Everything you need to know about the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards

Everything you need to know about the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards

Story | Penny Rae Hawkins

Graphic | Luke Calsyn

What is the role of MTV and its Video Music Awards in the year 2020? With streaming having long since taken over cable TV and declining interest in awards shows across the board, it can be hard to tell even with its reputation for groundbreaking and provocative moments. While this won’t go down in history as a particularly noteworthy or controversial year, it certainly didn’t leave audiences wanting for something to talk about. Here is what you missed from the VMAs.

1. Call to action

The show began with host Keke Palmer calling for viewers to vote in the upcoming election. She followed this up with a call for the end of systemic racism and police brutality, citing the recent events in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in which Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back by police officers seven times. The Weeknd mentioned this when accepting the awards for Video of the Year and Best R&B, where he gave the same speech for each award.

“It’s hard to celebrate, so I’m just going to say justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said.   

2. In memoriam

The event honored artists and musicians who passed away this year. Among those honored were Naya Rivera, Adam Schlesinger, Juice Wrld, Pop Smoke and Chadwick Boseman. Noticeably absent from the ‘In Memoriam” segment was Kobe Bryant, which inspired concerned fans to go to Twitter to express their grievances with the apparent snub. 

3. Awards

Of course, the main event revolves around rewarding musicians with achievements voted on by fans or industry professionals. The big winners for the evening were Lady Gaga and BTS, who took home four awards each. Among Gaga’s awards were Song of the Year and Best Collaboration for “Rain on Me,” while BTS earned Best Pop, the first for any Korean act, and Best Choreography for “On,” among others.The Weeknd also made his mark, performing his award-winning song “Blinding Light”  1,000 ft. above New York City. 

4. Lady Gaga

Only Lady Gaga came close to matching the high bar that The Weeknd set with her Chromatica medley, including a bombastic performance with Ariana Grande and a colorful array of masks to go along with the neon drive-in stage. 

5. Jokes fell flat….

Host Keke Palmer’s stilted comedy sketches that often preceded a performance or award occasionally inspired a laugh, but they mostly dragged down an otherwise charming presentation. 

6. …and so did some performances.

The lowest point by far was the decision to make The Black Eyed Peas the show’s closer. Not only did the performance lack energy, even when they dragged out their 2009 hit “I Gotta Feeling,” but their entire performance just felt outdated and out of touch. Additionally, whoever styled the men in light-up codpieces needs to be fired.

7. Miley Cyrus throwback.

While Miley Cyrus’s performance of “Midnight Sky” was vocally and visually impressive, the visual of her riding a disco ball as a callback to her infamous “Wrecking Ball” era felt more derivative than it was likely intended to. I expected a performer as daring and experimental as Cyrus to come up with a better climax to an otherwise stellar performance. 

8. Bedazzled vagina

At least the bedazzled vagina that adorned Doja Cat’s costume during her performance of “Say So” and “Like That” made sense with her alien-Britney Spears aesthetic and club kid backup dancers. 

There was certainly an attempt to recreate the glory of years past, but only time will tell how well this year’s ceremony will hold up in the pop culture zeitgeist. In the meantime, the full list of VMA nominees and winners can be found here.

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