I’d never have guessed that MTV would fare better with two hands tied behind their back than they would with complete freedom, but their Covid-19 shackles actually set them free from the routine that has plagued them for the last decade. With the universally beloved Keke Palmer as its emcee sporting a digitally generated backdrop of New York City, the show featured outstanding outdoor performances, dancers donning masks, a drive-in audience, virtual and in-person acceptance speeches, and much more. In short, MTV hit it out of the park. Enjoy the highlights below.
Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
Lady Gaga delivered what I believe to be one of the best performances of her career. In fact, I’d say it surpassed the Super Bowl, and the reviews don’t even come close to showering her with the praise she deserves. She was forced to think outside the box, which is where she lives. Each costume was better than the next (a BCalla catsuit; a latex look by Vex Clothing; and a Deadly Fetish Couture bra, panties, and leg harness) along with incredible choreography and some very creative masks that won the night.
It took me some time to come around to The Weeknd, but better late than never, especially with his impressive show-opening performance of “Blinding Lights.” He performed atop Manhattan at The Edge at Hudson Yards with music-video moments and camerawork that will live on for years to come. Had this been confined to the same stage as everyone else, we’d never get this excellence (or the addition of fireworks and a helicopter).
When DaBaby performed “PEEPHOLE,” “Blind,” and “Rockstar” I immediately knew we were in for one of the best shows we’ve seen in some time. It felt fresh. With dance crew Jabbawockeez adding a next-level assist and some impressive CGI, DaBaby gave us art with an important message attached. All three songs live on his latest album Blame it on Baby.
If I didn’t have anything nice to say about BTS, I’d have left them off this rundown, because I’m fairly certain their rabid fan base would come for me. But their VMAs debut of “Dynamite” definitely deserves special mention. The septet from South Korea performed in front of a green-screen backdrop of different New York locations before ultimately switching to a Seoul background. The K-Pop craze is real, and they proved why.
Maluma gifted us with one of the strongest performances of the night. Performing from Brooklyn’s Skyline drive-in in front of socially distanced, lit-up cars sporting fans on the roofs (masks included), the energy was palpable. His back-up dancers also deserve special praise, each delivering on-point choreography wearing fun, tropical throwback leotards. It’s not surprising that the aesthetics were awe-inducing because as it turns out — the singer/songwriter collaborated with Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing and his stylist Ugo Mozie on his neon silk suit.
“Hawái” is the first single off of Maluma’s album, Papi Jauncho. Maluma also won the Video Music Award for Best Latin Music Video, and gave his acceptance speech from the performance spot.
It’s tough to know what version of Miley you’re going to get but one thing is for sure — it will always entertain. Though she’s never been one to capture our attention with choreography, she’s got the vocal chops to do without it. Her dress aligned with the backdrop could have stood on its own, but she had to go with a gimmick and pull out that disco “wrecking ball” for an unneeded throwback. For someone whose expressed a desire to escape that single, I think this was an error in judgment. She’s good enough to stand firmly in the present.
I almost left Doja Cat out of this post, and that would have been a crime, especially since its her VMA debut. Her futuristic performance of “Say So” and “Like That” felt as if I’d been transported to another planet with aliens who worship the ’80s. She made sure to incorporate the viral TikTok dance of her single “Say So” (created by TikToker Haley Sharpe).
Black Eyed Peas
The Black Eyed Peas always come to play, so it’s no surprise they closed out the show. Though their performance didn’t give us anything new for the group, it certainly brought a much-needed energy during a difficult time, and it’s nice to leave the show on a high note. That being said, would it ruin the positivity of this post to proclaim that if I never hear “I Gotta Feeling” again for the rest of my life it will be too soon? It’s beginning to produce the same feeling as my post-Bat-Mitzvah PTSD from hearing Village People’s “YMCA” during the entirety of my teens.
Kudos to MTV for this show. It’s not easy, and they deserve immeasurable praise. Via The Hollywood Reporter, “The 2020 MTV VMAs was executive produced by ViacomCBS Media Networks’ president of music, music talent, programming and events Bruce Gillmer and Den of Thieves co-founder Jesse Ignjatovic. Den of Thieves’ Barb Bialkowski served as co-executive producer.”