The 2016 MTV Video Music Awards went down at Madison Square Garden over the weekend, and for the first time in a years, people are (mostly) talking about the actual performances instead of the wild and ca-raaazy antics of our favorite celebs. Going back to the very first VMAs in 1984
, the show has always been used as a way for stars to get away with as much shit as possible on live TV, but for the most part this year, the music was the biggest focus, a surprisingly foreign concept for an award show with "music" literally in the title. The night was filled with amazing performances and incredible moments by Beyonce
, and some other artists were there too I guess, so here's a recap of the high and lowlights that went down (and Kanye):
As the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, the biggest focus of the night was Rihanna
, who had a whopping four performances scattered throughout the broadcast. Since the Video Vanguard is the VMA equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement Award, RiRi took advantage of her multiple slots to give a chronological strut down memory lane. Covering her early hits like "Don't Stop the Music," "We Found Love," and "Diamonds" as well as recent material like "Work" and "Bitch Better Have My Money," the singer took every moment she had to present the different personalities and genres she's covered over her 10-plus year career.
, with the help of Niki Minaj
, also had people talking with her aerobics-centric performance of "Side to Side," which seemed like Olivia Newton-Johns
"Physical" music video if it took place at SoulCycle. With the implied oral sex at the end, it checked the box for "simulated sex onstage" the VMAs always makes sure to cover, but was still pretty tame compared to past years.
debuted a surprise new video for his Life of Pablo
track "Fade," but not before MTV literally gave him four minutes to do whatever the hell he wanted, no stage bombs required. The wide-spanning tangent included some classic ego-stroking only West can pull off, starting off the speech by saying, "I am Kanye West. And that feels really great to say," plus plenty of name-dropping like his wife Kim Kardashian-West
, ex-girlfriend Amber Rose
, and Twitter sparring partner Taylor Swift
. At the same time, West also touched on serious topics like the murder rate in Chicago and the fear kids growing up in the city feel, and how gossip fodder from celebrities, including himself, can distract people from these serious issues. 'Ye even showed a rare moment of self-deprivation, saying, "Now, later tonight 'Famous' might lose to Beyonce but I can't be mad because I'm always wishing for Beyonce to win, so." It was a pretty subdued showing by Kanye's standards, but it still gave enough memorable quotes to last us until his next public rant.
But enough of all that shite, let's get to what everyone's really
talking about: After being announced to perform at the last minute, Beyonce blew everyone in MSG away with a stunning 15-minute medley of highlights from her hit visual album Lemonade
. At this point, Beyonce really only has to show up and give the camera the death stare for people to lose their damn minds, but it's even better that she absolutely kills it every time she walks onstage. The sharp and explosive performance covered tracks like "Pray You Catch Me," "Hold Up," "Sorry," "Don't Hurt Yourself," and "Formation," all with costumes and choreography pulled straight out of the Lemonade
film, which earned Queen Bey the Best Long-Form Music Video Award later that night. First Coldplay, then the BETs, now the VMAs...Not only has Beyonce passed Madonna for most VMA awards, but she's probably also set the record for Most Shows Stolen in 2016. Bow down, haters, cause the Queen ain't giving up her throne any time soon.
Poor Brittney Spears
. Her Video Vanguard Award was overshadowed by Beyonces pregnancy
back in 2011, and it seems the past has repeated itself for the 90s pop icon. It was going to suck for any artist to follow Beyonce's performance, but whoever thought it was a good idea to put Spears in that slot was either flat-out mean or grossly overestimated Spears' current star power. The singer performed new songs off her upcoming album, and shared some painfully awkward exchanges with rapper G-Easy
, but at that point, everyone was focused on telling Twitter how dead they were after watching 'Yonce slay. It was like trying to watch a silent film star fruitlessly compete with a hip talkie superstar for attention, but with her Vegas show giving her plenty of reliable stage time, I'm sure Spears is perfectly happy doing her thing at this point.
This year's VMAs also featured no host, which might explain the overall lack of direction felt during the thing. MTV tried to seem hip and trendy by having Key and Peele
make cringy social media jokes that would've been sub-par even in 2007, but the comedy overall was flatter than lukewarm soda. Late night and YouTube darling Jimmy Fallon
had a promising setup, appearing onstage dressed as America's disgraced swim-bro Ryan Lochte
, but then went absolutely nowhere with the material. If it's any consolation, people groaned just as hard to Fallon's "gun to my head" joke as they did to the real Lochtes bullshit apology, so good job with the impression in that regard.
Nick Jonas also performed his hit(?) song "Bacon" at a shabby diner located outside of MSG, which featured people who I assume are famous plus his brother Joe. The cameos probably delighted those who knew these people, but for the most part, the whole thing looked like the celebrity equivalent of the kids' table while the grown-ups partied at the bar in the garden.
The VMAs also seemed to be a bit of a rollercoaster for megastar rapper Drake
. He first missed his award for the "Hotline Bling" video for being stuck in traffic, probably the lamest and half-assed excuse next to "that was today?!" He eventually showed up to present his girlfriend Rihanna her Video Vanguard, and had an actually lovely moment when he shared he had been in love with her since he was 22, but just when you thought you were about to see two wide-eyed lovers show some ratings-boosting affection, RiRi evaded Drake's lean-in for a kiss so hard it would've made the freaking abominable snowman shiver. The couple may not have the PDA guidelines set in stone quite yet, but Drake took the curve like a champ, and I'm sure all is well for Drahnna (Rihannake? Drakehanna? Don't really know the catchy couple name for them yet. Enlighten me, Internet Commenters!).