Drag queens, rambling speeches, celebrity feuds, Justin Bieber in tears, and a whole lot of Taylor Swift. The 32nd MTV Video Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday night were as baffling as they were entertaining. Here’s our run down of the best and worst moments.
Kanye West’s “Video Vanguard Award” acceptance speech
There was a time that acceptance speeches were about thanking management and publicists, but Kanye West turned it into a bizarre, 11-minute mutant monologue that was part performance art, part TED talk, and part political rally. “I still don’t understand award shows,” he rambled while accepting his Video Vanguard Award, before admitting he took the edge off with a sneaky blunt before coming out. Confusion gradually made way for defiance. “I will die for the art, for what I believe in. And that art ain’t always gonna be polite,” he stated. For a grand finale, he declared his intention to run for President in 2020 (presumably with his old foe Taylor Swift on the ticket as VP). If Kanye West wasn’t around to color it with these absurd strokes, pop music would be a gray wasteland.
The Canadian’s performance of the current Billboard No. 1 single “Can’t Feel My Face” was fire. Literally. Crooning with confidence and dancing inside a dazzling ring of flames, Abel Tesafaye was so effective that he even got the normally glum-faced Kanye out of his chair. The Weeknd’s time is now.
Nicki Minaj’s acceptance speech
Trouble has been brewing since Miley Cyrus told the New York Times during the week that Minaj is “not so polite,” and criticized the rapper’s reaction to not getting nominated for Video of the Year. The shot was returned with interest when Minaj picked up an award for Best Hip-Hop Video. “Now, it’s back to… this b***h that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?” As if that wasn’t enough, the glare that followed could have cut through an iceberg. Meanwhile, in the front row, Taylor Swift must have been thanking her lucky stars she didn’t stay on Minaj’s bad side for too long.
He may have spent the last three years screwing up, but Justin Bieber’s return to music feels determined and purposeful. The dance choreography that accompanied “Where Are Ü Now” and “What Do You Mean” was the best of the night and although his tears of humility felt a little rehearsed, the redemption continues.
Given her history of providing MTV Awards shows with talking points in the recent past, hopes were high for Miley’s stint as host. But she became a parody of herself with unfunny skits, relentless jabber about her crazy she is, and the finale of new track “Doo It!” was a multi-colored mess of drag Queens and dumb lyrics about pot.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Not satisfied with their low-rent rehash of “Uptown Funk,” the Seattle duo took obvious cues from the song’s video for their performance of “Downtown.” The best part of this low-rent ensemble act was the brief cameos of hip-hop pioneers Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz, and Melle Mel. At least they know their history.
A$AP Rocky and Twenty One Pilots
The Harlem rapper and the Ohio-based rock duo are both perfectly palatable in their own right, but MTV’s decision to put them together for an ill-advised medley led to the night’s most shambolic and jarring musical performance. Let’s just hope there’s no collaborative album in the pipeline.