very fact it in all probability ruined Courtney’s evening. Taylor Hawkins had “Charlie R.I.P.” on his bass drum, a tribute to the late Stones legend. The Foos additionally gained the International Icon Award, which actually ought to be referred to as the Actually Iconic International Legend Award. Dave Grohl gave a shout out to a string of old-school MTV stars: Kurt Loder, Tabitha Soren, Matt Pinfield, and strictly for the hardcore, Steve Isaacs, the VJ who hosted Hangin’ With MTV each afternoon with Kennedy.
Ozuna did a trippy “La Funka,” together with his hallucinatory dancing teddy bears. It was an ideal sequel to Miley Cyrus’ VMAs coronation second with “We Can’t Cease.” Who is aware of — perhaps Ozuna even recruited among the identical bears? Lil Nas X stored it low-key, getting into with a marching band, switching to an “Trade Child” duet with Jack Harlow, then ending with “Montero” with a jail stuffed with dudes in glittering pink briefs. Chloe did her soulful solo debut “Have Mercy,” with a candy intro from proud sister Halle.
Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes proceed to baffle — how did they flip two thriving solo manufacturers into such a mutually sabotaging double-brand? She did a flamenco-style “Don’t Go But,” a tune the place she really has to beg a younger gentleman to make out along with her, whereas he retains saying he has to stand up early within the morning. It’s unattainable to think about a sentiment like this from the assured Camila of three years in the past. What the hell occurred?
Doja Cat, who gained final yr’s award for Finest New Artist, stored it shifting as host — beloved when she wore a chair on her head, plus the flower costume nicked from Peter Gabriel on the Seventies Genesis excursions. (Supper’s prepared!) She obtained airborne to do “You Proper” and “Been Like This.” Ed Sheeran sang “Shivers” by the Brooklyn Bridge. Busta Rhymes did an oldies medley, yelling “Flatbush, rise up!” (Now Busta is giving anti-mask speeches? Possibly as a result of he lasted just one episode on The Masked Singer?) Harry Kinds’ “Deal with Folks With Kindness” gained for Finest Choreography — for his Outdated Hollywood pas a deux with Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
MTV, at all times keen to point out off how they deeply care about music, constructed as much as the VMAs with archival performances from…nah, don’t be foolish. It was a bunch of reruns of The Workplace. MTV stored hyping its cutting-edge programming all evening, comparable to Floribama Shore (you bear in mind Buckwild, proper?) and Double Shot at Love, to not be confused with A Shot at Love II with Tila Tequila. (Hey, what sort of monster doesn’t need to see Pauly D assist Vinny discover his very personal Shot at Love?)
The VMAs ended with a completely lovely second: David Lee Roth, the hammiest of all MTV hams, got here out to provide Lil Nas X the award for Video of the 12 months. “There’s cash on this motherfucker,” Diamond Dave informed the gang, milking the highlight as at all times. Lil Nas X claimed his prize with the phrases, “Initially, thanks to the homosexual agenda! Let’s go, homosexual agenda!”
There was one thing weirdly candy about seeing Lil Nas X take the torch from Diamond Dave — the pioneer who burlesqued paradigms of masculine rockness together with his assless chaps within the “Yankee Rose” video, the primary male (or in any other case) star to flaunt his bare cheeks on MTV. Roth even wore leather-based chaps tonight — the identical ones? (Don’t put it previous him.) The Dave/Nas combo was a second that crossed generations, genres, and cultures, to convey all of it again to what music video is all about: expressing your self.
A philosophical query: What have we, as a tradition, achieved to deserve the blessing of not having DJ Khaled smash award reveals any extra? What brought on the collective sanity spasm? How did producers all of the sudden understand it was dumb to maintain letting Khaled present up and grunt “standing ovaaaation!” when there are precise stars prepared to carry out music? With all of the issues we’ve gotten so fallacious lately, how did we by chance get this one proper? We’d by no means know. However all we are able to do is savor this second. Bieber is true: We stay in unprecedented instances.
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/vmas-2021-mtv-olivia-rodrigo-lil-nas-x-madonna-mgk-1224530/ | VMAs 2021: Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, Maddona, Doja Cat, Occasion for MTV